The primary function of the government of any clime is to make life liveable and bearable for its citizens through the provision of social amenities and infrastructures, and in exchange, the citizens are duty bound to protect such amenities from harm or destruction. But it has suddenly become a norm that whenever there is an issue of any kind, the citizens turn on the same amenities they were supposed to protect, and unleash maximum destruction upon it.
The event of June 29, 2016, when a hawker was knocked down and killed by a utility vehicle at the Maryland area of Lagos State while running away from a Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) official, is still fresh in the minds of so many Nigerians, especially Lagosians. It is not really the killing of the poor hustler that later became news but the reaction of fellow hawkers and of course touts and casual bystanders. It was reported that the crowd went on rampage, destroying every available public infrastructure on site, most especially the BRT buses plying the route. The rate of devastation was massive prompting the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, to read the riot act while making a dispassionate plea.
But the Government in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, said that contrary to the information being circulated in the social media that the street hawker was hit by a BRT bus, it was a truck belonging to a soft drink company that unfortunately hit the boy.
“It wasn’t any of our buses that killed him (hawker), it was a soft drink company truck that unfortunately crushed the boy while he was trying to escape from KAI officers who were on patrol trying to rid the street of street hawkers and traders.
“But hoodlums now took advantage of that to start destroying government assets, including several of the brand new BRT buses,” he said.
In apparent retribution, the government imposed a ban on street hawking in the metropolis. After situations were brought to calm, it was discovered that millions of tax payers money went down the drain. The destruction of government properties of over 49 BRT buses and the fact that it has added to the expenses of the government gave the government reason to go tough and placed a blanket ban.
“It is not in our DNA to allow someone to just die by the road accident or the way it happened in respect of the incident. But beyond the fact that we lost one person while crossing the road as a result of evading the arrest by KAI officials, I needed to tell Lagosians that over 49 buses were actually destroyed and it is costing us like almost N139 million to put those buses back on the road,” Governor Ambode said.
It is worthy of note that these infrastructures are procured by the government using revenues derived through taxes, levies on the incomes and wealth accumulation of individuals and corporations, and on the goods and services produced, exports and imports, non-taxable sources such as government owned corporations’ incomes, central bank revenue and capital receipts in the form of external loans and debts from international financial institutions.
However, the act of deliberately destroying or damaging public (government) or private (individuals) properties has been roundly condemned, prompting questions from every quarter what could be the actual reason for such misdemeanor.
Funny enough, the act of destroying public utilities is not restricted to the uninformed alone as it could be recalled that in 2006, soldiers stormed a police barrack, destroying structures and abducting personnel, in apparent retaliation of the arrest of one of their men. Again, in July 2014, the army once again swoop on BRT buses and burnt as many as they could lay their hands on when it was alleged that one of the buses killed a colleague of theirs. The apparent display of brigandry and disregard for law drew the irk of the then governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who said:
“I do not know how setting ablaze buses recompense any injury that one may have suffered. If buses that citizens are complaining were not enough are set ablaze by men whom we pay, feed, clothe and equip, the conduct is the height of irresponsibility.”
Destruction of public properties is not only detrimental to the various parties involved, but also tarnishes the image of the country, just as perpetrators forget that what goes around, comes because in the long run, the citizens are the worse for it.
A social analyst and lecturer with the University of Uyo, Dr. Friday Emenka, believes that the perpetrators are really ignorant of their actions because most of them just follow without even knowing what they are doing. He added that someone somewhere programmes the rioting with a definite intention, using ignorant people to achieve his aim.
“This idea of destroying property is actually a brainchild of a criminally minded person or persons, who use others against their will to achieve his aim. He makes them believe they are fighting a course while he turns around and perpetrate his intentions. Most of these property destroyers are bunch of ignoramus,” he said.
It is not unusual to see a small group of people gather whenever there is an involving the government or a corporate body, strategizing on nothing else but to destroy any property associated with the establishment deemed to have offended. These vandals are in most cases males between the age of 12 and 40, and in sometimes handful of females
A Travel Consultant with Hamptons Travel and Tours, Mrs. Joana Owolabi, who described vandalism as the act of destroying or defacing of property willingly and for no just cause, said that the property in question, most times, does not have any direct relationship with the reason for the act, adding that, it is also an act of vendetta seeking an eye for an eye.
She explained that “government property is often the target of destruction during demonstrations because the word government is often used as a faceless noun when the situation is bad, hence one can only attack the property. Also people often cannot reach the government official involved during crisis so anger is vented on government property so they can be heard.
A resident of Bamgbose Street, on the Lagos Island, explained how a group of people she referred to as ‘miscreants’ descended on the property of an entrepreneur, destroying and looting as many as they could lay their hands on. She said the man’s only offence was not paying a certain amount the ‘boys’ demanded from him to offload his goods in the vicinity.
“I don’t know why people fail to understand that every public utility destroyed is a direct negative to them since the said property is meant to serve the public’s purpose. Imagine what happens when public buses and transport system is destroyed; the people will trek, and in the alternative they will pay exorbitant fares to get to their destinations. So who loses?” Dr. Emenka queried.
He added that there are other major acts of vandalism which need the intervention of the nation’s military, and they include pipeline vandalism. He said those that perpetrate the act are ‘big time’ criminals.
A cross section of respondents who spoke to The Boss was of the opinion that the possibility that most people who are into vandalism do not in any way know what they are doing is the reason the government should come down hard on offenders, and create a definite amount of consciousness that would dissuade would-be offenders.