By Bimbola Oyesola 08033246177, [email protected]
Against the backdrop of increased vandalism and theft of railway tracks and other valuables in the country, the Nigerian Union of Railway Workers (NUR), at the weekend, demanded a full investigation and prosecution of everyone involved in the recent vandalism in Nasarawa State.
President of the union, Innocent Luka Ajiji, at a media briefing in Lagos, said the workers at the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) totally condemned the criminal and unpatriotic act of organized vandalism and stealing of railway tracks and other assets as recently perpetrated in Nasarawa State.
He noted that, according to the Nasarawa State Commissioner of Police, Bola Longe, those alleged to be involved in the heinous crime include top governor’s aides, Chinese, some security personnel and top staff of the NRC.
“The entire Nigerian railway workers have viewed this unfortunate incident involving such a high-calibre team of criminals as not just a crime against the rail transport sub-sector but a heinous siege against the citizenry and Nigerian state and a drainpipe against the commendable financial commitment, political will and quest of the Federal Government of Nigeria in evolving a better, more efficient and effective rail transport system,” he said.
Ajiji said the act was a deliberate crime against the social integration of Nigeria, which could only be achieved by a sustainable railway transport as a prime and additive distributor of the nation’s populace.
The NUR president said it was not just a crime and attack of massive and unquantifiable destruction to the nation’s transport economy, which rests on rail infrastructure, but indeed a crime against all Nigerians who procured and built the vandalised railway with their collective patrimony.
He said, “It is consequent upon the foregoing grounds that we earnestly demand the full backing of the Federal Government, Nasarawa State government and, of course, Nigerian Railway management to the Inspector-General of Police, with a view to carrying out a full-scale investigation, diligent scrutiny, and unbiased profiling of all involved in this condemnable act of vandalism and thieving of railway tracks and assets for an encounter with the law.
“If the investigation is thoroughly and painstakingly carried out, we strongly believe that more actors and collaborators behind the vandals and thieves, buyers, all already apprehended, will be exposed. For this ring of alleged thieves and vandals to have as members a special adviser on infrastructure to an incumbent governor, arms-carrying personnel of the police, Civil Defence Corps, Nigeria Legion, a Chinese national with an active company in Nigeria, and a serving staff of Nigerian Railway for that matter, then these people must have masters in high places who they are working for.
“We share in the rationality that it is extremely pertinent to dig to the down-bottom of this unpatriotic act in order to unmask the kingpins and make a deterrent out of these accused and, more importantly, save Nigerian railway from the hands of these vandals by making buying of stolen railway assets abhorrent as it used to be in the olden days.”
Ajiji vowed that the union would not relent but follow the case and others in other states like Benue and Enugu, until justice is served and deterrent attained.
The union, however, tasked all the workers of the corporation to join hands in forestalling further vandalism of railway properties by guarding and exposing anyone they see pilfering them.
“The Nigerian Railway workers are under obligation as patriotic citizens of this great country and social partners for the continued growth of the railway system to be thankful and appreciative of the Federal Government for its exemplary commitment to the repositioning of the railway industry through massive and capital-intensive infrastructure development and gradual system transition from narrow gauge track system to standard gauge track system,” he said.
To put a stop to the incessant thieving and vandalism of railway tracks and other assets, the NUR president opined that there was urgent need for the employment of trackmen (that is, lenghtmen, gangers and track patrolmen) based on catchment area, increase in train operations, through procurement of more locomotive engines, wagons, and coach facilities and Federal Government stopping the scrapping of irons (ferrous and non-ferrous) in their raw and direct forms.