From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The Nigerian Government has lamented attacks on critical public infrastructure across the country.
The notice came at a town hall meeting on the protection of public infrastructure held in Abuja on Monday.
Present at the town hall meeting was Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Minister of Transport Rotimi Amaechi; Minister of Works and Housing Babatunde Raji Fashola; Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Mohamed Musa Bello; Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Isa Ali Pantami; Minister of State (Aviation) Hadi Sirika, amongst others.
In his remarks, Information Minister Mohammed said the town hall meeting was both urgent and important because it touched on an issue that was at the very core of economic growth and national development, namely public infrastructure.
‘When public infrastructure is being targeted for destruction by some unpatriotic Nigerians, it calls for great concern and immediate action, hence our decision to organise this town hall meeting,’ Mohammed said.
The minister added that the country has long suffered massive infrastructure deficit due to decades of neglect, population explosion and the absence of maintenance culture.
He said since his assuming office in 2015, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has embarked on rapid economic growth with equity, particularly people-centred economic management, as well as prioritising human capital development through enhanced social services and infrastructure development.
‘This explains why the Federal Government deliberately adopted an inclusive development framework that spreads infrastructure to all sections of the country. Despite a drastic drop in revenues and competing priorities, especially that of tackling insecurity, the administration has invested heavily in providing new infrastructure, in addition to reconstructing and rehabilitating existing ones.
‘However, in recent times, such laudable efforts of the government are being thwarted by some unpatriotic citizens through wanton destruction of critical infrastructure, thereby depriving the greater citizenry – for whose benefits these projects and services are provided – from enjoying them.
‘Railway tracks are being subjected to wanton destruction, bridge railings are being removed, manhole covers are being pilfered, street lights and other power infrastructure, oil pipelines, telecoms facilities and critical aviation infrastructure are being damaged or stolen. Apart from endangering the lives of fellow innocent citizens, such unpatriotic acts take a toll on the government’s limited revenue, as it seeks to replace, rehabilitate or totally reconstruct such destroyed infrastructure.
‘On another level is the incessant attacks on critical public facilities such as police stations and INEC offices. As a matter of fact, the destruction of public infrastructure and facilities is not just vandalism, it is a form of terrorism. Removal of rail tracks can cause train derailment, with deadly consequences. Tampering with aviation infrastructure endangers the lives of air passengers. Attacks on police stations have left many police personnel dead. These are all acts of terror.
‘And this is why we have decided to organise a series of town hall meetings to address this incessant and worsening destruction of public infrastructure and facilities,’ Mohammed also said.
On his part, Fashola said government has invested heavily in the construction, reconstruction and rehabilitation of roads, bridges and buildings which has resulted in the improvement in the quality of lives of the citizens in areas such as improved travel time and job creation.
He said the effort of the government was recently being undermined by some citizens and residents who engaged in the abuse and destruction of public infrastructure that cost the country huge sums of money to provide.
‘This sadly limits the benefit of the populace from the infrastructure that their taxes provide.
‘Some of the instances include removal of bridge railings and damage to their reinforcements, pilfering of manhole covers, as well as street lights, damage to road signs and furniture, cutting down of galvanised iron pole, vandalism of electrical installations, vandalism of buildings and public buildings, etc,’ Fashola said.
On the abuse of federal highway, Fashola listed the undue interference with and allocation of lands within federal highways by local and state governments and ministries, agencies and departments without recourse to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
Fashola also listed unauthorised cutting and excavation across the highway pavement and shoulders for installation of utilities; overloading of vehicles and indiscriminate parking and repairs of trailers/trucks on road carriageway and shoulders leading to static load and spilling of lubricant that caused premature failure of federal highways, amongst others.
Also speaking, Amaechi said there was danger considering the lives that will be lost with regards to the cutting off of rail tracks.
‘Imagine that a driver of a rail track is driving and suddenly runs into a track that has been severed, what happens? It will derail. And if it derails, people will die.
‘Each coach for now in Nigeria carries 85 passengers. And sometimes we carry 14, we take 14 coaches, sometimes it can get to 20, sometimes 10.
‘So, imagine if you are driving a train of 14 coaches or 20 and they are full, 84, 85 passengers per coach, if you derail and we lose even if it is 10, 10, 10, 10 persons per coach, can you quantity how many persons that would have died in the course of one man thinking he is making money?,’ Amaechi asked.