It would appear that the latest crime in town is rail track vandalism. Reports of rail tracks and clips being removed by hoodlums are being reported throughout the parts of Nigeria where railways are found.
The month of May 2021 has been a nightmarish one for the struggling Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, as no fewer than five instances of the vandalisation of its rail furniture were reported. On May 8, 2021, three people were arrested in Kaduna State in connection with the Kaduna – Kano line vandalism. On May 14, five were caught violating the Warri -Itakpe line. Also, another five were nabbed dismantling the rail line at Dalle village in Jema’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State; while yet another incidence was reported in Enugu at about the same time.
The case that outraged Nigerians was the May 28, 2021 arrest of a syndicate which, according to the Nasarawa State Police Commissioner, Bola Longe, turned the rail line crisscrossing Nasarawa State en route to Benue State into a “gold mine”. The “syndicate” included Yusuf Musa, the Special Adviser to the Nasarawa State Governor on Infrastructure, Police and Civil Defence officers, a local government Supervisory Councillor, a Chinese national and a staff of the NRC.
From all indications, the vandals are merely the foot soldiers of much bigger people in and outside government offices, including (sadly) the law enforcement agencies and the NRC. The involvement of Chinese nationals in these crimes speaks volumes, bearing in mind that the rail restoration programme is being bankrolled with funds borrowed from China, while Chinese engineers are spearheading the construction work.
This crime should be an easy one to solve if the police and security agencies are indeed willing to get to the bottom of it. It is quite possible that some unscrupulous foreigners and their Nigerian collaborators are employing petty thieves to vandalise the rail infrastructure to recycle it – a form of round-tripping – at public expense.
We demand immediate action. Those involved should be paraded, no matter how highly placed, before prosecution for economic sabotage and attempted murder. There would have been a series of derailments if the railways were at full service, with attendant losses of lives and property, especially goods.
It is shocking that the Federal Government is borrowing huge sums of money from foreign countries to revive our railways without any effort to secure them against vandals and terrorists. It is so painful that officers of the police and security agencies which should be guarding the rails are at the forefront of this crime. Have we opened our doors to criminals within our security architecture?
How the Federal Government responds to this will help to show whether our leaders are still up to their constitutional mandates.