INFORMATION minister Alhaji Lai Mohammed has labelled people who destroy public property and infrastructure as terrorists and declared that the federal government will clamp down heavily on them from henceforth.
Over recent weeks, attacks on government facilities like police stations, electoral offices and prisons has intensified as insecurity has grown across the country. This comes on top of economic vandalism as hoodlums have been digging up tracks of newly-laid railway lines and selling off the metal on the black market.
Speaking at a town hall meeting organised by his ministry on the protection of public infrastructure in Abuja, Alhaji Mohammed said this was not just vandalism but a form of terrorism. He added that the removal of rail tracks could cause train derailments with deadly consequences, adding that tampering with aviation infrastructure also endangers the lives of air passengers.
Alhaji Mohammed 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 organise this town hall meeting.
“Nigeria has long suffered massive infrastructure deficit due to decades of neglect, population explosion and the absence of maintenance culture. However, since coming into office in 2015, the Muhammadu Buhari administration has embarked on a rapid economic growth with equity, people-centered economic management as well as prioritising 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. 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.
“On another level is the incessant attack on critical public facilities such as police stations and Independent National Electoral Commission offices. As a matter of fact, the destruction of public infrastructure and facilities is not just vandalism, it is a form of terrorism.”
Transport minister Rotimi Amaechi, lamented the nationwide vandalism of rail tracks and called for serious punishment. He noted that rail vandalism was not about the cost but the lives that had been lost, saying the solution to people selling on the train tracks is to put them in jail to serve as a deterrent.