By Bala Ibrahim.
In British English, there is a proverb called Honour among thieves, that came with the ambition of dissuading thieves or vandals from stealing or vandalizing each other’s properties. In other words, the proverb is saying that, criminals have a moral code of honour, to the effect that they do not do anything “unlawful” to their partners in crime. Should anyone behave in the reverse, it is the responsibility of anyone amongst them to expose, or even unmask the identity of the traitor.
My Sallah joy was shamed this afternoon, when I saw on the social media, vandalized pictures of the recently commissioned Warri-Itakpe rail line. I have made efforts to confirm if the video is true or false, but to no avail. I hope it turns out to be fake, because, the pain of seeing the video turned into discomfiture, when I went into the nitty-gritty of why the project was conceived and executed. If true, then the action of the vandals has proven that indeed amongst men, there are animals.
The Warri–Itakpe Railway is a standard gauge railway that connects the port city of Warri to the inland town of Itakpe. Construction work began in 1987 on an industrial railway to supply the Ajaokuta Steel Mill with iron ore and coal. After a protracted construction period of more than 30 years, the railway was finally inaugurated in 2020, by the Buhari administration, as a mixed freight and passenger line.
With such a huge project in place, the people living around the city of Warri, which is an oil hub in the South-South, have been taken to the next level of social and economic advantage in Nigeria. Also, with the project came the renovation and refurbishment of the Railway village, comprising School building, Clinic, Recreational facilities, Fire Station, Police Station and other ancillary buildings. All of which would now go to waste, if threatened by the vandals.
The project was executed and handed over to the government for commissioning by Julius Berger last year, where at the commissioning ceremony, the Executive Director Administration of the company, Alhaji Zubairu Bayi, who stood in for the M.D. said, “I am humbled to announce to this gathering that these structures mentioned above were constructed in accordance with international due diligence and best practice, a hallmark of Julius Berger Plc”.
With joy, Zubairu prayed that the end users of the facilities will put them to use with the highest maintenance culture as a guide, with a view to justifying the huge investment made by the government to put up these structures and services.
But if the public permit some criminals, or ill advised reactionaries, that are openly opposed to people-oriented projects and political progress, to destroy such a project, then they are puting spanners in the wheels of the entire south-south regional reform.
The masterminds may think by embarking on such irresponsible behaviour, the person to suffer most is President Muhammadu Buhari, whose regime they are at war with. But their madness would turn them illogically unreasonable.
In the event of death due to vandalization, who would mourn the dead? PMB in the villa, or the people of the host communities? And if it took 30 years to get a responsible government to respond to the ambition of the people of that region, and they decided to play the irresponsible, how many years would it take to get another of such opportunity?
In 2017, PMB announced funding the revival of the Itakpe-Warri rail line at a colossal cost, with 15% of the funds coming from the Nigerian government, 10% from CRCC, and 75% from a Chinese bank. Upon completion, CRCC will receive a concession to operate the port and railway for 30 years.
Except by some unfortunate incident, the likelihood of which is unexpected, Buhari may never have any reason to travel on that track now, or even in future. He is retiring to Daura, and is not likely to engage in any solid mineral mining or oil business.
There is a saying that warns against acting out of annoyance in the pursuit of revenge, such that the action would damage oneself more than the object of one’s anger. That needlessly self-destructive over-reaction to a problem is called, Cutting off the nose to spite the face.
Apart from putting the lives of the commuters in danger, the electricity on the rail line is so strong that if you touch the rail, you will be seriously injured or killed, because there are lines which have electricity flowing through them at all times and are never switched off. These electricity lines can jump, in which case, you don’t have to touch the lines to get electrocuted.
It is important for the government to act fast, to arrest the threat, or future occurrence of any act of similar sabotage.
On the side of the host communities, they should know that it’s foolhardy, and they have a responsibility on the irresponsibility of those amongst them.