By Danladi Akilu
Vandalism, pillage and sometimes, plain sabotage of public assets and critical infrastructure, after insurgency and corruption, are the next major issues that pose serious threats to the well-being of Nigerians in general and the FCT in particular. Not only do they constitute a debilitating blight on our national wealth, they are a major setback to national development efforts. FCT residents can tell you this because we feel the sharp edge of this national trauma.
No sooner had the current FCT Administration headed by Malam Muhammad Musa Bello commenced the completion of ongoing major critical infrastructure projects that would have greatest impact on the greatest number of FCT residents than it was confronted with the activities of fifth-columnists in the forms of bandits and hoodlums bent on sabotaging the huge investments that the administration was making.
FCT residents also woke up each day to witness incidents of pillage of major components of public infrastructure such as railway lines and cables, bridge railings manhole covers and communication cables to mention but a few. These vandals dug deep into the ground to unearth armoured cables and sometimes bore holes into water pipelines to irrigate their farms.
Much as the FCT Administration plodded on and never leaned on these acts of sabotage as an excuse to abdicate its responsibility to improve lives of FCT residents, there is however the understanding that money that could have been spent on expanding the infrastructure networks and providing new utilities were being sunk into replacing vandalized, damaged and stolen assets or components. Today, the completion of some major arterial roads and bridges, replacement of streetlights and public utilities have imbued fresh air into the city and are bringing about dramatic improvements in the economic and cultural lives of residents. But it could have been a lot better if the administration didn’t have to confront some of these needless setbacks.
It isn’t all doom and gloom, however, as there are indications that vandals are really having a rollercoaster ride in the FCT, going by some of the commendable measures that have been introduced by the FCTA to preserve and protect critical public infrastructure. Some of these measures include the beefing up of security and surveillance around public infrastructure as well as the vibrant FCT call centre operation which has dedicated lines to special surveillance squads around these facilities. Mention must also be made of the jingles on radio and television stations alerting members of the public to the existence of this group of people and appealing to them to report all suspicions movements around public assets and utilities to the security agencies.
The FCT Administration also appears to be changing its approach in the installations of public facilities with models that would delay quick theft because the psychology of every thief is to strike quick and escape. So, delaying their capacity to hit and run increases the possibility of their arrests.
Of course these measures are beginning to yield fruits as many of the criminals have been arrested through cooperation of vigilant members of the public. We have seen them being paraded in the news media and prosecuted to demonstrate the political will to smoke them out. These measures have significantly reduced their operations and provided some reliefs to the administration in its ongoing efforts to build and give to Nigerians a befitting capital city.
It is however incumbent on other members of the public to be vigilant because some of these acts of vandalism couldn’t have gone on, sometimes, in broad daylights, if members of the public hadn’t shown such collective unconcern towards public assets and critical infrastructure. We cannot afford to fold our arms and watch these hoodlums continue to reset the clock of our development backward, stall our economic growth and diminish our living standards.
Akilu sent this piece from Gudu District, Abuja