PUB­LIC PROP­ERTY AS NO­BODY’S BUSI­NESS

Temilade Aruya ar­gues for a change of at­ti­tude to­wards pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture

THISDAY - - COMMENT - Aruya is with the Lagos State Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion and Strat­egy, Alausa, Lagos

On a daily ba­sis, pub­lic prop­er­ties and in­fra­struc­ture are be­ing de­stroyed and van­dalised in their num­bers and our en­vi­ron­ment des­e­crated with gov­ern­ment los­ing mil­lions of naira to re­pairs and some­times re­place­ment of th­ese in­fra­struc­ture. Th­ese are funds that could have been chan­nelled to other sec­tor of the econ­omy and hu­man devel­op­ment projects that can ben­e­fit the pop­u­lace. In­ter­est­ingly, pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture such as parks and gar­dens, bridges, traf­fic lights and street lights, road sign boards, road me­di­ans, bus stop shel­ters, pub­lic waste bins, drainages, roads, elec­tric­ity poles and ca­bles and a host of others are state-owned prop­er­ties that were ac­tu­ally put in place with tax pay­ers money and for the col­lec­tive good of the so­ci­ety.

The dura­bil­ity and life span of the in­fra­struc­ture is de­pen­dent on us­age and main­te­nance cul­ture. It is, how­ever, quite un­for­tu­nate to ob­serve that in­fras­truc­tural main­te­nance cul­ture, dis­ci­pline and good civic sense is lack­ing among Nige­ri­ans. The fla­grant abuse of pub­lic prop­er­ties is ap­palling with peo­ple mis­us­ing and van­dal­is­ing them at will. There have been in­stances of peo­ple be­ing ar­rested for van­dal­is­ing alu­minum rails on over- head bridges to sell to steel com­pa­nies while some have been ar­rested for van­dal­is­ing elec­tric­ity ca­bles and trans­form­ers. Gone are the days when pub­lic prop­er­ties are nat­u­rally safe in the coun­try.

The sit­u­a­tion is so bad now that com­mu­ni­ties and res­i­dents where th­ese pub­lic prop­er­ties are lo­cated pro­vide ad­di­tional se­cu­rity to be able to en­joy them. Th­ese are prop­er­ties set up and main­tained with mil­lions of naira only to be de­stroyed or stolen by same peo­ple whom they were orig­i­nally meant for.

An­other way pub­lic prop­er­ties are be­ing ru­ined is through the care­less and reck­less at­ti­tude of users who of­ten er­ro­neously be­lieve that since they are gov­ern­ment prop­erty, they be­long to no­body and as such are no­body’s busi­ness. Thus, they could be used with­out re­gard for safety or cau­tion. A cur­sory look at the state of some road in­fra­struc­ture in Lagos State, for in­stance, in­di­cates that most of the dam­aged road props like pave­ments, me­di­ans, sign boards, traf­fic lights, street lights, bus stop shel­ters and the likes are de­stroyed by peo­ple who care less about them. It is un­for­tu­nate that gov­ern­ment had to in­vest more funds to put re­straints and con­crete re­in­force­ments on the road to pro­tect some road props and flow­ers planted to beau­tify the land­scape as peo­ple rammed and matched on them at will de­stroy­ing them in the process.

The en­vi­ron­ment is constantly de­faced with lit­ters. In spite of sev­eral aware­ness and en­light­en­ment cam­paigns and pro­grammes via the me­dia, peo­ple still vi­o­late standard reg­u­la­tions and so­cial safety rules meant for their good. From the stark illiterate street hawker to the well-ed­u­cated of­fice worker who throws all sorts on the road, no one is ac­tu­ally ex­empted. This fla­grant dis­re­gard for pub­lic prop­er­ties and the en­vi­ron­ment cuts across dif­fer­ent facet of the so­ci­ety, from sim­ple com­pli­ance to

IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO BLAME GOV­ERN­MENT FOR VIR­TU­ALLY EV­ERY­THING; THE CIT­I­ZENS ALSO HAVE THEIR ROLE TO PLAY IN THE EVOLVEMENT OF AN OR­DERLY SO­CI­ETY

en­vi­ron­men­tal laws such as the use of the pedes­trian bridge to the pro­hi­bi­tion of defe­cat­ing in pub­lic places, block­age of drainages with waste and dump­ing of refuse in un­des­ig­nated places, to the obe­di­ence of traf­fic light, road signs and rules.

It is sad to re­alise that in most cases, peo­ple com­ply only when they are com­pelled. Recently, the Lagos State Gov­ern­ment em­barked on mas­sive road re­con­struc­tion in Ojodu-Berger area of the state with the ex­pan­sion of the road and the con­struc­tion of pedes­trian bridge and bus stops with iron bar­ri­cades to rein in the ex­cesses of com­muters and trans­porters and pre­vent them from tak­ing up the road and caus­ing traf­fic grid­lock. The iron bar­ri­cades were also put on the merid­ian to pre­vent peo­ple from crossing the road as it has been ob­served that peo­ple don’t of­ten en­gage in vol­un­tary com­pli­ance as they pre­fer to cross the road rather than use the pedes­trian bridge.

In spite of the risks in­volved in crossing the ex­press­way, many still pre­fer to em­bark on such sui­cide mis­sion. It is ab­surd to ob­serve that peo­ple of­ten pre­fer to dis­obey rules and reg­u­la­tions to their own detri­ment. The gov­ern­ment also con­structed a mod­ern garage, all with the aim of bring­ing some san­ity to the area and con­se­quently makes life bet­ter for Lagosians. The trans­for­ma­tion of the Ojodu Berger area is in­deed amaz­ing and com­mend­able but it is sad­den­ing to ob­serve that the bar­ri­cades put in place to guide peo­ple and en­sure com­pli­ance are al­ready been dam­aged by care­less and reck­less trans­porters as there are dents on a few of them al­ready.

Gov­ern­ments across the coun­try must en­sure full and to­tal com­pli­ance with the laws and en­deav­our to use the ap­pa­ra­tus of the state within their dis­posal to guar­an­tee that peo­ple de­velop a civic sense and im­bibe the cul­ture of dis­ci­pline and re­spect for law and or­der. In Lagos, in par­tic­u­lar, the gov­ern­ment needs to re­visit en­force­ment and en­sure that of­fend­ers face the wrath of the law to serve as de­ter­rent while ap­pro­pri­ate struc­tures should be put on ground to mon­i­tor and pro­tect pub­lic prop­er­ties such that van­dals would be caught in the act. To achieve this, the Kick Against In­dis­ci­pline (KAI), which was cre­ated to ad­dress such, must be fur­ther strength­ened to ef­fec­tively de­liver on its man­date.

Nige­ri­ans must em­brace ci­vil­ity and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly cul­ture. It is high time peo­ple be­gan to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for how the en­vi­ron­ment looks. As a peo­ple, we must pro­mote and up­hold pa­tri­otic val­ues and ethics. It is not enough to blame gov­ern­ment for vir­tu­ally ev­ery­thing; the cit­i­zens also have their role to play in the evolvement of an or­derly so­ci­ety. A sit­u­a­tion where refuse are dumped in water chan­nels and canals, thereby lead­ing to the des­e­cra­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment is grossly un­ac­cept­able. The ear­lier such un­civilised habits are done with, the bet­ter for us all.

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