In Nigeria, public infrastructure vandalism is a thriving “business”. There are ready markets and merchants who specialise in the uptake of stolen public sector goods. And with the law enforcement agents not doing their jobs properly, more miscreants are emboldened to raid amenities meant to make life more worth living for the citizenry.
For ages, public power supply installations, especially cables and other fittings on high tension lines, have been brazenly vandalised and sold in open markets. Only in isolated case have the culprits been caught and noisily paraded.
With the efforts to restore the Nigerian Railways services, vandals have also hit our rail infrastructure. Incidents of vandalism have been reported on the Warri-Itakpe-Ajaokuta line, where in May this year, five people were caught removing rail bars.
Similar incidents have been reported at Dalle village in Jema’a LGA of Kaduna State, while three were apprehended vandalising the Kaduna-Kano line in the same month.
The most scandalous instance, which shows that some rogue elements in the security agencies and even top government officials are now part of the crime, was reported in Nasarawa State. The State Commissioner of Police, Bola Longe, described the Nasarawa-Benue rail infrastructure as a “gold mine” for criminals.
It is only so because of the failure of law enforcement. Members of the suspected syndicate involved in this economic crime included a government official in Nasarawa State who allegedly had collaborators among Police, Civil Defence and local government officers.
It is therefore not surprising that our airports have also become the prime targets of vandals. The Director General of the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NIMET, Professor Mansur Matazu, recently disclosed that critical equipment in our 24 airports are routinely vandalised. These include airports with perimeter fencing.
Unfenced airports not only have to worry about vandals, the threat posed by trespassers (especially nomads whose grazing route has been displaced by the airports) increase the danger to the lives and property of air travellers several folds.
It is the primary duty of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, in collaboration with other government agencies, to protect our public facilities. Why are they not doing it the way it should be done?
Why are officials of government charged with the responsibility to tackle vandalism now collaborating with the criminal syndicates? Why are these vandalised properties openly displayed in our markets? What stops the authorities from identifying these syndicates and rooting them out?
The answer is simple: no official gets punished when these crimes take place. The security departments of all government agencies must rise to their responsibilities, work with government security agencies and the local community vigilantes to protect infrastructure in their local areas.
Heads should roll wherever vandalism takes place.