Nigeria, Lai Mohammed
Lai Mohammed

FCT needs N2.6bn to replace 400 manholeslAs Amaechi, Fashola, others task NASS on new legislation

By Emmanuel Elebeke

abuja—The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said the destruction of public infrastructure and the incessant attacks on critical public facilities, such as police stations and INEC offices, was not just vandalism but a form of terrorism.

He also said the removal of rail tracks could cause train derailment with deadly consequences, adding that tampering with aviation infrastructure endangers the lives of air passengers.

He noted that attacks on police stations had left many police personnel dead, and that this denoted acts of terror.

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Mohammed, who spoke at a Town Hall meeting organized by his ministry on Protection of Public Infrastructure in Abuja, said:  “Today’s town hall meeting is both urgent and important, because it touches on an issue that is at the very core of economic growth and national development, which is 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 organize this town hall meeting.

“Nigeria has long suffered massive infrastructure deficit due to decades of neglect, population explosion and the absence of maintenance culture. But since coming into office in 2015, the Muhammadu Buhari administration has embarked on a rapid economic growth with equity, i.e. people-centered economic management as well as prioritizing 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,” he said.

“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 attack 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.

  “This is why we have decided to organize a series of town hall meetings to address this incessant and worsening destruction of public infrastructure and facilities.”

In his submission, the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, lamented the nationwide vandalism of rail tracks and called for serious punishment.

Amaechi, who reeled out statistics of rail vandalism, said that North Central zone of the country recorded the highest with about 50 cases of vandalism, noting that rail vandalism was not about the cost but  the lives that had been lost.

For him, the solution to people selling on the train tracks is to put them in jail to serve as a deterrent.

“Each train in Nigeria carries 85 passengers, sometimes it takes 14 coaches, if it derails and may be 10 persons die in each coach, can you quantity how many lives we must have lost in the course of one man thinking he is making money.

“Train is not like cars that you stop when you see danger. It is not about the cost but about the lives that have been lost. They are carrying out the vandalism with foreign collaborators.

“In Jos, we arrested a Chinese company that buys stolen rail facilities and took them to court and the consequence was fine of N200, 000.00. There must be serious consequences.

 We have had number of vandalisation of rail infrastructure. We have just one case of vandalisation in the whole of Lagos district.  The whole of North west we have 31 cases, northern district 10, North Eastern district 43, North Central 50, Eastern district   36, Abuja – Kaduna 13. NRC has its own police but they are not enough, we have to look for equipment that will secure the lines just to ensure that people are kept alive.

“Warri-Itakpe standard gauge, two cases. We have to look for equipment to secure the tracks to ensure safety of lives. There is no automatic brake system in train unlike in cars.

 We need to criminalize the vandalisation of train infrastructure. They have converted the train tracks in Lagos to market; the solution to people selling on the train tracks is to put them in jail to serve as a deterrent. People should leave our tracks alone for safety purposes”

In his  submission, the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr. Raji Fashola, said his ministry had suffered lots of vandalism across the country and called for immediate intervention through legislation.

Fashola said despite the vandalism, his ministry had taken up the task of replacing the vandalized infrastructure as a way of maintenance and job creation.

He said the problem might not be peculiar with Nigeria but noted that it needed a Nigerian solution.

  On his part, the Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Bello, said about 25000 infrastructure covers had been stolen, stressing that the FCT now needed N2.6billion to replace 400 manholes.

Quoting a recent study, the minister said the FCT authority needed to recover 582 Storm water covers, 36,310 gully port covers, 457 water board inspecting chamber covers, 47 hydrant covers, 756 telecommunication dot covers vandalized by vandals

“If you look at Abuja Light Rail System, we have a total of 88km tracks in phase 1 vandalised, in some cases cable were cut. And we all know no rail system works without a signal system. What we have tried to do is to engage the judicial system, made some arrests in collaboration with security agencies.

“We all need to appreciate that it affects all of us and it costs a lot of money. For instance, what we are doing now to see how we can get N2.6 billion to have the manholes replaced.”

At the end of the meeting, participants unanimously called for  stiffer punishment of vandals of public infrastructure and for communal ownership of public infrastructure,’’ he said.

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