The manhole, the man, the tale of a country’s safety culture

The world over, safety is considered sacrosanct, due to the value developed worlds place on their citizens, they enact laws that ensure all and sundry commit to ensuring that safety is not compromised. Bodies are established to ensure that these laws are obeyed strictly and in the event anyone or organization breaks the rule/law, they are penalized and punished to serve as deterrent to other potential defaulters. These has not only made the government to stay committed to its laws, it has also ensured that the citizens are kept safe and have the right to some benefit in the event their safety is compromised due the activity  or inactivity of the government, a member of the community or a business.

In this sphere of the world, everyone is responsible for their actions, the leaders don’t bully as they know are not above the law, everyone is put in check including leaders, and a leader that chooses to act in an unsafe manner is shown the exit door. The SafetyDNA of all members of the public is positive, their behavioral safety is constantly groomed to remind them of safety in all they do, thus reducing the injuries and deaths associated to unsafe acts and condition, which in turn makes living in these communities/counties comfortable and relatively safe, and in the end giving value to life.

However, the case is different for developing world, which Africa as a continent falls in, and most especially Nigeria. Over decades till date, the value for life keeps dropping by the day, (live expectancy has recently been pegged at 45 years), lives are lost like their existence was of no good to no one, cries and mourning of loved ones whose lives had been cut-short due to the unsafe acts and conditions put in place by fellow citizens, our leaders or even organizations that do business in this terrain, due to the fact that our laws aren’t enforced.                  Even foreign organizations that would not dare try acting against safety in their home country, get a field day in Nigeria, and Africa as a whole, as they believe there is always a way so far they have money to bribe government officials with and our weak laws.

Law breakers in our own clime are respected, and valued so far they are influential and rich, no evil can befall them. The average citizen, been obvious of this, also oppress his/her fellow citizen, since nothing would come out of it. The numerous and uncountable potholes on our roads, rather than being fixed, have been abandoned, and allowed to become an “emergency abbatoir” where lives are slaughtered without any readiness, as accidents now happen in a flash due to the poor state of the roads.

There are potholes that have been dug and created by fellow citizens and road construction companies paid with tax payers money to fix these roads that have claimed people’s lives, but these funds are looted between the politicians, the approving agency, and of course, the owner of the construction firm. We are no longer entitled to hospitals with first class equipments, high caliber doctors and workforce ss they all immigrate abroad for a better work condition, all we now have as hospitals are buiildings with ill-equipped drug and absence of other essentials, etc. that when a politician or a member of his family dies, the next thing you hear his, they have been flown abroad. What a sad state!

This bring us to the story of the famous human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana SAN, who recently threatened to sue the government claiming that he got a broken leg from an abandoned manhole on a road.

But is Mr. Falana wrong to ask for his entitlement? Many have gone through this lane, and did not return the same. Many have broken their legs, some legs have been amputated, and many have lost their loved ones, fathers, mothers, bread winner etc. from similar unsafe conditions, which not only leaves affected persons emotionally broken, but also affects the economic gains of the country. Analyzing the case as regards Falana, lets paint a  picture of the scenario, the elder states man wakes up on the said date, does his morning prayers, followed by greetings from his kids and wife, and he informs his wife that he has a meeting with a client, and the day begins. He spends time in his office and almost close to the end of work, he decides to take a stroll to the next street, and unknown to him, a manhole has been left uncovered on his path. This manhole is however poorly covered with wood and not barricaded to inform passersby of the hazard. His leg falls into the manhole, and gets broken.

Let’s analyze the impact;

  1. He has a broken leg
  2. He is in pain
  3. He is imagining the impact of the injury, and wishing he could turn back the hands of time.
  4. He calls his family, and they are in panic.

He is lucky to still be surviving and also be able to pay his medical bills, what of people that cant even afford to buy food to eat, not to talk of footing their hospital bills. The emotional pain/trauma on not just the patient but also their family, friends and neighbors, this incident would also take them out of work, classified as loss time, as they aren’t beneficial both to themselves and any other person.


This is not the time to trade blames, it’s a time to recalibrate our behavior to that which is geared towards a positive safety culture, so as to put an end to unnecessary and preventable accidents like that of the manhole. We need to learn safety, teach safety and act safely if we want to make our country and continent achieve its potential.

Together, we can increase the value for life, and put a stop to these unnecessary injuries and deaths.

Stay SafetySmart.