Rippling Effect of Theft of Manholes, Crash Barriers 

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Adewura Lateefat
The rippling effect of the increasing theft of manholes, crash barriers and bridge railings in Lagos State recently came to bare with the death of Adewura Lateefat Bello, who fell into an open manhole during a flood and was swept away 

On Wednesday, June 29, 2016, the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of the Lagos State Police Command,  re-arrested one Godwin Nwankwo, for vandalising and selling off bridge railings, crash barriers and manholes, barely 18 days after he had regained his freedom for same offence. The 23-year-old suspect, had been released from the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (SCIID), Panti, Lagos, after he was arrested vandalising bridge railings and barriers at Ijora Bridge.

He was caught in the act as he was bringing out some cut-to-size railings and crash barriers from manholes which were meant to reinforce Ijora Bridge from vibrating, as well as protect vehicles from falling from the bridge.

In his confession, Nwankwo had divulged how he sold the stolen railings to one Alhaji Talimu Sanni and another man, that was at large at the point, in Ijora area of the state. His revelation to the interrogators resulted in the arrest of one of the main receivers of the stolen railings, Sanni, who confessed that he indeed collected the items.

Rippling Effect 

Because of such people as Nwankwo and Sanni, a receiver of such stolen goods, the dreams of a promising young lady, Adewura Lateefat Bello, was cut short. The 26-year-old, was found dead on Sunday, May 26, 2019, exactly 12 days after she went missing.

For the Bello family, the recovery of the dead body of their daughter dashed their hopes of finding her alive. She was found floating in a canal at the Iyana Ipaja area of Lagos, 12 days after she was declared missing. The 26-year-old went missing on May 15, 2019 in Lagos and was last sighted by her colleague who was said to have dropped her off at Medical Road opposite Ikeja Bus Terminal and at about 6pm of same day, she had reportedly told her sister that she was around Cement busstop on her way home. That was the last anyone heard of her.

The family raised an alarm on social media and a public search began for the deceased, who was fondly referred to as Wura. After the family reported to the police, her phone number was tracked to Badagry but she wasn’t found until 7pm on  Sunday when her family identified her corpse. According to Twitter user,  @OfficiallBmax, who broke the news, he said Wura’s body was discovered in a canal.
But according to THISDAY findings, on the day she went missing, she had boarded a bike in the downpour to hasten her journey home and on getting to a flooded road, the motorcyclist was reportedly warned by onlookers to wait for better visibility, but he ignored them and attempted to ride through the flood.
Although they both ended up being swept away by the flood, the motorcyclist however survived, and was immediately apprehended by onlookers and handed over to the police but Bello on the other hand was unlucky as she was swept into a canal through a wide-opened manhole.
When contacted, the state Police Spokesman, DSP Bala Elkana, had ruled out abduction given that no ransom was demanded. According to him, every kidnap case must have an evidence, and the kidnappers would have contacted someone to demand ransom, which was not the case in this matter.
He said: “A body has been recovered at a canal in Ipaja, but it can’t be concluded yet if it is her body as the body was already decomposing. At this point, the police have to depend on a medical examination to ascertain whose body it is, as the body has already been taken for medical examination.”

Vandalism in Lagos 

 Manholes, which are also called utility, sewer or maintenance holes; cable, access or inspection chambers, are the top opening to an underground utility vault, which is used to house an access point for connections, inspection, valve adjustments or performing maintenance on underground and buried public utility and other services including water, sewers, telephone, electricity, storm drains, and even gas.

Over the years, Lagos has been  burdened with theft of such manhole covers, which cost the Lagos State Government huge sums of tax payers’ monies. Asides manholes, crash barriers and bridge railings are also high risk.

From Isolo to Oshodi, Ikeja, Surulere, Lawanson, Ijora abridge, Eko Bridge, Victoria Island, Ogba, and Jakande Estate, the story remains the same; stolen railings and manhole covers.

In 2012, the state government had to replace 241 manhole covers  between June and December. In 2013 too, 100 manholes and 500 gratings were replaced too. This continuous vandalism is disturbing and worrisome because the thieves sell them for pecuniary gains to the scrap metal collectors.

It was for this reason in 2016 that the state government as at then  fabricated recycled plastic of composite resin fibre quality, which has zero market value, to ameliorate the incessant theft, yet it wasn’t a deterrent.

However, some of these covers are removed by hoodlums to enable them extort drivers whose vehicles breakdown when they drive into such holes.

In this administration, the Lagos State Ministry of Works and Infrastructure during its 2017 ministerial briefing in May, had revealed to install inner locks on the manholecovers to prevent theft. This was disclosed by the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr Temidayo Erinle. But despite such measures by the state government, those whose stock in trade is to pilfer such essentials continue to have a field day.

Consequences

Removal of manhole covers and gratings has enormous consequences. This trend, apart from the collateral cost in terms of repairs, also affects lives and properties, as was the case of Bello, who was killed because of a stolen manhole cover.

In some cases, this act have caused accidents, which had culminated in destruction of properties and even loss of human lives in some cases. It also retards growth and development of any society that battles the anomaly.

Also, theft of manholes incur huge expenses for vehicles in terms of repairs because most of them have had their tyres pull off once they enter uncovered manholes while on speed.

Given the recent incident that claimed the life of Bello, a chartered accountant, the anomaly of open manholes have again been brought to the front burner with many charging the government to rise up to its responsibility and make the roads worthy for use.