The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said Nigeria spends a whooping sum of N60 billion annually on the repair and maintenance of vandalized oil and gas pipelines annually.
He made this known during a town hall meeting on protecting oil and gas infrastructure today (July 5) in Abuja, saying statistics showed over 1,161 pipeline points were vandalized with an average of 200,000 barrels per day lost to the wanton damage across the country between January 2019 and September 2020.
He contended that apart from the impact on the nation’s earnings, the environmental problems caused by the incessant vandalism, in terms of freshwater pollution, air pollution, soil pollution, etc adding to the enormity of the problem should also be considered.
Mohammed emphasized that the town hall meeting on protecting oil and gas infrastructure was very important, considering that the destruction of the infrastructure has socio-economic 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, he said.
He said the town hall meeting series kick-started in Lagos on April 25, 2016 was 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, pointing out that the meeting on the destruction of oil and gas pipelines was the 20th edition, while the third and the last in the series, billed to hold in Maiduguri, would focus on the vandalism of power and telecommunication infrastructure.
The minister explained that the aim of the town hall meetings focusing on the protection of public infrastructure and the objectives included to create in the public mind that government property is indeed citizens’ property and so must be protected for the benefit of all; sensitize communities, especially those where infrastructure is located, to be conscious of the import of such and protect them.
Others are to expose, arrest and prosecute all those who engage in buying pilfered infrastructure items along with those who bring such to them to sell; 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.
He added that public infrastructure is at the very core of economic growth and national development, stating that the destruction of public infrastructure by some unpatriotic Nigerians called for great concern and immediate action, hence the relevance of the town hall meeting series.
“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.
“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, telecom’s 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,” he added.