by Umar Hassan
The Okpai-Onitsha double circuit power transmission line was vandalized some time in November last year.Two of the four legs of tower 62 along the transmission line were stolen costing us a 480 megawatts reduction in available power to the national grid.
Just a few weeks ago, suspected ex-militants blew up a gas pipeline and some oil installations in Warri South-West local government area and its environs.The bombings occured just hours after a Federal High Court ordered the arrest of ex-militant leader, Chief Government Elemukpolo popularly known as Tompolo.
These two incidents are very much capable of shaping our immediate destiny and they made me realize further, just how much better off we would be without the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).Obviously, we aren’t making the most of them if they aren’t present to protect strategic installations.
The NSCDC in its objective to complement the police in maintaining law and order has come to be regarded as traditional ‘overseers’ of government installations and infrastructure.As a matter of fact, some of its duties as laid down by the NSCDC (Amendment) Act of 2007 are 24 hour surveillance of infrastructure, sites and projects of Federal, State and Local governments.They are also required to enter and search premises of any suspected illegal dealer of petroleum products or any equipment used by the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, Postal services, Nigeria Telecommunication or any other public utility or infrastructure.In addition to all these, they also have the power to arrest and detain such persons with or without a warrant.Sadly, they haven’t been living up to expectations as far as installations vital to our well being are concerned.
A lot of drastic measures were expected of the Buhari administration when it promised to cut down costs at its inception.Sadly, little or nothing has been done in that regard.We have 36 ministers when not more than 19 would suffice and we still have the Ministries of budget and national planning,Niger-Delta and women affairs when their roles are capable of being absorbed into other ministries.It is feasible if power, works and housing could be merged into a single portfolio.To top it all, our lawmakers still command outrageous salaries and allowances.
Even without the two aforementioned incidents,the NSCDC is excess baggage to any prudent government and I for one, have long maintained that we don’t need them.Moreso now when we have to contend with dwindling resources and seem virtually helpless over the criminal activities of vandals and a few rascals hell bent on stunting our growth for rather unfortunate reasons.
If the NSCDC can’t be wholly charged with preventing occurrences like these considering their much lighter workload in comparison to other security agencies, then it would be a waste of precious taxpayers money to maintain them.No one expects the authorities to prevent every act of vandalism in a society like ours but it is most unfortunate that very vital installations like the aforementioned ones are left unmanned when we have an NSCDC that plays second fiddle in every other role it plays.Our billions would be better off serving other purposes.
One can’t simply try to rationalize the nonchalance of our security agencies and the government at large towards our installations especially oil pipelines by citing the unpleasant location of some of them.No matter how obscure or bushy the site of an installation may be, they must have a number of operatives stationed at strategic parts at all times and not just occasional ‘lazy’ patrols.
No administration would make meaningful progress in bettering the lot of Nigerians if vandalism is allowed to thrive.That would be taking two steps forward and three backwards.
One of the ways to transform the NSCDC to being useful to us is to have them deploy the bulk of their resources into watching our installations more effectively.In the true sense, assisting security agencies would be carrying out roles they unavoidably can’t for want of man power and other similar reasons and not ones they ordinarily would have carried out with perhaps just a little more diligence.
A lot of money has gone into training and arming the NSCDC and a lot more is being spent on salaries and its enhancement. Its best we scrap the body if we can’t put it to optimal use and the best way to do that would be drafting as many as necessary into the police force and empowering the others by education or skills acquisition to mitigate the consequences of their job loss.
We could really do much with what is being channeled into funding this under-utilized outfit.