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Rail track vandalism, insecurity worry stakeholders

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Stakeholders have expressed worries over vandalisation of the Itakpe-Warri rail line, describing it as “very dangerous” for the emerging rail sector.

In a viral video last week, the vandals used a saw-like object to cut through the rail line to a point where the pieces could be carted away, thereby exposing passengers to danger.

Managing Director, Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Fidet Okhiria, who confirmed the development stated that vandals perpetrated the act on the Warri-Itakpe standard gauge line around kilometre 30, Adogo, Kogi State section of the rail.

The NRC boss, while confirming the incident, said the train was still being operated as there was an alternative. He noted that the corporation was not deterred by the situation.

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However, experts have stressed the need for the government to protect its assets by deploying technology to create steady surveillance to avoid further occurrence.

Chief Executive Officer, West Atlantic Cold-Chain and Commodities Limited, Henrii Nwanguma, said vandalism and outright robbery happens when security is lax. “When the assets are left unutilised, it can only be an invitation for the crooks,’ he said.

Nwanguma said metal foundries are the ultimate buyers of the vandalised facility. “And if a draconian approach is followed to have their chairpersons and chief executives serve long jail terms, plus the risk of heavy fines and confiscation to the company, the demand will dry up. No demand, no incentive to vandalise to source supply.”

According to him, “the obvious implication is that more money will be spent, usage will be delayed, and excuses will further be manufactured for non-performance. That technology and expertise to monitor these assets exist but it is not the priority for now.”

Dean, School of Transport, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Odewumi, who decried the vandalism, said:

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“It makes me think all is lost.”He listed the implication to include, devastating economic sabotage, sorrow, tears, blood and deaths.

To forestall further recurrence, the university don said there must be community surveillance with increased frequency of operations like at least five trips either way per day.

In the area of most vulnerability, he said drones/CCTV must be deployed for round-the-clock surveillance, stating that the materials must be marked for tracking such that selling will be difficult.

Odewumi noted that there must be a general public enlightenment and awareness campaign to sensitise everyone to these evil men, adding that Civil Defence, Amotekun and community vigilantes must be mobilised for the protection of these critical national assets.

Nigeria Union of Railway Workers (NUR) also said it was saddening and quite unfortunate that some Nigerians would be this cruel and unpatriotic to vandalise some of the fixed assets of the Nigerian Railway that were procured at very huge costs.

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Speaking with The Guardian, Secretary General NUR, Segun Esan, said it was unimaginable that this happened to the railway track at Adogo in Kogi State! The law enforcement agencies must fish out the vandals and bring them to book. But beyond this, the best and most potent way to guide against such massive vandalisation of the track is to ensure constant and regular operation of the track by engaging it in running trains all the time.

Esan said the management of Nigerian Railway might need to step up its acts and strategies in inspecting its tracks from time.

Unfortunately, he said Nigerian Railway cannot equip itself. “Its owner, which is the Federal Government, does the equipping. This is why I will appeal to the Federal Government to draw up certain strategic plans to achieve infrastructural development and constant reequipping of the system; deploying technology to achieve security of both fixed and movable assets of the industry.

“Above all, the workers’ welfare, which of course includes training and retraining opportunities must not be neglected so as to have a committed and well-motivated workforce,” he added.

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