The federal government says it may consider capital punishment for railway track vandals in the country.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said this during a Town Hall Meeting on “Protecting Public Infrastructure” on Monday in Abuja.
According to Mr Amaechi, rail track vandalism is a capital offence and its consequences should be treated as such.
“I am not quantifying the material cost. What I am quantifying is the lives that will be lost.
“Imagine that a driver of a rail track is driving and suddenly bumps into a track that has been severed what happens? It will derail.
“Each coach in Nigeria carries about 85 passengers. Sometimes we carry 14 coaches, sometimes 20.
“So imagine you are carrying a train of 14 or 20 coaches with 85 passengers in each coach. If it derails, can you quantify how many passengers would have died in the course of one man thinking he is making money?.
“It is not about the cost but the lives that would have been lost because of a few interest.
“Some people have recommended that since these people are killing people, we should go back to the National Assembly and pass a law that does not only criminalise the action but that the consequence should be death,” he said.
The minister further suggested that if armed robbery, whether successful or not, attracts life imprisonment, rail track vandalism should not be any less.
According to him, the track vandalism is being done in collaboration with foreign partners.
“In Jos, they arrested a Chinese company that bought those tracks from them, went to court and found them guilty and fined them N200, 000.
“So there must be consequences as N200,000 is not enough. ”
The minister frowned at the rate at which the tracks were being converted to shops and restaurants, especially in Port Harcourt and in Lagos.
He called on such offenders to desist or face the penalties.
“The solution is to put them in jail. All you need to do is pass a law, put them in jail. I’m sure if you take 15 to 30 people to court and you put them in jail, if they are found guilty, it will deter others.
“People have seized our lands and converted them to markets.
“We need people to leave our tracks alone for safety purposes,” Mr Amaechi said.
The Managing Director, NRC, Fidet Okhiria also reiterated the need to penalise rail track vandals in the country to deter other offenders.
“Technology is not cheap and any punishment that will deter these offenders I will support, ” Mr Okhiria said.
The meeting, organised by the Ministry of Information, was attended by community chiefs, security personnel and various stakeholders.
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