I welcome all our invitees to this town hall meeting, the second in a three-town hall meeting series that started here in Abuja on June 7th 2021 to address the vandalism of public infrastructure in the country. I thank you all for honoring our invitation. In particular, I want to most sincerely thank my colleagues honorable Ministers for being here, despite their tight schedule, and our bosses, the distinguished Senators and Honourable members of the National Assembly.
2. As I said earlier, the first in this series of town hall meetings on protecting public infrastructure was held on Monday, June 7th 2021 and was focused on the vandalism of railway tracks, roads, bridges as well as removal of man hole coverings and destruction of power infrastructure, among others. It was a successful outing that revealed that the issue is even more serious than earlier thought.
3. Today, our focus is on the destruction of oil and gas pipelines, while the third and the last in the series, which we plan to hold in Maiduguri, will focus on the vandalism of power and telecommunication infrastructure.
4. Before dwelling on today’s topic, let me remind this gathering that the Ministry of Information and Culture kick-started the town hall meeting series in Lagos on April 25th 2016 to provide a platform for the Federal Government to regularly give account of its stewardship to the people and get their feedback, with a view to enhancing citizens’ participation in governance. This is the 20th edition.
5. Today’s town hall meeting on protecting oil and gas infrastructure is very important, considering that the destruction of this infrastructure has socioeconomic and environmental implications. With oil providing 80 per cent of Nigeria’s budgetary revenues and 95 per cent of foreign exchange earnings, one can only imagine the impact of the incessant destruction of oil pipelines on the economy.
6. I do not intend to take the wind out of the sail of the experts who will speak on this issue, but with an average of 200,000 barrels per day lost to the wanton damage to pipelines and a huge amount of 60 billion Naira yearly to repair and maintain the vandalized points, one can only imagine the impact on the economy. According to statistics, between January 2019 and September 2020, 1,161 pipeline points across the country were vandalized. Apart from the impact on the nation’s earnings, consider also the environmental problems caused by the incessant vandalism, in terms of freshwater pollution, air pollution, soil pollution, etc., and you will appreciate the enormity of the problem.
7. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, what do we aim to achieve with these town hall meetings focusing on the protection of public infrastructure? Our objectives are:
a) Create in the public mind that government property are indeed citizens’ property and so must be protected for the benefit of all.
b) Sensitize communities, especially those where infrastructure are located, to be conscious of the import of such and protect them
c) Expose, arrest and prosecute all those who engage in buying pilfered infrastructure items along with those who bring such to them
And d) Sensitize the larger citizenry to support the widespread campaign on the protection and ownership of public infrastructure/assets, especially in the Railways, Roads and Aviation sectors.
8. Please remember that public infrastructure is at the very core of economic growth and national development. Therefore, the destruction of public infrastructure by some unpatriotic Nigerians calls for great concern and immediate action, hence our decision to organize this town hall meeting series.
9. It is common knowledge that Nigeria has long suffered massive infrastructure deficit due to decades of neglect, population explosion and the absence of maintenance culture. But since coming into office in 2015, the Muhammadu Buhari Administration has embarked on a rapid economic growth with equity, i.e. people-centered economic management as well as prioritizing human capital development through enhanced social services and infrastructure development. 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.
10. To have such laudable efforts of the government thwarted by some unpatriotic citizens through wanton destruction of critical infrastructure is totally unacceptable. To have railway tracks subjected to wanton destruction, bridge railings removed, manhole covers pilfered, street lights and other power infrastructure, oil pipelines, telecoms facilities and critical aviation infrastructure damaged or stolen do not augur well for our growth and development. Apart from endangering the lives of fellow innocent citizens, such unpatriotic acts take a toll on the government’s limited revenue, as it seeks to replace, rehabilitate or totally reconstruct such destroyed infrastructure.
11. Let me round off by reminding us all of this Administration’s massive investment in infrastructure since coming into office, despite dwindling resources. With far less resources, the Administration has recorded more infrastructural development than was achieved in all the 16 years of the previous Administration. As this government strives to bridge our nation’s infrastructural deficit, we must do everything in our power to stop the wanton destruction of public infrastructure.
12. On this note, I want to once again thank all our invitees and panelists, and I wish us all a successful meeting.