The rains are here again and so are the fears of the residents of Asaba, the Delta State capital. Apart from diseases and motor accidents, one thing that has moved up the public’s list of fearful experiences is open manholes.
In 2018, by the time the rainy season was over, no fewer than eight persons were reportedly found dead in some of the many open drains dotting the city and they were believed to have fallen down the manholes at night. Some who are lucky enough to plunge into the drains at a time when there are passersby around are brought out but even when they survive the fall, they are not likely to escape without some degree of injuries.
So as the rains begun, residents have expressed fear over the open manholes and uncovered sewer drains that pose a threat to young and old, who may mistakenly plunge into the drains in the night or while it is raining when flood water usually covers the roads and walkways. Apart from the danger the open manholes pose for residents who might fall inside, they are also a concern because of their potential health hazard as they could become breeding grounds for disease outbreak.
Some people also find the dirty stagnant and often slimy water in the open drains with its attendant bad odour, as offensive, especially in areas with many children, but the biggest fear for people is falling inside any of them. Recently, a corpse of a middle-aged man was found in a manhole close to the Delta State Broadcasting Service, Asaba.
A resident who has seen too many of such occurrences, Pastor Jonathan Azubuike, many complaints had been made by residents about the problem but the state and local governments have failed to dotold our correspondent that anything about it.
“It has become a major problem, especially the manhole at the ever busy Ibusa Road, which more than 10 persons have fallen inside in the last few months. A woman who was returning from Ogbogonogo market last week fell inside the manhole while trying to avoid being hit by a reckless Onitsha-Asaba route bus driver.
“She fell inside and all the things she had bought were scattered everywhere. Luckily for her, people were around there to rescue her but she was injured. Also, there was no rain and that was a good thing because it could have landed her in River Niger.
“Supposing it was in the night and there was no one there to rescue her, who knows what would have happened to her. Government should ensure that no contractor would leave manholes open and everyone that needs to be covered should not be left open. Contractors should not be paid their balance if they fail to do this.
“Drainage is a good thing but it must be done well so that it will not start claiming the lives of the people. Some residents are also a problem as they dump refuse inside some of the manholes. Our fear is that people will continue to fall inside the manholes and those that will die will die and the ones that will break their legs will do that also,” he said.
A taxi driver, who regularly transports schoolchildren, and identified himself as Okpako, said, “The situation poses a serious danger to schoolchildren when they will rush towards waiting vehicles after closing hours in schools. Some naughty children push others to get to the vehicles first and during the confusion, some pupils may fall inside the manholes.”
A human rights activist, Orusi Oghorode, however, noted that the situation has been like that for a long time, since the administration of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan down to the administration of Ifeanyi Okowa, who has just been inaugurated for a second term in office.
“It is the carelessness of the government, after constructing drainage, it is expected that the manholes should be covered. But in Asaba, what we see is that the manholes for several drainages constructed long ago, were left open. It is painful, especially when it rains. When it rains, most of these drainages are over-flooded and covered by flood water, so people become victims of the terrible accident when they fall down a manhole while walking on the road. Many lives have been lost while several persons have been injured in the process.
“I think that government should be proactive. When you construct drainage, they should immediately cover the manhole to save the lives of the people you are constructing it for. Secondly, it also means that those who are monitoring government projects have failed. They ought to have been visiting construction sites and reporting their observations appropriately.
“Each time it rains, people are afraid that lives will be lost or that people will get injured. Even recently, I was in front of the police headquarters while it was raining, and a young boy was about to fall down a manhole. The whole place had been covered by water but because I knew there was a manhole there, I immediately called out to him to avoid that area. That was what saved him; he was almost walking to where he would plunge into the manhole. If not that I was there, his story would have been different.
“Now that the rainy season is here again, some people may die. We saw recently how a dead body was brought out from a drain at Delta State Broadcasting Service.’’
The Chief Press Secretary to Delta State Governor, Mr Charles Aniagwu, told our correspondent that work was ongoing on fixing the problem, saying, “It’s not as if work has stopped. All the drains are active sites; people are still working there.
“All are being done simultaneously, including the one done by past administrations. So when you get to an active site, all you need do is to beware. Active sites are sites where you could see drains that are injurious. All you need to do when you get there is to be a little careful.
“Okowa has promised us a stronger Delta, and I can assure you, the man will give all of us a stronger Delta.”