Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Pipeline Vandalism As a Metaphor

opinion

APART from the menace of terrorism in certain parts of Northern Nigeria, another seemingly intractable menace in the country is pipeline vandalism.

Some criminals, well-armed and ready to kill, and sometimes well connected, hack into the nation's oil pipelines and siphon petroleum products.

Often, in the process of stealing the nation's ill-fated wealth, there is a fire outbreak, the criminals and some innocent bystanders are roasted, property worth millions are incinerated, the environment further despoiled by fire and oil leakage, national assets are damaged and billions of Naira are wasted in replacements.

This criminal indulgence, we have been told, cost the nation over five hundred billions of Naira in the last few years.

This activity has also tasked the capacity of maritime and security agencies.

But pipeline vandals in our national life are not just those who operate in the swamps of Arepo and other places.

Our nation is feasted on in many ways by different pipeline vandals. Pipeline vandalism, after all, is a manifestation of self-help by those unwilling to act lawfully and wait for their share of the national wealth flowing through the pipes to reach them.

The vandals in fact do not believe or have faith that their equitable share of the nation's wealth will ever get to them.

When the Niger Delta militants resorted to pipeline vandalism and sundry criminal activities in the creeks, it was argued that it was because the region has been cheated in the distribution of the wealth that flows in their land.

And we all flowed along with this line of reasoning, unfortunately without separating the strands of pure thievery from genuine nationalistic agitation.

Thus, the rump of the criminal activities grew and spread nationwide. Every Nigerian, in a way, is now a pipeline vandal!

Pipeline vandals weigh their chances and believe that the law will never catch up with them and if arrested, a godfather would spring them from detention or the judicial process would drag till their prosecution is forgotten.

Indeed, a greater incentive to hack into pipelines of our national wealth is provided by the confidence that, with the mouth-watering proceeds, the criminal could buy justice.

He gets instant recognition, membership of exclusive clubs and is celebrated. He gets front pew reserved for him and his harem of women in churches.

He chairs the church harvests and becomes the favourite and untouchable son of the soil! He caps his new status by becoming a party chieftain with the possibility of becoming a distinguished senator or honourable member.

He could end up a Governor, you never know. With money you can always buy power in Nigeria.

This is the truth about many vandals who prowl the land in various forms and in different places, who hack into our treasury and steal the nation's wealth and leave the national anguish we see today.

Those civil servants who stole pension funds are exactly like pipeline vandals. Their activities have caused deaths of many pensioners.

They remain at large today because their calculation that the law will be very slow in catching and prosecuting them has proved right.

Those civil servants who have been fleecing us of our trillion Naira budgets and leaving us with infrastructure deficit resorting to self-help just like the pipeline vandals.

They do not want to wait for their retirement benefits at the end of their career. And since they are the ones hacking into the pension funds, they have little faith in it. So they make hay while the sun shines.

Like the Arepo pipeline vandals, their activities also result to hundreds of deaths on our bad roads, cause fire and environmental degradation when trailers and tankers capsize and spill their contents.

Also here, the law hardly catches up with them. With the money stolen, they line up ten Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, with others knocking off one another's teeth in a fight to defend a rogue!

What of our politicians? It is among them that we have the most flambouyant pipeline vandals. The day they make their cameo appearance in court is more colourful than Calabar carnival!

He drives into the court majestically in a stretch limousine and is heralded into the courtroom by ululating women in liveried attires and men energetically drumming as their dashikis billow with every movement.

Come to think of it, politicians have hacked so much into our national resources through different ways and the law is impotent in censuring them.

Remember the guy, Farouk Lawan, who admitted publicly that he took $620,000 bribe money from oil (this oily business sef!) merchant Mr .Femi Otedola (alias Otedollar) to doctor the fuel subsidy probe report, and went on to doctor the report on national television?

What has happened to him? NOTHING! And if anything is going to happen to anybody, it will be to Otedola, and they are waiting for him.

If you don't believe me, that pipeline vandals anywhere are powerful and can fight back even if the sparks from their gunfire causes a national conflagration, ask Arunma Oteh!

And watch your palms while you wait for the day Herman Hembe will go to jail for taking dollar estacode for a trip he never made; you may grow grey hairs on your palms.

The motive of every pipeline vandal in our national life is lack of faith in ever getting his fair slice of the national cake, so he resorts to self-help. Others are driven by sheer greed.

The driving force is the belief that he will get away with the crime one way or the other. As I have always insisted, corruption is not our problem.

Absence of law and order is. We are annoyingly soft on crime, and our society can never make progress that way. That people can commit crime with impunity and walk about free is our greatest national shame!

THE surprise visit President Jonathan made to Ikeja Police College last Friday, on his way to ECOWAS meeting at Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, was a great show of leadership.

But I had expected him to order, on the spot, the dismissal of the Commandant and Commissioner who presided over this rot!

Instead, I was confounded that the President was rather interested in knowing how Channels Television was able to penetrate the fortress and record the mess without detection as if he would have preferred the rot covered like other rots in our nation. John Momoh and Channels TV deserve national honours for the courageous work.

What we call a Police College is a dungeon worse than any of our prisons!

It is not just about the facilities.

When I saw visuals of their food, I puked and could not eat that night. We must look into the treatment the recruits are subjected to in the name of training.

I called attention to this several years ago, when, on a school run to Air Force Secondary School, Ikeja, I saw recruits of the college that early morning in files going to fetch water at Ikeja GRA for officers. They looked like prison inmates.

What goes on in that dungeon is sheer brutalisation! And anybody, policeman or woman who graduates from that torture chamber can never be anything else but enemy of society.

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