Considering the large number of uncovered manholes in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), one could rightly conclude that Abuja residents are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. Conspicuously dotted in every part of the city centre, uncovered manholes in Abuja are fast becoming death traps for the residents.
Although created to serve as underground utility vaults for maintenance of underground public utility and services such as water, sewers, telephone, electricity, storm drains, district heating and gas, many now pose more danger to residents than serve the purpose they were created for.
Residents, especially commuters, have to battle the problems posed by these drainage systems, especially the ones on busy roads. Permanent deformity, fractured bones, accidents and even in few cases recorded deaths, Abuja residents have actually had rough ordeal with the dangers posed by the half or conspicuously open manholes.
From Utako where they are more visible, to Wuse, Garki, Asokoro to Maitama Districts, along the major expressway and especially at the centre of bridges and flyovers, manholes are quite visible.
Passers-by are also not spared of the agony of derelict manholes. Narrating their ordeals, an Uber driver, who identified himself as Daniel, recalled how his tyre stuck in a manhole, which broke his car rims:
“I was on high speed, although, not really that fast. I think I was running 80 kilometres per hour or thereabouts. I was on the way to Apo, from Asokoro, to pick up someone. When I got to Power House, close to Garki, the area was, as usual, dark and my lamps are not so bright.
“I could not see any manhole. When I entered the hole with my tyre, it broke immediately. My rims are customised. I was warned by my mechanic not to buy them because according to him they are not very strong.
“My stubbornness landed me there. I bought them for N20,000 each, last year, because I wanted my car to look attractive. “Obviously, I didn’t enjoy it for long. Now, I have only three rims left. I had to buy one normal ‘follow come’ rim to replace the damaged one. My brake disc also broke in the process which cost me N21,000.
“I wonder why some of these systems are left open. The only reasonable excuse for it to be open would be if it were overflowing, but, this particular one that damaged my car was empty.
“I don’t know why they can’t cover them. I appeal to government to fix those life threatening manholes before they become more serious problem not only for people trekking, but also to car owners. They have to do it with dispatch before those death traps claim more lives.”
Another Abuja resident, Laide Kehinde, also narrated how she was trapped in one of these sewage systems: “I had the most terrible experience of my entire life that fateful night. I had closed late. I went to a client’s house for her wedding fittings and the wedding was in two days. The bride lived very far from me and I couldn’t drive so I had to take Uber.
“The mistake I made was to stop the Uber far from where I was going. I could not call him back, so I was forced to walk the remaining distance, which took about 20 minutes. I noticed these manholes and I tried to keep a mental picture of where they were since I knew there was a possibility I would be leaving my clients’ resident a little later at night and of course there were no streetlights.
“When we finished it was around 11:00pm and at this time, it was pitch black. I tried using my phone to navigate my way out of the street to town and just when I thought the manholes were over and put off my phone torch, I saw myself fell deep into it. I kept screaming but no one could hear me.
“I was stuck there for almost one hour. Mosquitoes bit me senselessly but I feared the most, let there be no rain or let snake not bite me in there. Cars were passing by but they all seem not to hear me at all. Finally, a God-sent lady that sells a local food delicacy, Okpa, was passing by and saw me.
“She then went to get help. She came back with three men who work at a bar close to where I was trapped. They pulled me out. It was an experience I shudder whenever flashes come back to me.”