Nigeria has huge infrastructure gap. Major infrastructure like roads, electricity, railway, housing, ports, pipelines, schools, hospitals, etc., are grossly insufficient and this is negatively impacting the country’s economic development.
Over the years, experts have argued that a well-developed infrastructure has the potential to increase productivity, which would ultimately alleviate poverty, enhance job creation, facilitate trade and promote innovation in the economy. However, the fund to achieve this seems not to be within reach, with a leading global rating agency, Moody’s Investors Service, estimating in a recent report that Nigeria needs to spend about $3 trillion over a 30-year period in order to bridge the country’s infrastructure gap.
This is a gargantuan task given the huge demands on government’s dwindling revenue. But having realised that the country’s infrastructure needs are too massive to be addressed through yearly budgetary allocations, both the federal and state governments have initiated other sources of funding like Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and concession arrangements. Some capital projects in the country have been delivered through these arrangements while many others are either currently ongoing or at the stage of negotiation.
But there is a problem. Nigerians have a poor attitude to public infrastructure; they destroy it with or without provocation not minding the fact that they were put in place to address their needs and that money used to execute such projects was taken from the collective purse. Stories of theft and outright vandalisation of public infrastructure such as manholes, pedestrian bridge railings, electricity cables, rail tracks, streetlights, drainage covers, bus terminals, police stations, INEC offices, etc., abound across the country, to the detriment of its economy and well being of the citizenry.
Consider the following scenarios. On Tuesday, September 29, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated the 326-kilometre Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line. The project was first awarded in 1987. It was, however, stalled for over 30 years due to paucity of funds.
While inaugurating the project, President Buhari had appealed: “I implore those who work on this line to uphold maintenance and safety culture necessary for long-lasting service in this difficult terrain.
By the same token, I urge other sectors who will be primary beneficiaries of this transportation backbone, including the iron and steel sector, stakeholders in agricultural and mining sectors on this corridor, as well as the host communities to protect and sustain this infrastructure and maximise the benefits that could be derived from it and which is readily available at their doorsteps. This project will increase the volume of their trade and kick-start and resuscitate the iron and steel complexes.”
At the same ceremony, the President announced that government had also approved to link rail line further from Itakpe to Abuja, “thereby connecting the northern zone of the country and also extending southwards to link the Warri Ports.”
On Friday, April 16, 2021, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, flagged off freight and haulage services on the Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line.
Speaking at the ceremony, Amaechi had reassured the audience, nay Nigerians that the standard gauge railway line would create more jobs and promote the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
But on May 13, 2021, a viral video surfaced, which showed that vandals had cut several sections on the Itapke-Warri rail line around KM 30 Adogo, Kogi State.
The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Nigerian Railway Corporation, Engr. Fidet Okhiria, had confirmed the incident to newsmen.
In a related development, on May 27, 2021, the Nasarawa State Police Command paraded the Special Adviser on Infrastructure to Governor Abdullahi Sule and 16 others over alleged vandalisation of railway tracks and slippers in Lafia and Keana local councils.
Commissioner of Police, Bola Longe, who paraded the suspects, explained that they (the suspects) had been in the business of buying and selling of railway tracks and slippers from other suspected vandals but luck ran out of them when the Police Command got informed of the criminal act and mobilised for their arrest.
Lately, police stations and the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have become targets of attacks by hoodlums. Records show that between January 2021 and May 2021, no fewer than 20 police stations have been burnt down in the Southeast zone of the country alone while INEC has lost 41 of its offices to arsonists in the last two years. Many law enforcement personnel, especially policemen, also lost their lives in the hands of the hoodlums.
These incidents have left many Nigerians asking what has gone wrong with the society; more so because all the facilities that have been so far destroyed were put in place to serve the people destroying them. In some cases, the communities requested for them and even helped to build them.
So, what is the motivating factor? Why would the same people vandalise or set the facility on fire? Why do Nigerians not take ownership of projects cited in their communities? What impact does such behaviour have on the developmental efforts of a country? What steps could be taken to dissuade people from engaging in such criminal acts?
The following reports, which capture the situation in Plateau, Cross River, Imo and Delta states, and the views of experts like psychologists and sociologists, provide the answers to the above posers.