Residents looking forward to enjoying rides on the Abuja light rail in December 2017, the target completion date for the project, may have to wait a bit longer. The completion of this project is now at the mercy of vandals who appear hell bent on ensuring that it fails.
These unconscionable saboteurs who are on the prowl in Abuja lately, have stolen communication cables laid on the rail line, which is expected to provide alternative means of transportation in the nation’s capital city and which will also link satellite towns around the territory when completed.
The cables are to serve as tools for communication across the trains and various stations when the facility starts operation. Already, work has reached 77 per cent completion on the project and authorities had assured that it would be commissioned by the end of next year.
The case of the Abuja light rail where vandals dig out and cut off cables is not isolated. One of the reasons for inadequate power supply in the country today is as a result of activities of unscrupulous elements who steal power transformers, cables, transformer oil and other installations. Power distribution companies have had cause to cry out over this negative trend.
The fact that many bridges across the country no longer have railings thus constituting grave danger to road users as well as the legion of open manholes around Abuja, which have become accident traps for pedestrians around the city especially, is also as a result of the activities of these shameless thieves. Street light solar panels are not left out as many in Abuja no longer function because the panels have been stolen. This is in addition to vandalism of CCTV installations in the city. Schools, hospitals, grave yards, markets and anywhere infrastructure is provided, they move in to steal, thus setting the country back.
Apart from the vandals, there are those who deliberately destroy government infrastructure during protests while others, through their lawless actions, damage what they ought to preserve. We have seen cases of major roads being dug up by residents to lay pipes but deliberately ignore the fact that the dugout portions must be covered. As a result, they expand to become gullies on the road.
In our view, protecting critical public infrastructure is supposed to be the business of every responsible Nigerian. The country already suffers from huge infrastructure deficit and there appears to be no immediate way out of the situation due to the economic woes bedevilling the country.
Though the cables for the light rail project which was conceived in six lots and is currently in phase one are being replaced, this is not good enough as it is happening at extra cost. This fund would have been used to provide other infrastructure.
Nigeria is in dire need of development and most of it can only take place when there is infrastructure which stimulates investors’ interest. If there was a time Nigeria needed investors, that time is now, to help pull the country out of recession. As the government intensifies efforts to provide what is needed to make the economy grow, it will be counter-productive if we continue to lose what we already have due to the activities of vandals and other forms of abuse and misuse.
We, therefore, urge Nigerians to be vigilant and report acts of vandalism in their areas. On their part, security agencies, particularly the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), whose first line charge is to protect these infrastructure, must redouble efforts towards ensuring that those behind these retrogressive acts are arrested and prosecuted and punished to serve as deterrent to others.