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Arresting the innocent threat to infrastructure

The quality of human social life has become so intricately interwoven with physical infrastructure that our wellbeing is now defined by the amenities we can…

The quality of human social life has become so intricately interwoven with physical infrastructure that our wellbeing is now defined by the amenities we can access and in reality, life tends to be difficult without basic infrastructure. No wonder, what differentiates developed countries from the poor ones like Nigeria is neither the colour of the people who live there nor the weather. 

Rather, it’s purely a differentiation of the quality of life that is made possible by the infrastructure in those countries.  Think about the roles that good roads, rail lines and coaches, energy supplies, sanitation, and general transportation systems, all play in the economy and our daily social lives, and the significance of infrastructure will assume its proper place in your view.

The difference in the standards of living between the developed world of the North and the poor nations of the South is easily reducible to the difference in the stock of infrastructure accumulation. A broken sewage and sanitation system in a decaying inner city cannot guarantee good health for a city dweller ensconced in such a dilapidated environment.

Infrastructure has indeed become the enabler of a good, prosperous life. In fact, infrastructure determines whether you live long or not and that is why life expectancy is low in countries like Nigeria, compared to elsewhere in Europe or the Americas. Sadly, many Nigerians who manage to live longer than the life expectancy rate of 54 years tend to be miserable at old age just because of lack of basic amenities. 

This explains why nations invest billions of dollars each year in maintaining and developing infrastructure for the wellbeing of their citizenry. Nigeria is not an exemption. Even so, our leaders often pay lip service to infrastructure development and it is always the last on the list but at least they show some movement, taking baby steps to fill the huge gaps. What is more worrisome than the ineptness of the government is the increasing spates of wanton destruction of the yet inadequate facilities that we have by aggrieved persons, who often hide under the cover of Freedom of expression to destroy public infrastructure.

This is the point that a 2019 World Bank Report, “Lifelines: The Resilient Infrastructure Opportunity”, makes concerning the costs that disruptions to infrastructure are imposing on low-income countries.  Stéphane Hallegatte,  Jun Rentschler, and Julie Rozenber, the authors of the report, provide an assessment of the cost of infrastructure disruptions to low- and middle-income countries, as well as the economic benefits of investing in what they term resilient infrastructure. The report focuses on power, water and sanitation, transport, and telecommunications systems, and assesses the costs of the disruption to these for households, firms, and economies.

The report points out that reliable water, sanitation, energy, transport, and telecommunication services are universally considered to be essential for raising the quality of life of people.

“From serving our most basic needs to enabling our most ambitious ventures in trade or technology, infrastructure services support our well-being and development,” the report says.

According to it, “access to basic infrastructure services is also a central factor in the productivity of firms and thus of entire economies, making it a key enabler of economic development”.

They estimate the direct cost of damage to power and transport systems from natural disasters to be about $18 billion annually across LMICs, while overall disruption to infrastructure ranges from $391 billion to $647 billion a year for households and firms within these countries.

However, while that report focused exclusively on damage or disruptions arising from natural disasters, an incipient source of damage to infrastructure is human wilful action or vandalism. Some of these attacks arise through mob actions of groups protesting one ill or the other in society. Such groups turn their destructive powers on public assets and, within minutes burn down transportation infrastructure, security facilities, and power infrastructure.

Sometimes they are people or groups, claiming to be protesting on behalf of the masses but whose actions are plunging us into further penury and inhumane living conditions. Indeed, sometimes, some of these “disruptors” are manipulated and armed by politicians to fight needless class wars. In the process, they make economic and social life worse for the innocent masses.  They deny the people the benefits of managing the poor infrastructure.

In any case, the elite on whose behalf or against who, some of these atrocities are committed care less about the infrastructure. They live in Nigeria as strangers and perhaps have their true homes in Dubai, London, and other big cities out there where they go frequently to cool off.

Even while in Nigeria, they have makeshift arrangements for every lacking infrastructure; when bad roads cause traffic, they have escorts to trample on us, when you cry of epileptic power supply, they have uninterrupted power supply from various sources when you say healthcare services is poor, they can afford the best hospitals in Nigeria and of course dollar scarcity won’t stop the rich medical tourists, who perhaps have access to some of the best hospitals in the world.

The point here is to remind politicians that as election approaches and they jostle for power, taking advantage of the idle hands, they should know that it is easy to create a monster but it’s expensive to tame if ever it gets tamed.

It is also to remind the populace that while we justifiably complain of lack of basic infrastructure, we are nonetheless quick to destroy or allow people to destroy the few ones we have. It is clear that we are not helping ourselves. Indeed, we may be giving some corrupt officials a new opportunity to loot further because the process of rebuilding what is burnt down is another avenue to loot for some unrepentant politicians.

It is the children of the poor parents that need the ever-striking Nigerian universities. And just for our young ones to know, when you burn security infrastructure you are only putting the lives and property of innocent, hard-working poor Nigerians at risk because the rich women and men always have security. You are only denying us the remnant security infrastructure that is not even adequate to protect us. So, get it right, you are hurting the masses and if the government continues to fail in checking this rising menace, it’s a shame and perhaps a sign of approval of the degenerating social values which has long-term economic consequences. 

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