The Rivers State Government has promised N100,000 bounty for anyone with information that will lead to the arrest of those stealing manhole covers on roads in Port Harcourt.
The Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr Emma Okah, disclosed this to Southern City News in a telephone interview on Thursday.
Manholes help in the control of erosion, especially during torrential rainfall.
Okah’s remarks came on the heels of several complaints by residents and motorists plying Forces Avenue over the removal of the entire manhole covers.
He stated that the state government had been looking for an opportunity to catch at least one of the culprits, adding that it was not unaware of the removal of the manholes.
Okah stated, “The government has discussed the issue and it has reached a decision that the Special Assistant to the Governor on Special Duties should design a non-iron manhole cover that will serve as a model to make it unattractive to those dealing in iron to steal them.
“Before now, the Ministry of Information and Communication had offered the sum of N100,000 to any member of the public, who would come up with information that would lead to the arrest of anybody stealing manhole covers in the state.
“We are looking for an opportunity to catch just one person. That person will be investigated and prosecuted.”
It was, however, gathered that some of the youth, who scavenge scraps and condemned iron and steel, were responsible for the removal of the manhole covers.
Ekaete, who sells fruits in the area, told our correspondent that the youth usually move around with wheelbarrows to pick scraps in the day, adding that they return in the night to lose the heavy iron covers.
She alleged, “The Hausa youths, who deal in scraps and condemned iron, are responsible. They steal the covers in middle of the night when everybody is asleep. They pass through this road in the day time and survey the type of iron they can lay their hands on at night.”
“When they remove this heavy iron, they go to the Ikokwu Market to sell it. They have removed all the iron covers on the Forces Avenue. Two persons fell into the manholes sometime last year.
“One of them was on a bicycle selling ice cream. He did not notice the open manhole by the side of the road and his bicycle entered it. Though he was not seriously injured, but he was frightened by what happened.
“The second person was seriously injured, because he was just trekking and fell inside the manhole. He was rushed to the hospital after the incident.”
A motorist, who simply identified himself as James, said he had since noticed that almost all the manholes on Forces Avenue were open and that this could lead to fatal accidents.
James explained that he had made it a habit not to speed while plying the road so as to avoid the manholes.
He appealed to security agents and the state government to ensure that those stealing the manhole covers were arrested.
Jabil, one of the scavengers, who spoke with Southern City News on Forces Avenue, confessed that some of his colleagues were responsible for the missing manhole covers, but added he would not be able to identify the ones involved in the nefarious act.
“Yes, I will tell you the truth. It is not me that is stealing them (manhole covers; my friends are responsible. But I don’t know the ones among them. Yes, they carry them (manhole covers) and sell them,” Jabil said.