•Vandals destroying Abuja-FCTA
By Magnus Eze
Abuja is fast losing its reputation as Africa’s fastest growing capital city, no thanks to the era of darkness pervading it because of non-functional streetlights.
A month-long investigation by Daily Sun showed that the allure and beauty of the city has waned with the city centre seemingly losing its aesthetics at night.
Residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) wonder what actually went wrong with the streetlights, as most parts of the city remain dark at night these days, with its attendant security implications.
No particular part of the city is actually spared; darkness reigned from Jabi to Asokoro; Gwarimpa to Apo; Maitama, Wuse and Garki, most of the period of investigation.
Even at weekends when our reporters went round the city again at night, most streetlights on the Shehu Shagari Way, Ahmadu Bello Way, Kashim Ibrahim Way, Aminu Kano Way and IBB Way were not functioning. The entire streetlights at Area 1 and Area 2, Garki axis were off, while the Michael Okpara Street, Wuse Zone 5 and the Mabushi-Kado Way appeared to be perennial cases as they were in total darkness. Another area that may not have had functional streetlights in recent time was the stretch from Halley Brothers, Wuse Zone 1 to the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) Secretariat in Area 10, Garki.
In fact, passers-by and commuters had been severally attacked from the intersection between the NNPC Mega station and Bolingo Hotels. Even the Federal Ministry of Defence remained an eyesore most of the nights with the entire vicinity enveloped by darkness.
Places like Area 1 Bridge and the Julius Berger Roundabout, most times, get flickers of illumination from billboards. This has continued to pose security threat as hoodlums hide under the cover of darkness to attack innocent people.
Kingsley Osagie, a Lugbe resident said he had been attacked by some miscreants at the Bolingo Junction at about 9pm and he could not do much because the whole place was pitch dark, a situation which enabled easy escape for the attackers.
A security personnel, who would not want his name in print, said the streetlight issue was becoming a major security concern as miscreants now have field day once darkness sets it.
“The bad eggs are really having a field day; they attack people at will these days even in the city centre and Police are not spirits. My advice is for people to be security conscious while we hope government and AEDC would make the streetlights functional again.”
Residents also blame the increasing rate of auto crashes on Abuja streets at night to poor illumination. Daily Sun gathered that accidents occur frequently along the road from Area 1 flyover to Berger as well as the Kubwa expressway.
Nonetheless, places like the Transcorp Hilton axis in Aguiyi Ironsi Street, British Council to MTN office in Maitama, parts of Alvan Ikoku Street, Maitama and the Three Arms Zone were mostly lit during the period.
In the main, the situation has been a source of concern to the government and the people. President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba recently accused the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) of being insensitive to the plight of residents despite receiving about N500 million from the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA).
He alleged that the distribution company was in the habit of disconnecting streetlights with the hope of distributing recovered energy to residences of customers.
Wabba also lamented that power supply had continued to worsen regardless that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari sunk about N660 billion in form of intervention to the sector.
“If in about 16 years, we have so far committed about N11 trillion to the power sector reforms and yet, what we have day-in-day-out is numerous challenges of lack of power.
“Even within the city of Abuja, the DISCO is busy disconnecting street lights. I am aware that during the launch of prepaid meters, the FCT administration informed us that they have committed about N500 million in paying liabilities for power to public institutions including streetlights.
“But they are busy disconnecting the streets because once they do that, they thought that they will be able to use the power being saved from there to service others. We cannot continue like that because no country can make progress if we don’t have stable power supply.
“How can a government that is saying we are in a recession still advance from public money N38 billion to discos as bailout to look for meters. This is a public enterprise because these companies have already been sold. If they don’t have the capacity and the resources, let them bail out,” the NLC President said.
But, the AEDC said it could not have disconnected streetlights as alleged by the NLC because the FCT streetlights were already metred. Instead, he blamed vandalism of transformers for their inability to power streetlights in some parts of Abuja.
Reacting to Daily Sun inquiry through an electronic mail, AEDC’s Head, Public Relations and Media, Ahmed Shekarau said: “The suggestion that AEDC has disconnected streetlights in Abuja is absolutely untrue. Information made available to AEDC suggests that streetlights in the city that are currently not lit may have suffered the consequences of vandalism of the transformers serving such streetlights. We say this because, in a letter to the AEDC dated August 24, 2017, titled “Re: Vandalisation of transformers,” the FCT Administration listed eight transformers in various parts of the city which have been vandalized, and that those transformers are serving some of the streetlights in strategic locations of the city. You may wish to confirm this from the FCT Administration.
“However, we believe it is important to state here that all the streetlights in Abuja have long been metered and therefore, the insinuation about depriving the streetlights of energy to serve individual customers is unsubstantiated. In addition, we wish to put it on record that while FCT Administration is our biggest customer in FCT, it is a very good payer.”
Vandals destroying the city
To the FCTA, vandals would destroy the nation’s capital if their exploits were not contained.
Special Assistant to the FCT Minister on Media, Abubakar Sani confirmed the position of the power distribution company that vandalism was the main cause of darkness in the FCT, even as he did not exonerate poor supply from the AEDC.
Sani said the vandals had become so sophisticated and daring that they now come fully armed with trucks to vandalise armoured cables and other power installations.
He added that the authorities had as a means of protecting the transformers built concrete slabs around them and also mounted security surveillance in such locations.
“Our major problem is not that government is not performing; the problem is that the vandals are bent on destroying the city. They are sophisticated, well-armed and move in groups. These people dig out kilometres of armoured cable and cart them away. You replace them; they will dig them out again. If you are observant, you will see buses wherever there are transformers; these are security vehicles. But sometimes, the vandals attack them; they will fire gunshots at them,” he stated.
However, the minister’s aide assured that government was not resting on its oars, as according to him, the FCTA recently procured 21 generators to augment public power source in powering the streetlights.
He, therefore, appealed to FCT residents to be extra vigilant and assist the government by providing information that would lead to addressing streetlights vandalism in the territory.