PUBLIC PROPERTY AS NOBODY’S BUSINESS
Temilade Aruya argues for a change of attitude towards public infrastructure
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.