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How Abuja became the city with uncovered manholes

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MANHOLES and gully pots are supposed to be an advantage to any urban city, but in Abuja they are often a danger spot waiting to happen.

A welder and resident of Abuja, Oluwatosin Adekunle, woke up one Saturday morning with the anticipation to watch his favourite football club play, he never got to watch it as he ended up at the hospital. 

Adekunle while alighting from a vehicle fell inside an uncovered manhole around AYA. 

“The cut was so deep that I didn’t bother to ask who won the match. The wound lasted for more than a month and my business suffered serious loss during that period,” he told The ICIR.


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A well-covered manhole

For Juliana Panshak her experience happened on her first visit to Abuja. Like Adekunle her leg fell into an uncovered manhole around Jabi garage when she was alighting from a vehicle.

She nursed the injury throughout her stay in Abuja. 

“It was supposed to be a memorable vacation for me in Abuja, but it ended up in nursing a wound sustained due to an uncovered manhole, I felt terribly bad,” Panshak told The ICIR

Sanaya Sukima is another victim of a manhole accident around Jabi, he did not only suffer injury but also job loss.

Open gully in Wuse opposite UBA Bank

“I was rushing home that night when I mistakenly put my leg in an open manhole. I got my right leg twisted and strained.

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“For weeks, I was at home, and my employers could not show any understanding as I was sacked.

“I am now based in Jos, I left Abuja, but anytime I remember that incident, I curse the perpetrators and the authorities, ” he stated. 

For  Kayode Olakunle, it was his car that got damaged by an open manhole in the centre of a road at Garki area.

“I ran my car into an open manhole in Garki. I never anticipated that such a thing could be in a big place like Garki. My car got damaged, I spent a lot of money fixing it, but till today, the vehicle has not recovered from it”, Olakunle said.

A street sweeper, Hanatu Patrick confirmed to The ICIR that people fall into these manholes every day.

In 2017, Femi Falana sued the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) after he had an accident caused by an uncovered manhole in Mataima, a district in Abuja.

Femi Falana

He said he had an accident when he walked into a manhole which had no inscription around it to caution road users, especially pedestrians, to avoid it.

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He argued that the FCDA owed all road users, including him, a duty of care by ensuring that the roads within the Federal Capital Territory were safe for all.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, like most people who spoke to The ICIR said he had to nurse the resultant injury for a long period of time, while also spending money for care.

These manholes and gully pots that are meant to ensure the roads are adequately maintained by creating access ways for water, as well as aid access for maintenance of sewage systems are becoming a nightmare for residents.

When it rains some of them are filled with water and some are big enough to swallow a  child.

Many of the manholes in the FCT are up to four metres deep, The ICIR gathered that some of them requires a ladder to climb into them; this makes them dangerous when left open. 

Uncovered manhole at Wuye junction, FCT

A tour of the city showed that there are uncovered manholes at the bridge at Central Area opposite Coscharis Motors. So also on Shehu Shagari way, Maitama roundabout and Ibrahim Babangida way, all in Maitama.

Manhole at Central area close to National mosque.

Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent also suffers from open manholes located opposite the MultiChoice office, just beside Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.

In Wuse and other places, it was observed that residents placed old tyres and sometimes logs of wood on the open holes to alert pedestrians of manholes and forestall accidents.

Why are the manholes not covered?

The ICIR investigation find out that many of the covers are stolen and eventually find their way to blacksmiths.

The Executive Secretary, Nigeria Institute of Town Planners, Eric Mbaukaan, opined that adding locks will make some difference.

Manhole close to the entrance of Nigeria Immigration Service office, along airport road Lugbe.

“The designs of the manhole covers should come with locks. The locks will make it impossible for the covers to be stolen or removed. The Engineers are responsible for constructing them and not the Town Planners,” Mbaukaan said.

Multiple people sources spoken with including security and government officials noted that scavengers often referred to as “Baban bola” remove the covers and sell them as scrap metal at flea markets known as ‘panteka’.

The reporter visited the panteka at Apo, Jabi and Mpape. 

Anas Ismail, the taskforce president of the panteka in Apo said the selling and or buying of stolen items in this instance manhole covers are deeply frowned at in the market. Those caught are not only barred from the market but handed over to the police.

Apo panteka market taskforce office.

In Jabi,  a shop owner, Illiyasu Abubakar, said the market leadership frowned at buying and selling of manhole covers. He however noted he believes they end up in Lagos and Kano states.

Over 600 manholes not covered in Abuja – FCTA official 

The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) blamed scavengers and vandals for the constant stealing and vandalisation of the manhole covers in the FCT.

The Director of Infrastructure and Facilities in the FCTA, Omoniyi Olaloye,  told The ICIR that over 600 manholes were without covers in Abuja.

Open manhole in Wuse

“Early last year, we did a kind of survey, and we discovered that in the city we have, at least, about 600 manhole covers that have been stolen or vandalised.

“Those are the circular ones. They are constantly being stolen,” he said.

Olaloye said there are two types of drainage in the city, the concrete types found in Garki and Wuse areas and the concrete channels with concrete covers. He explained that Maitama and Asokoro, have the underground pipes design.  While noting that manholes are for inspection of pipes and to carry out maintenance.

“Sometimes, you see deliberate sabotage. People will go there and remove the manhole covers, so we quickly go there and replace them; sometimes, we have to look for every means to get the resources to replace them.

We have a general programme every year to attend to these facilities, but they are based on the availability of funds in the budget” he explained. 

“Our new stragies are woking”

Olaoye said “In the first instance, the reason why they are being stolen is because of the materials that the FCDA was using to construct the Manhole cover; they were using Cast iron because cast iron can be melted for reuse, so scavengers and vandals at night go to remove these covers and sell them to foundry owners who in turn melt them and reuse for other purposes. 

Open manhole at Jabi

“That is the attraction; the attraction is the material. So what we did after investigating was we decided to change the material; we use ductile iron now to replace the cast iron that was being used before.

“The difference is that Ductile iron, when you melt it, becomes useless, doesn’t melt, and becomes deformed and twisted. The other one, cast iron, when you melt it, it melts, and you can use it to mould any other thing you want to produce

“Because the materials we are using now are not commercially useful, we are able to control that. That was our first response.

“Thereafter, we began to provide hinges and locks to these covers. We have hinges, and then we have hidden locks. We provide bolts M12 and stainless bolts and cover the bolts with gels. If we don’t show you, you can t know there are locks. 

“We disguise. That has worked wonders. Apart from that, we also write FCTA on them during production. These measures have worked for us. Since 2014 that we started these measures, all the ones that we have done are still intact” he proffered.

He asked the national assembly to appropriate funds for it so that they can cover -up the open manholes.

FCT police reacts…

Josephine Adeh, Police Public Relations Officer(PPRO), FCT Command, notes that they have arrested several perpetrators who steal and vandalise manhole covers. 

Manhole at Jabi beside Zenith Bank

“We have been arresting the Baban bola (Scavengers); we have been raiding and arresting them. 

“You know they usually perpetrate this act in the night. We made many arrests, and we paraded some of them about two weeks back. 

We paraded about 106 that we arrested in the night. We continued; we didn’t stop. We arrest them anywhere we sight them and then charge them to court.

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