By Chinelo Obogo
Vandalism of rail lines can be curbed if the government gives citizens a feeling of ownership by making host communities of public infrastructure responsible for the protection of those facilities, an expert has said.
Reacting to the recent vadalisation of parts of the Itakpe-Warri rail line,
President of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Nigeria and Managing Director of Smile Air, Alex Nwuba said that many Nigerian citizens do not feel a sense of justice and partnership in the Nigerian project; hence they are detached from government and its policies, as government does not dispense justice equally to the citizens.
Nwuba explained that majority of Nigerian citizens are alienated so they do not have a feeling of government presence in their lives; rather, they see government as a distant creation and fail to realise that infrastructural facilities such as rail, road, hospitals, schools and others are meant for their benefits.
Nwuba recommended that governments at the federal, state and local councils should reconnect with the people so that they will have a sense citizenship and patriotism and see government projects as their projects, which they have the duty to protect.
He also wondered how people could steal rail tracks and remarked that people steal in irrational manner for which no one can explain its purpose, adding that the vandals must have seen lack of consequence in the many things that are going wrong in the country.
“This moment captures for me the condition of a country called Nigeria, a place where the government has invested heavily in infrastructure and nothing in justice. The track thieves tell the entire story, you can build great infrastructure but of what value is that if the people that ride on it will ultimately die because some people steal the tracks. It is telling that disaster was averted by the police before the train came; the country itself is on the same track; how do we prevent a crash?
“Nigeria operates with laws in the books that appear to be made for some and not for others, the government has a special class of citizens that must be protected, no matter their crimes and others that should be pilloried; even if they committed no crime. Injustice is nothing more than doing what is not morally right or fair both of which are often at the pleasure of the actor. The consequence is that those that have nothing to lose have everything to gain by misdeed and all feel the consequence.
“In the end, we can build the best physical infrastructure but they will come to naught because we have not built consequences into human action. We can build great physical things, but they will be stolen because the people for whom it is built feel no part of it. But once we build institutions of justice, we introduce the foundation for consequences. No one operating out of the law will create a better society that is more predictable. That is the first task, not roads and bridges. Let people agitate, it is engagement, let them dissent and protest, they need a voice but we cannot afford to give guns to some and disarm the others, they will burn down the system. Justice for one is justice for all,” Nwuba said.