The federal government has said that its laudable efforts were being thwarted by some unpatriotic citizens through wanton destruction of critical public infrastructure, warning that the destruction of infrastructure and facilities is not just vandalism but another form of terrorism.
Speaking during a town hall meeting on Protection of Public Infrastructure in Abuja on Monday, the minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said on another level was the incessant attacks on critical public facilities such as police stations and INEC offices.
Alhaji Mohammed also said the removal of rail tracks causes 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,’’ he said.
Alhaji Mohammed said since coming into office in 2015, the Muhammadu Buhari administration has embarked on rapid economic growth with equity via people-centered economic management as well as prioritising human capital development through enhanced social services and infrastructure development.
He said this explains why the federal government deliberately adopted an inclusive development framework that spreads infrastructure to all sections of the country.
According to him, ‘’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,’’ he noted.
He added that railway tracks were being subjected to wanton destruction, bridge railings were being removed, manhole covers were being pilfered, street lights and other power infrastructure, oil pipelines, telecoms facilities and critical aviation infrastructure were being damaged or outrightly stolen.
Apart from endangering the lives of fellow innocent citizens, he said such unpatriotic acts take a toll on the government’s limited revenue, as it seeks to replace, rehabilitate or totally reconstruct such destroyed infrastructure.
In his presentation, the minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), decried abuse of the federal highways.
He said there were also undue interference with and allocation of lands within the right of way of federal highways by local and state governments and other MDAs without recourse to the ministry.
Fashola also decried unauthorised cutting and excavation across the highway pavements and shoulders for the installation of utilities.
‘’Overloading of vehicles and indiscriminate parking and repairs of trailers/trucks on road carriageway and shoulders leading to static load and spilling of lubricant that cause premature failure of Federal Highways.
‘’This offence has a penalty of N200 or Twelve months imprisonment or both Section 15 & 17 of Highway Act CAP 135; also the Highway Regulations of 2018 stipulates a fine of N1,000,000.00 for a Vehicle Operator who Exceeds the axle load for either National or International Transport in violation of Regulations Sections 5 & 22 (1).
‘’Illegal Toll/Tax collection/sticker sales and hawking along Federal Highways. This offence has a penalty of N10,000.00 or 5years imprisonment or both according to Section 2(7)(d) of Highway ACT CAP 135),’’ he said.
On his part, the minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, said a law should be passed by the National Assembly that will prescribe death penalty for vandals.
‘’When you cut off a rail track it is usually disastrous. Imagine a driver stepping on a vandalized rail track. It will surely derail. Now imagine the damages. Imagine the number of people that will die, even if it is 10 persons that will die in each coach. Besides the cost of maintenance. It is about lives that will be lost,’’ he said.
For his part, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, also described as inconceivable, a situation where people are destroying public assets.