My attention has been drawn to a video of an inspection exercise to one of the country’s newly constructed rail projects which has been identified as the Warri-Itakpe-Ajaokuta rail, where it was discovered that some wicked elements have been vandalizing the rail tracks, obviously for the purpose of stealing and reselling them.
I am indeed saddened by the video, which has now gone viral, and this development has left me wondering if we, as Nigerian people, are indeed ready for the better life that we are desperately in need of.
Recently also, during one of my inspection tours of the southwest rail facilities in company of the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, it was a similar story of concerns about the safety of the rail tracks.
As a member of the 8th Senate, representing my people from Oyo South senatorial district in Oyo state, I know what it took for me and some prominent Nigerians to ensure that the Lagos-Ibadan rail became a reality to make life easier for our people.
I remember the series of consultations with business owners, traders and other stakeholders in Oyo state and across the south west, where we discussed the roles that a robust transportation system has played in growing economies across the world.
This dream we have managed to make a reality and more is being done across the country. But of what use will these rail lines be to the masses if the masses themselves decide to watch while the few unscrupulous elements among us destroy the infrastructure meant to make our lives better and our businesses prosper?
Does it make sense that structures built on huge foreign loans are being destroyed by the same people who bear the brunt of the burden of loans on the economy? How will the country ever come out of these loans when its investments meant to last a century are rendered dilapidated before they start to yield returns?
We need to stop shortchanging ourselves as citizens of this great country. Yes, we must continue to demand honest and responsible leadership from our politicians and public office holders, but in the same vein, we must offer ourselves as responsible followers.
I admit that poverty, insecurity and a faulty justice system have cascading negative effects and this may be one of those effects. However, as it is in more developed countries, when economies flourish, it can only reduce crime, not eliminate it.
Regardless of how hard the government works and provides for its citizens, some greedy and heartless elements are bent on destroying their own inheritance, including that of the responsible law-abiding citizens.
Yes, it is the responsibility of the government to protect national assets and citizens, but we cannot fold our hands and let things in our care get destroyed. Therefore, I also appeal to all citizens, especially those who live and work around critical infrastructure like rail lines, to help the government in protecting these facilities.
Please say something when you see something. Law enforcement will have no excuse if we all can bombard them with information that can help them to checkmate these evil people. The future of our country is dependent on what we allow now.
While thanking God that the heartless vandalism had not caused any train accident before it was discovered, I wish to challenge those in charge of these critical infrastructure and our law enforcement agencies to thoroughly investigate this and similar crimes and ensure that those behind it are duly prosecuted.
In addition to this, I wish to also appeal to the government and railway authorities to please consider a reduction of the ticket prices at the Lagos-Ibadan Rail Line in order for our people to truly enjoy the benefits of this alternative transportation, now that operations have been scaled up to accommodate more trips daily.
Asides my desire for the good people of Oyo state to enjoy quality and affordable railway service, a reduction in ticket prices is one good way to boost commerce and achieve the expected reduction in the cost of goods and services. We must also remember that one of the expected benefits of the rail transportation is that it would reduce the pressure on our roads and consequently extend the durability of the roads. If rail travel is made cheaper, things will be better for everyone.
Senator Rilwan Adesoji Akanbi is the Okanlomo of Ibadan land. He represented Oyo South Senatorial District in Nigeria’s 8th Assembly.