“…I had hopes of good news every time I saw a tweet with her picture,” Gloria’s tweet captures the mindset of many Nigerians on social media who relentlessly kept alive the search of Adewura Bello, the 26-year old chartered accountant who was washed down a manhole and found dead in a canal, days later. Unfortunately, this hope is one of many that never got fulfilled, no thanks to the different government bodies who failed in their duties.
The manhole that swallowed Adewura was not created the day she fell off a motorcycle and washed down the hole, it has been there for years with several complaints addressed to Mosan Okunola Local Government Development Area.
“It is unfortunate that a young girl had to die for this issue to get the attention of the government,” said a landlord at Old Ipaja road, the exact street where the tragedy began. “We have written to the LCDA multiple times, not just about the hole but the flooding issue in the area, but they did nothing.”
Had this manhole been covered, maybe Adewura would have got home as she had told her sister minutes before she hooped on the motorcycle that rode her to the untimely death.
The name of the motorcycle rider is Jurus Onwe, from Cross River State, SaharaReporters found out.
According to residents in the area, the hole was that way because that is the only open drainage when the street gets flooded, an occurrence that happens frequently during raining season. They explained that water flowing from neighboring communities is directed toward the channel.
“All the flood coming from Shagari Estate, Mosan, Akinogun, are all coming to this place. Everything is coming here,” a man who simply identified himself as Ajangbadi told SaharaReporters. “There is no year that this place is not flooded. It is through community effort that this place has not been washed away by flood.
“The local government is aware of the situation of the road but they did nothing about it. If we decide to block the hole, houses would collapse because of the intensity of the flood. That is the only channel the water has.
“There was a time an engineer came from the local government. He looked at the hole and asked a wielder to bring quotation for fixing it but he did not return, nobody came back to check on it. If the issue of the flood had been addressed, maybe the incident would have been averted.” Ajangbadi retorted.
112 did not act on our calls
The instinct of the residents of Old Ipaja road when they realized they could not save Adewura after she was flushed through the manhole, was to call 112, Lagos State emergency number, to lodge a complaint. Mr. Ajangbadi claimed he was the one who made the call but no one came to Adewura’s rescue.
“It was around 8:30pm” Mr. Ajangbadi explained. “It had just finished raining but the street was still very flooded. Sometimes, it takes about 30 minutes after rain for the flood to drain off. I was at the other side when I heard screams. I came to check what happened. I saw that people had gathered round lamenting the mishap that had just happened.
“A bike man had fallen into the ditch with his passenger but unfortunately, the passenger fell into the hole. The flood was intense, there was no way we could rescue her. Immediately, I brought out my phone and called 112. They told me they are coming.
“We took the bike man to the police station. When we got to the station, I called again to let them know that we have taken the bike person to the police station. Another person picked the call and was arguing that I had not called before… he also said they would send someone but nobody came all through the night. We left the bike man at the station and left.”
According to Mr. Ajangbadi, no emergency operative visited the scene until about 1:30pm, the next day, when the police brought Mr. Onwe, the bike man, to identify the spot. Mr. Ajangbadi said he was too irritated by the sheer lack of urgency.
“This is someone life we are talking about. I was very angry that they were just coming by that time… I just ignored them and didn’t speak to them,” he said.
We are not trained to enter drainage—LASEMA
Officials of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) also failed to take prompt action when informed that a citizen had fallen into a ditch.
According to one of the family members who pleaded anonymity, LASEMA did not visit the site of the incident until the agency was threatened with a lawsuit.
“Those people are mad”, he said. “They did not do anything for about a week after we had reported to them that we heard a girl feel into a manhole. LASEMA did not answer us until we threatened to sue them that was when the GM now called.”
He said LASEMA did not make any effort to find the body. It was Adewura’s family members who employed the service of tomb raiders who eventually found Adewura’s body, 8 days later.
When the Public Relations Officers of the agency was contacted, he refused to comment on the allegation but promised to get back to SaharaReporters when he gets a comment from the Director General of the agency.
“I am not allowed to speak to the press on this issue. Only the DG can address the press,” he said.
Mosan LCDA hunts for scapegoat
The manhole that trapped Adewura is not the only death trapped within Gowon estate. There are several of such across the state and by extension, the country. Just few streets away from the Old Ipaja road, another manhole lay uncovered at Lighter Junction in Gowon estate.
Following Adewura’s incident, residents in the estate built an iron barricade around the manholes to forestall other unfortunate incident. At Lighter junction in Gowon Estate, an iron barricade was built around another manhole in the center of the road, in reaction to the unfortunate incident that claimed Adewura’s life.
However, the residents might have solved a problem but the solution in itself is a potential danger.
Abdulaziz Mohammed, a motorist who spoke with SaharaReporters about the potential danger of having such a structure at the center of the road, said the iron barricade can cause accident.
He said: “This iron here can cause accident. Vehicles can ram into it or it punctures tyres. It is unfortunate that both the resident and the government had to wait for something to happen before that thought of doing something. But we must commend the residents at least for doing this, only that what they have done can cause another tragedy,”
The government, on the other hand, has not only kept mute, but has also set out to bully residents into doing its job.
On May 28, 3 days after Adewura was found dead in a canal, the Environmental Health Officers from Mosan Okunola LCDA, set out to mandate an old man, who has his small concrete moulding company close to the manhole at Old Ipaja road, to mold a slab to cover the ditch.
The man, who refused to give his name, was given 3 days ultimatum after which he would be summoned before a magistrate court.
The abatement notice reads in part: “you are hereby ordered to construct a slab on top of the drainage sub to prevent occurrence accident within the specified below or face legal action.
We tried our best—Police
The Lagos State Police Command said it did all it could when the incident was reported. Although residents said the police only came to inspect the manhole 15 hours after it was reported that a-yet-to-be identified Adewura had fallen into it, Bala Elkana, the command’s PRO, said the police attended to the case promptly and assisted Adewura’s family in locating her.
“We did everything within our power as Security agency to help locate Adewura,” he said.
He also explained that the motorcycle rider was released after three days because there was no link between the incident he had reported and the report about a missing girl.
He said: “Initially, there was not link between the reported missing girl and the one that fell into the manhole because the family was unwilling to accept it was their daughter who had fallen into the hole.
“The thought it was a case of kidnap. They told the police that they have traced the girl to one hotel, we rounded up the hotel, did a search but we found out that it was false.”
Elkana said when the police got the report that a lady had fallen into a manhole, LASEMA was contacted immediately. He also claimed that LASEMA “opened up” the drainage 3 times in search of Adewura. This claim has however been dispelled by both Adewura’s family members and residents of Old Ipaja road.