Abuja streets in darkness despite huge funding on street lights

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The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has committed huge resources to the maintenance of street lights in Abuja; however, majority of the street lights are not functional. JOSEPHINE ELLA-EJEH x-rays why they are out of order despite huge funding.

Gone are the days when driving around the Abuja metropolis at night was the delight of motorists. From 1997 to the end of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, when the street lighting system in the city were very functional, you can hardly differentiate between night and day because the city was well illuminated. Apart from beautifying the city, street lights help to check criminal activities.

It was with all these in mind that, that FCT administrators have been investing heavily to ensure that residents, especially motorists derive maximum benefits from street lights.

The irony is that, despite the huge budgets that have been committed into providing the facility and ensuring its maintenance, the once brilliantly lit city, is creeping into darkness as many of the street lights have collapsed.

Blueprint Weekend investigation revealed that the street lights installed on many Highways and streets are not functional. This is noticeable in major streets like as Herbert Macaulay Way; Muhammadu Buhari Way, Jabi; Aminu Kano Crescent; Ahmadu Bello Way; Area 1 route, specifically from Dantata to Apo Bridge; and the Airport Road axis; where the lights are very unstable. In other parts of the city, the situation appears to be even worse.

The situation, which is now common in many parts of the city became worse since the present administration of the FCT came on board. One can hardly drive through many streets in the metropolis at night and see the streetlights working.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the deteriorating condition of the street light is partly as a result of the activities of vandals, who have continued to vandalise the installation.

It has also been attributed to laxity on the part of the contractors who manage the facility.

The Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC), which always complains about system breakdown, also shares the major blame with its epileptic power supply that has continued to take its toll on the facility which depends solely on electricity.

Media reports, however, have it that the Minister of the FCT, Muhammad Bello, was taking steps to address the situation, even as an official of the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) highlighted factors that have made it difficult to tackle the problem.
Confirming the development, FCDA Acting Director, Facilities Maintenance and Management, Omoniyi Olaloye, in a recent interview with Premium Times said: “When they have system breakdown all over the country, we don’t have light. And they are also having challenge of vandalism. People are vandalizing their installations.”

Continuing, he stated that: “They have their installations, we have our own and we connect them. If they have vandalism on their own side, we don’t get light and when we have vandalism on our own side we don’t get light.”

Our correspondent also gathered that contractors awarded the contract of maintaining the street light under previous administrations of the territory failed to keep the contractual agreement as most of the major projects awarded to them were unexecuted.

Sometime in 2016, the FCT minister had read the riot act to the contractors to wake up to their responsibility of lighting up the streets of Abuja or risk losing the contracts. Despite the warning, the situation remains deplorable.

According to Olaloye, “The minister discovered that these contractors were not performing well, so they have been relieved of their work and new ones are coming in any moment from no.”

He explained that some of the new contractors had started collecting their contract award letters, even as he maintained that most of the ousted contractors did not have the capacity to execute the maintenance projects.

The acting director further revealed that the maintenance department, that supervises the projects, is now prepared to ensure that past wrongs are not repeated.

However, one of the contractors, Engr. Jerome Egbo in his reaction during a meeting with officials of Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), blamed the situation to the fake materials that have flooded the market. He also complained that, “Sometimes, AEDC deliberately cuts power supply to frustrate street light contractors.”

Meanwhile, further investigations revealed an upsurge in crimes in some locations in Abuja due to the malfunctioning street lights.
Lending credence to this, the acting director said that some hoodlums vandalise street lights just to provide cover for robbery and other forms of theft.

“They deliberately cut off our cables. When we repair in a particular place today, we discover that after one or two weeks, these people go back there to cut off the flex, the cables. They make sure that about 10 to 15 poles don’t have light so that they can operate.

“We have spots all over the city like that. Whatever you do, they go back there to spoil it. In fact, there is a bridge, the bridge that goes to the national stadium, do you know that some people live under that bridge? If your vehicle stops under that bridge at night, they will come out. Whatever we do there, they cut the cable because they don’t want light there.

“Apart from the fact that they create darkness so that they can attack people, they also cut our cables. Some of them enter the manholes at night and cut more than 50 metres and even 100 metres of cable to sell. People have been caught.

“Some of them enter our transformers, some of them collude with AEDC officials to bring black out in an area so that they could enter the transformer and empty all the installations inside and go and sell,” he said.

He assured that the minister was doing a lot to beef up security in the affected spots to address the issues.

When Blueprint Weekend accosted the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) spokesman, Larry James, for an update on the issue, he declined comment.

He said officials of the Facilities Maintenance and Management Department at the FCDA were the appropriate people to speak on the matter.

As at the time of filling this report, efforts made to get official comment from the department proved abortive. Records, however, indicate that the FCTA, on July 17, 2017, disclosed the authority would spend over N1 billion on 22 generator sets to power the streets lights in Abuja.

The Coordinator, AMMC, Hajiya Safiya Umar, who disclosed this while speaking with streets light contractors in her office, explained that the cost for the supply of the 22 generator sets stands at over N500 million, while the procurement process and installation of the sets will gulp another N500 million.

According to Umar, the administration had already taken the delivery of five of the generator sets, while the installation is ongoing in parts of the city, just as efforts are being made to conclude the procurement process for the remaining 17 generator sets.

“We are to supply 22 generator sets for the supply of streets lights in parts of Abuja city and the contract for the first set of five generators has been awarded. At the moment, the installation of the five generators is on-going at in parts of the city the streets, where the generator sets are being installed at Herbert Macaulay Way; NEPA Junction; Wuse Zone 6; and others,” she said.

Given the huge sum already spent and with even more resources being devoted to resuscitating and maintaining street lights in the FCT, it is hoped that the city will return to the old days when there was practically no difference between morning and night on the streets, in the near future.

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