Abuja is known for networks of roads that sprawls within the city centre and connects other communities in the outskirts of the city. Typical with all urban cities, manholes are dug to ensure the roads are properly maintained by creating access ways for water as well as aid access for maintenance of sewage systems. However, in the heart of Abuja, there are a plethora of uncovered manholes that pose risks to residents especially at night and during the rainy season when they are filled with water. As the rainy season approach, many of them are now open and hazardous Daily Trust investigates.
Taking a stroll through the heart of Abuja, one is confronted with open manholes on bridges and streets. The holes are mostly located close to sidewalks.
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The manholes are of varied sizes, but the common ones are two. The deepest, often placed on roads and sidewalks, are covered with a cyclical cover, while the other with a grating cover are situated close to sidewalks to allow water pass through them, as well as prevent waste from gaining access into the drainage system.
But as the manholes attract water to make the roads dry, so do they attract vandals who pilfer their covers which are made from iron casting. The covers fetch a good money at scrap yards popularly called panteka.
This act, apart from making the holes filled with dirt and waste, poses danger to passersby who sometimes fall into the holes, especially at night, and in the process sustain injuries, especially fractures.
Despite plying Jabi Park road for more than five years, Stanley Emmanuel was injured after falling into one of the manholes in the night.
Emmanuel said, “The incident happened in early 2020 on my way home after work. I fell into one of the manholes. I was lucky that it was not a deep one because I may not be alive to tell the tale.”
“It was after a rainfall and the hole was filled up with water and there was no light, so I missed the pavement and plunged into the.”
To arrest the situation, the Minister of the FCT, Malam Muhammad Bello, made an appeal to the Inspector General of Police to apprehend those removing manhole covers, including electrical and telecommunication cables and railway tracks.
In an interview with Daily Trust, the Director of FCT Facilities Maintenance and Management, Engr Omoniyi Olaloye, maintained that the nature of the material used in producing the covers could be melted thus making it difficult to apprehend those removing them.
Engr Olaloye said, “The cast iron is very useful to the vandals, they pick them up to go and sell because it can be melted and used for other things.”
He, however, said his office had decided to change the material used in covering the manholes that would not be relevant to vandals, but that it was expensive to replace the covers.
He explained that, “We have a contract going on to replace these covers. Presently, they have worked in the Maitama axis, and work is ongoing around the Jabi and Utako areas.”
However, during a survey, Daily Trust discovered that most coverings of the manholes are yet to be replaced.
At the popular Berger Junction, most covers are missing, but to protect pedestrians and motorists, the holes have been filled with sand, thus blocking the holes. Also, manhole covers are replaced with concrete, providing a place for residents to recline while waiting for cars.
The grating covers of manholes on the bridge close to Abuja City Gate, as well as those that surround the MKO Abiola Stadium, are also missing. At Magic Land Amusement Park and on the Musa Yar’adua Expressway, the scenario is the same.
Similarly, the manholes in front of the China Chamber of Commerce have no covers and have been filled with sand and dirt.
At Mabushi, the manhole covers are missing; even those close the police divisional headquarters.
Most manhole covers have been spared in Jabi, probably because the district holds residential buildings and the vandals could be caught in their act. However, those stolen pose threat to passersby.
Mallik Abdullahi, a resident of Jabi, lamented how vandals got away with the act and the government not taking any step to replace them.
He said, “The purpose of the holes has been defeated when they are in this condition. How will the roads dry up during the rainy season when they are filled up with thrash that will block the pipes? The rate at which this act is perpetrated should be alarming to the government if truly they represent the interest of those who elected them into office. They should have devised means to nip this act in the bud and provide a solution to those that were stolen.”
In Utako, a manhole close to Rock of Ages Mall is posing danger to pedestrians due its location on the sidewalk. Having a semblance of a grave, a peep into the hole unveiled a mishmash of water, dirt and pipelines.
At Wuye District, the level of manhole theft is huge as most grating and manhole covers are missing, though some manholes on sidewalks are covered with concrete covers.
One of the manholes is located where Shuaibu Joseph works as a mechanic. To forestall accidents, an old tyre and a log are placed on the hole to alert pedestrians of its presence.
Joseph told our reporter that, “We decided to place the tyre to inform people going through the place that there is danger ahead. Someone once fell into the hole when he had no inkling that it was in the middle of the sidewalk. He got injured and all we could do was to sympathise with him.”
He added that, “The price of iron is the reason the covers get stolen. I know porters that have dumped their work around the city to look for iron that will fetch them easy money. I blame this on the syndrome of getting-rich-quick and the government not providing decent jobs for the teeming youths.”
Covering 1.6 kilometres, all the grating covers on Next Cash & Carry Supermarket to NAF Conference Centre and Suites on Kado-Kuchi Road are missing. With the Kado-Kuchi Junior Secondary School domiciled on the road, students said they were always warned to be careful when moving outside the school so as not to fall into the holes.
25,000 manhole covers stolen – FCDA
The Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) has, however, decried the increasing theft of the manholes covers, saying an audit of the facilities has shown that 25,000 manholes covers of various sizes have been stolen.
In his goodwill message recently at the public unveiling of the Citizens Engagement Platform by the FCT Administration, the Executive Secretary, FCDA, Engr. Umar Jibrin, lamented the continued vandalisation and theft of manhole and gully pot covers.
“Let us protect and preserve the infrastructure provided in the city and guide against outright theft and vandalisation of national assets,” he said.
Jibrin who was represented by Director, Mass Housing, Engr. Emma Oluwadamisi, said Minister of FCT, Malam Muhammad Bello, has directed that the FCDA begin the process of replacing the stolen manhole and gully pot covers for which audit is being carried out.
“I can assure that it would cost a lot of money to implement this directive.
“Going forward, we are seriously considering among other solutions the deployment of ICT to monitor and police available infrastructure in the city against the activities of these miscreants and vandals,” he added.