Uncovered Manholes: Nigerians lament threat to lives and properties
By Daniel Adaji
In several key cities across the nation, residents and drivers are expressing their discontent as they inadvertently encounter open manholes, leading to the loss of valuables and potential threats to safety.
The lack of coverage for these utility holes along major thoroughfares has resulted in both life-threatening situations and significant economic losses.
Numerous incidents of hazards have been documented due to these uncovered manholes, shedding light on a concerning issue.
Commonly known as manholes, utility holes, maintenance holes, or sewer holes, these openings serve as access points to underground public utilities, enabling inspection, maintenance, and system upgrades.
Alarming reports highlight the presence of these holes on prominent roadways throughout Nigeria, raising valid concerns regarding the depth of these openings and the apparent oversight of their potential consequences on the populace.
In May 2019, Adewura Bello, a 26-year-old accountant, allegedly lost her life on her way home from work. The story of her death went viral on various social media platforms as Nigerians raised concerns amidst bewilderment.
It was reported that she fell into a manhole in Gowon Estate, one of the first housing estates in Lagos City. She ended up in a canal where her remains were found after several days of tireless search.
Although there were speculations that she was murdered and dumped in the canal, the point remains that either slipping into the canal or being murdered and dumped, the uncovered holes aided the carrying away of her body into the canal.
Adewura’s story is not in isolation. Another victim, Kolade Omoniyi, was reported to have escaped death by chance on his way home from a visit to a friend around Utako in Abuja.
He had to take a shorter route to save the little cash on him. He would have slipped into the uncovered hole if not for the swift move over the pit. Although he escaped falling into the hole, he sustained some injuries he had to nurse thereafter.
A reporter with one of the major dailies in Nigeria almost lost his life when he plunged halfway into one of the manholes in Utako area of Nigeria’s capital city.
Although he was quickly pulled out of the pit by passersby, he did not escape unhurt. He sustained several bruises on his legs.
“The manhole covers are usually stolen by scavengers. Most times, some sewages and drainages ooze out bad smell as you drive past them, and no one seems to care about it. The government needs to timely intervene to avoid further harm,” he said.
Motorists lament that several times, their vehicle tires dash into the holes in an attempt to navigate their ways in the heavy Abuja traffic along that route.
A driver, Ibe Chukwudi, while speaking to NatureNews, noted that the uncovered manholes along the roads, especially the Jabi-Utako-Berger axis of the city, pose a lot of threat to drivers.
He lamented that they live in fear of dashing their tires against the sharp edges of the metal part of the holes.
He also complained that, though the covers seemed to be expensive, the government has not responded as they should in apprehending the criminals who specialize in vandalizing the covers.
“These holes are everywhere in the FCT. As we drive, we see them and always try to avoid them. But you know sometimes you might not remember to dodge the holes at the time you should, and that’s very bad for our vehicle tires. These covers are very expensive yet the government has not taken it very seriously to apprehend the culprits who always go about stealing these valuable materials,” he noted.
NatureNews observed that the manholes along the Berger-Jabi roads are open, and the covers carted away by hoodlums/scavengers. The perpetrators must have done so in desperate search for their daily bread; however, a security bridge and lack of maintenance must have given them the opportunity to enjoy their field day.
Berger-Jabi route is not the only axis with such life-threatening spots. It was also observed along Bwari-Kubwa road among other areas in the FCT.
Earlier, the FCT command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) was quoted in a report that the command had declared battle against the manhole cover thieves and vandals in the city.
The declaration was made by Olusola Odumosu, the newly posted Commandant of the FCT Command while taking over from Peter Maigari.
“I have declared war on vandals, economic saboteurs, criminals, manhole thieves, the vandals of street and traffic lights, communication and electrical installations,” he stated.
In an exclusive interview with NatureNews, the NSCDC Public Relations Officer, PRO ASC1 Comfort Okomanyi said the command had begun arresting and prosecuting vandals whose stock in trade is to vandalize the covers of the manholes.
“We have arrested and prosecuted some of the criminals who specialize in vandalizing the manhole covers in the capital city,” she said.
Chorrie Muta’a, the FCT Sector Commander Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, in a phone conversation with NatureNews noted that the Corps had not specifically recorded casualties resulting from the uncovered manholes in the FCT, but he added that those manholes could have contributed to so many accident cases in the federal capital.
“There are several factors responsible for accidents on our roads; most times, we hear of loss of control as the major cause of these accidents. However, the vandalized manhole covers on the FCT major roads could contribute to accidents because they are road furniture meant to safeguard road users. We are not able to point to accidents or casualties resulting from the uncovered manholes because we most times don’t witness the accidents ourselves; we mostly come for rescue operations, and when we visit the scenes, we hear different stories of what led to the accidents,” he said.
Chorrie added that the uncover manholes could affect vehicles, especially those with smaller rims. The vehicles could roam into the holes, thus damaging their tires, which could lead to an accident.
“Some of the manholes have cutting edges, and when smaller vehicles roam into them, their tires could be affected. Although we have not been able to sort out accident figures related to the manholes, it is not to say that it is unlikely for them to cause accidents. We are yet to carry out any research into the number of crashes recorded as a result of manholes’ vandalization. Some of the roads get flooded as a result of blockage of drainage and debris, which are also causes of road crashes,” he said.
The House of Representatives reportedly urged the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in 2022 to cover all open manholes in the territory to mitigate the risk of losing lives and properties of residents.
The House also urged the Nigeria Police Force to provide adequate surveillance security against manhole thieves.
According to Hon. Musa Mohammed Pali, a member of the House who moved the adoption for the motion on the urgent need to Replace Manhole Covers on FCT’s Road, many residents have sustained permanent injuries as a result of the open manholes.
“Many people have sustained permanent injuries as a result of falling into open manholes, while many vehicle tires have been damaged as a result of running over the manholes. The activities of scavengers and other unpatriotic individuals are responsible for the theft of manhole covers that are not secured or locked,” the House member noted.