Vandals of public equipment must be prosecuted
In his Sallah message two weeks ago, former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar warned that the growing acts of sabotage and vandalism of government facilities and assets would have long term consequences. That message was reechoed last week by the Federal Capital Territory Minister, Mr. Mohammed Musa Bello who lamented the rate at which traffic lights, street lights and electric cables were being vandalised in Abuja. “The rate of vandalism of public assets and property in this city is amazing and certain criminal activities, quite frankly, are just unique to us Nigerians,” he said.
We agree with the summation of both the former head of state and the FCT minister. From oil and gas installations to power equipment and even railway assets, no sector seems safe from the antics of vandals. At critical period for our nation, some unpatriotic elements seemed hell-bent on destroying or looting the little infrastructure we still have in place.
However, with the arrest of a former territorial manager of NITEL and 11 other accomplices over allegation of vandalising and selling equipment of the now-moribund government telecommunications company with vast assets across the country, the authorities should get a clue about this growing crime. Some of the equipment reportedly sold to two buyers in the Ilorin metropolis included high tension cables, electricity transformer and transmitter. The arrested suspects included three security men on guard at the premises while in one of the buyers’ house, two industrial electricity generating plants belonging to government were also discovered.
While these criminal activities have become all pervasive, no area of our national life is more challenged than the power sector. So endemic is the incidence of vandalism of electricity equipment that except drastic action is taken to contain the menace, the much-touted reform of the power sector may be no more than a mirage.  However, as can be seen from the Ilorin NITEL case, the menace of electricity equipment vandals persists because of the existence of some “market” for the stolen items. Obviously no criminal could be foolish enough to take the risk of stealing whole transformers and power cables without having an assured market somewhere. The immediate consequence of these acts of vandalism is that life is made more difficult for law abiding citizens who are thrown into darkness due to erratic and unreliable power supply.
In the oil and gas sector, the damage to the economy is more in the capacity of the vandals to cripple effective distribution of petroleum products across the country and foist on the nation increased trucking option which comes with enormous risks and cost. “Between Atlas Cove and Mosimi Depot, we recorded 181 break points; from Mosimi to Ibadan, we had 421 ruptured points and from Mosimi to Ore, we recorded 50 vandalised points. Also between Ibadan and Ilorin, we had a total of 122 break points,” a senior official of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Fidel Pepple once lamented.
The implication is that more than a thousand trucks load out from the depots every day to meet the daily national consumption. Therefore, on the average, a minimum of 10,000 trucks ply the roads daily, given that it takes one about a week to journey across the country. Certainly, this is not only dangerous but wasteful and unsustainable. It is therefore incumbent on all the critical stakeholders to come up with a solution that will work. We also urge the communities to be vigilant and keep a close eye on government facilities within their neighbourhood, even for the sake of their own enlightened self-interest. It is the responsibility of all citizens to help protect these vital assets of the nation from the grip of criminals.