I welcome all our distinguished invitees to this town hall meeting on the protection of public infrastructure. I thank you all for accepting our invitation, and I look forward to a robust interaction on this topical issue.
2. Let me remind this gathering that the Ministry of Information and Culture launched 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, thus enhancing citizens’ participation in governance. This is the 19th edition.
3. Today’s town hall meeting is both urgent and important, because it touches on an issue that is at the very core of economic growth and national development, which is public infrastructure. When public infrastructure is being targeted for destruction by some unpatriotic Nigerians, it calls for great concern and immediate action, hence our decision to organize this town hall meeting.
4. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, 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.
5. This explains why the Federal Government deliberately adopted an inclusive development framework that spreads infrastructure to all sections of the country. 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.
6. However, in recent times, such laudable efforts of the government are being thwarted by some unpatriotic citizens through wanton destruction of critical infrastructure, thereby depriving the greater citizenry – for whose benefits these projects and services are provided – from enjoying them.
7. Railway tracks are being subjected to wanton destruction, bridge railings are being removed, manhole covers are being pilfered, street lights and other power infrastructure, oil pipelines, telecoms facilities and critical aviation infrastructure are being damaged or stolen. 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.
8. On another level is the incessant attacks on critical public facilities such as police stations and INEC offices. As a matter of fact, the destruction of public infrastructure and facilities is not just vandalism, it is a form of terrorism. Removal of rail tracks can cause train derailment, with deadly consequences. Tampering with aviation infrastructure endangers the lives of air passengers. Attacks on police stations have left many police personnel dead. These are all acts of terror.
9. And this is why we have decided to organize a series of town hall meetings to address this incessant and worsening destruction of public infrastructure and facilities. In organizing these town hall meetings, our main objectives are to:
* Create in the public mind that government property are indeed citizens’ property and so must be protected for the benefit of all.
* Sensitize communities, especially those where infrastructure are located, to be conscious of the import of such and protect them
* Expose, arrest and prosecute all those who engage in buying pilfered infrastructure items along with those who bring such to them
* And 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.
10. Today’s town hall meeting will be the first of a 3-part series that will address vandalism of public infrastructure across the country. A similar town hall meeting will hold in Calabar, Cross River State, to address pipeline vandalism while another one will be held in
Maiduguri, Borno State, to address vandalism of power and telecommunication infrastructure.
11. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me end by saying we should never forget this Administration’s massive investment in infrastructure since coming into office, despite the paucity of funds. It’s easy to forget now, but when this Administration came into office in 2015, the price of crude oil, which provides 80 per cent of Nigeria’s budgetary revenues and 95 per cent of foreign exchange earnings, had dropped drastically and, along with it, the fund available to the government.
12. It is therefore a monumental achievement that this Administration has, to a large extent, managed to bridge the deficit in infrastructure. As I always say, no government in the history of this country has done so much with so little! It is incumbent on us, therefore, to do everything within our power to stop the wanton destruction of public infrastructure and facilities.
13. On this note, I want to once again thank all our invitees. This is wishing all of us a successful town hall meeting.