The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has proposed the death penalty for railway track vandals.
Speaking during a Town Hall Meeting on ”Protecting Public Infrastructure” on Monday in Abuja, Amaechi said rail track vandalism is a serious offence that must attract capital punishment.
He said, ”I am not quantifying the material cost; what I am quantifying is the lives that will be lost. Imagine that a driver of a rail track is driving and suddenly bumps into a track that has been severed. What happens? It will derail.
”Each coach in Nigeria carries about 85 passengers, sometimes we carry 14 coaches, sometimes 20. So imagine you are carrying a train of 14 or 20 coaches with 85 passengers in each coach, if it derails, can you quantify how many passengers that would have died in the course of one man thinking he is making money.
”So, it is not about the cost but the lives that would have been lost because of a few interest. Some people have recommended that since these people are killing people – if an accident happens people will die – so we should go back to the National Assembly and pass a law that does not only criminalise the action but consequences should be death.”
The minister further suggested that if armed robbery, whether successful or not, attracts life imprisonment, rail track vandalism should not be any less.
According to him, the track vandalism is being done in collaboration with foreign partners.
”In Jos, they arrested a Chinese company that bought those tracks from them, went to court and the court found them guilty and fined them N200,000. So there must be consequences as N200,000 is not enough,” he further stated.
Amaechi commended residents along the Lagos-Ibadan rail track as no incident of vandalism had been recorded along the route.
He said, “Lagos and the Western District recorded one, North Western 31, Northern District 10, North Eastern 43, Eastern 36 and North Central 50 incidents of vandalism. Abuja-Kaduna has 13, Warri-Itakpe 2 and Lagos -Ibadan nil.”
He said the Federal Ministry of Transportation and the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) were working at reducing the rate of vandalism but a lot still needed to be done.
The Minister also frowned at the rate at which the rail tracks were being converted to shops and restaurants, especially in Port Harcourt and in Lagos.
He called on such offenders to desist or face the penalties.
”The solution is to put them in jail. All you need to do is pass a law, put them in jail. I’m sure if you take 15 to 30 people to court, if they are found guilty and you put them in jail it will deter others.
”People have seized our lands and converted them to markets. We need people to leave our tracks alone for safety purposes,” Amaechi said.
The Managing Director of Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Fidet Okhiria also reiterated the need to penalise rail track vandals to deter other offenders.