The wanton vandalisation of rail tracks and other public facilities by unscrupulous Nigerians across the country is deplorable. The unconscionable development, which has assumed a frightening dimension, may have informed the Federal Government’s threat to arrest and prosecute those involved in the unpatriotic acts. In view of the danger posed by such heinous acts, the government is even considering death penalty for railway track vandals in the country.
The Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, disclosed this recently at a meeting on protection of public infrastructure in Abuja. He also described rail track vandalisation as a capital offence, which must be treated as such. He urged the National Assembly to make laws that will criminalise those who vandalise public infrastructure.
According to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, the vandalised infrastructure included bridge railings, manhole covers, streetlights and power infrastructure such as oil pipelines, telecoms facilities and critical aviation groundwork. The distribution of the vandalised public infrastructure is as follows: North West 31 cases; Northern district 10; North Eastern district 43; North Central 50; Eastern district, 36; and Abuja/Kaduna 13.
In a related development, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja will, according to reports, require not less than N2.6 billion to replace over 400 vandalised manhole covers in the city. According to the FCT Minister, Mohammad Bello, following the massive vandalisation of public infrastructure in the city, it will replace about 582 storm water covers, 36, 310 gully port covers, 457 water board inspecting chamber covers, 47 hydrant covers, 756 telecoms dot covers.
We bemoan the vandalisation of rail tracks and other public infrastructure in some parts of the country. It is sad and unpatriotic that some Nigerians vandalise rail tracks and other public assets built by the government to facilitate the economic development of the country. We call on those Nigerians involved in the heinous criminality to desist from it. At the same time, we urge the law enforcement agencies to apprehend and prosecute all those involved in the evil act with a view to penalising them. The police should go after the reported syndicate that specialises in vandalising rail tracks and other public infrastructure as well as their foreign collaborators. The economic implications of the activities of the vandals are many. Vandalisation of public infrastructure amounts to economic sabotage and criminal act with dire consequences. The vandalisation of rail tracks can cause derailment leading to accidents and loss of lives. It will also slow the growth of infrastructure and development in the country. Railway has become a major source of transportation and engine of economic growth and development all over the world. It is one of the best cost-effective and reliable means of transportation systems. It is lamentable that some Nigerians are sabotaging government’s effort to rehabilitate the rail lines.
However, we commend the government for its resolve to rehabilitate the rail lines and ease the pressure on road transportation and minimise accidents in spite of the vandalisation. There are some economic benefits and opportunities associated with railways. Construction of railways can create direct and indirect jobs and enhance the growth of small and medium enterprises.
Nigeria has invested so much in rehabilitating the rail lines. Rail construction is a huge capital project undertaken by the federal government with loans from China and other global finance bodies. By March 31, 2020, the total borrowing by Nigeria from China to bring back the rail lines stood at $3.121 billion.
Therefore, the Nigeria Railway Corporation should go after the rail line vandals, the buyers and other collaborators in the odious act. Let the security agencies do their work and ensure that the rail lines are effectively protected. The government should spare no efforts in identifying the culprits and their sponsors. There is need to mount Close Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras at strategic points to monitor the rail tracks.
Relevant laws of the land should be applied to try those found to be involved in the act, while some suspects currently under investigation should be diligently prosecuted. Those found guilty should be given appropriate punishment to serve as deterrent to others wishing to toe the evil path. If the extant laws are not stringent enough, new laws can be enacted by the National Assembly to criminalise the act as Amaechi suggested. Nigerians must protect government facilities in their areas. They should see the facilities as theirs and ensure that they are not tampered with.