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Residents raise concerns over manhole cover theft in Port Harcourt

But in Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor Local Government Areas of Rivers State, stealing of manhole cover has become a recurring decimal.

Residents of Port Harcourt and those residing in Obio Akpor Local Government Area have raised concern over the incessant stealing of manhole covers in Port Harcourt City and Obio Akpor Local Government Areas of the state.

A manhole, according to Wikipedia, is an opening to a confined space such as a shaft, utility vault, or large vessel. Manholes are often used as an access point for underground public utilities, allowing inspection, maintenance, and system upgrades. The majority of underground services have manholes, including water, sewers, telephone, electricity, storm drains, district heat, and gas.

But in Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor Local Government Areas of Rivers State, stealing of manhole cover has become a recurring decimal.

From NTA road, Ozuoba, Ada George, Wimpy road, Rumuolumeni, Rumuola, Port Harcourt/Aba road, Ikwerre road, Leventis and Forces Avenue, heading to Government House main gate and to the old Port Harcourt township, our reporter observed that more than 100 manhole covers have been vandalised and stolen by unknown persons.

The vandalised manholes which are over 15 feet deep have constituted danger to pedestrians who pass through the walkway where the manholes are installed on a daily basis.

Some of the pedestrians have deployed tactical methods of avoiding the vandalised manholes on the walkway while residents who are ignorant of the vandalised manholes cover have on several occasions fallen inside the holes.

In 2019, the Rivers State Government expressed dismay over the continued vandalisation of the manhole and warned that the State Government will deal decisively with any person or group of persons caught vandalising the manholes.

The then Commissioner of Information and Communication, Barrister Emma Okah, had raised concern that several complaints had been made by residents and motorists plying some parts of Port Harcourt such as Forces Avenue over the removal of the entire manhole covers.

He stated that the state government had been looking for an opportunity to catch at least one of the culprits, adding that it was not unaware of the removal of the manhole covers.

“The government has discussed the issue and it has reached a decision that the Special Assistant to the Governor on Special Duties should design a non-iron manhole cover that will serve as a model to make it unattractive for those dealing in iron to steal them,” Okah was quoted as saying.

The State Government our reporter learnt later gave out a N100,000 bounty to anybody that would give useful information on those that are responsible for the vandalization of the manhole. But despite the bounty given out to informants on those that vandalised the manholes, the criminal activities have continued unabated.

Some of the residents who spoke with our reporter blamed the vandalisation of manholes on poor security network and criminal tendencies of those they described as unpatriotic residents of the state.

A resident of Port Harcourt, Chimaobi Ginika, said those that vandalise the manhole do it in the night.

“These criminal activities are carried out in the night when most residents are asleep in their respective homes. It’s very unfortunate that some unpatriotic Nigerians do not value public utilities and infrastructures put in place by the government for public good. It’s evil and satanic for one to contemplate vandalising such facilities,” he said.

He called for more proactive measures in tackling the issue of manhole cover theft in Port Harcourt.

Sharon Chinwengozi Godwin decried the vandalisation of manholes, noting that the open manholes constitute danger to pedestrians who use the walkway on a daily basis.

“It’s very unfortunate that criminally minded people go about vandalising manholes meant to cover deep holes that accommodate public utilities such as telecommunication cables and drainage disilting point. I cannot imagine what those that carry out these evil acts stand to gain. How much will they sell it? Can you imagine the danger of someone falling inside this manhole because the cover was stolen?” she said.

She called on the state government to set up a monitoring team that will safeguard the manholes from vandalisation.

Another resident who preferred not to be mentioned blamed some truck pushers and those he described as iron dealers for the vandalisation of the manholes.

“It’s very easy to identify and arrest those behind the vandalisation of the manholes in Port Harcourt. The cat pushers are my number one suspect in this criminal activity. They carry out this criminal act in the night when people have retired to their respective houses. If you go to Ikokwu market you will see some of these stolen items displayed for sales. The police should carry out a discreet investigation to find out those behind the criminal activities and bring them to book,” he said.

Felix Azunna said that he nearly fell into the manhole recently.

“These uncovered manholes have become a death trap for many pedestrians who use the walkway. I nearly fell into one of the manholes along Azikiwe road in Port Harcourt. It rained heavily that day and I didn’t know that water covered one of the manholes. As I moved further, my right leg stepped into the manhole and I discovered that my leg was going down the hole.  It was at that point that I retraced my steps. Something drastic should be done to stop the stealing of the manholes,” he said.

He called on the state government to use less valuable and unattractive items such as wooden objects to cover the manhole.

Rivers State Government said that it has taken a proactive measure to checkmate those behind the vandalisation of the manholes in the state.


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