Tuesday Column By VICTORIA NGOZI IKEANO
Recently, the Nasarawa State Police Command headed by Commissioner of Police, CP Bola Longe burst a syndicate of high net worth individuals involved in vandalisation, stealing of railway tracks that pass through Nasarawa state to Benue state. Among those nabbed by the police and now in their custody are, Yusuf Abubakar Musa (a.k.a. Yusuf Mada) who is special adviser on Infrastructure to Governor Abdullahi Sule, Mohammed Isiaka a former supervisory councilor on education in Nasarawa Eggon local government council, Inspector Richard Joseph of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Lafia, Sergeant Mali Peter of same CID, Lafia, Samuel Asoloko and Ibrahim Amegwa Usman both personnel of the Nigerian Legion and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Lafia respectively. Also arrested in connection with the crime are, Samuel Shagbaor who is Principal Technical Officer of the Nigeria Railway Corporation(NRC) in charge of Agyragu, Lafia and its suburbs, the Chinese manager of Yong Xing Steel Company in Tuga Maje, FCT, Abuja (Marra Thai), the company’s Procurement Officer Jacob Terkymun Emmanuel and its legal adviser Nathaniel Oba. Others are, Aliyu Abdullahi Dan Amana, Abdul Qayyumu Abubakar, Umaru Dauda, Yusuf Ahmed and Abubakar Nuhu. CP Longe said that owners of the articulated vehicle (trailer) used for carting the stolen rail tracks/sleepers offered the police N160, 000 bribes to secure release of the trailer while Barrister Oba is said to have offered the police investigating team N600, 000 cash bribe to secure release of his client, the Chinese.
The state police boss revealed that the Command had to devise a strategic anti-vandalism measure to curb the ugly trend following receipt of information from multiple sources “which all indicated that criminal elements have turned the Nigeria railway tracks to gold mines where they vandalise and cart away rail tracks/sleepers”. According to him, preliminary investigation so far, showed that “it is a grand conspiracy involving high net worth individuals who act as sponsors and drivers of various syndicates which specialize in vandalizing Nigerian railway tracks/sleepers in different parts of Nasarawa state, notably, Gudi-Lafia-Akeleku-Makurdi”. He added, “It is a classic case of sabotage being perpetrated by unpatriotic Nigerians including some personnel of security agencies who are employed by the Nigerian state to protect lives and property. This criminal circus is sustained and kept alive by companies that process steel/iron scraps and mostly owned by foreign nationals who make wrongful gains at the expense of the national interest”.
The governor’s special adviser (SA) who described himself as a politician and businessman, said that he was unaware that the items were stolen. “I am a businessman, I have an agent that supplies things to me and I believed in him. The agent is dead; he died last month in an accident on Akwanga-Nasarawa Eggon road. It was the first time they brought the railway tracks and sleepers to me. After buying I sold it for N3.6 million”.
In its reaction, the Nasarawa state government through its Information, Culture and Tourism Commissioner, Dogo Shammah said, “The attention of the Government has been drawn to the embarrassing report of the arrest of Alhaji Yusuf Abubakar Mada, popularly called Yusuf Mada who before his arrest by the police was the Special Adviser to the Governor on Infrastructure. His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State, Engineer Abdullahi A. Sule and indeed the state Government is highly embarrassed by this shameful and condemnable act by the Special Adviser. The State Government strongly condemns the criminal act by the Special Adviser. This is no doubt economic sabotage against the government. The State Government is therefore calling on the police to investigate the matter thoroughly and bring all those involved in the despicable act to face the wrath of the law to serve as deterrent to any other persons that may wish to engage in such heinous act in future”.
The government’s stance fell short of suspending the arrested official. This is a knock for it. A sampling of views by this columnist showed that the majority of citizens want the arrested special adviser suspended or sacked out rightly, describing his involvement in such criminal conspiracy as shameful, disgraceful, disgusting, annoying. Former Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice in the state, Yusuf Shehu Usman, remarked, “To save the good public image of his administration, the governor should suspend the arrested SA on infrastructure, pending further investigation and possible prosecution”. Mohammed Shaffa, a pharmacist, said, “We urgently need a new SA on Infrastructure. The reputation and integrity of the current one has been fractured and no longer fits the structure. The government needs a clean, untainted one” while Shariff Osualale stated, “SA on Infrastructure destroying infrastructure, too bad”
Further knocks for the SA came fast and thick as he was among others, labeled a betrayal that betrayed the oath of office he swore to on assuming office as special adviser. It was gathered that the official who was elevated from the position of senior special assistant to special adviser by Governor Sule had lobbied to be made a Commissioner. Many dismissed the SA’s defence as laughable. Ignorance is no excuse in law. Also, receiving stolen goods is an offence under our laws. A former governorship aspirant in Nasarawa state, Ayuba Umar asked whimsically, “Are railway tracks merchandisable products that can be traded?” Involvement of a Chinese national that bought off the vandalized rail tracks/sleepers has also diminished estimation of some Chinese businessmen operating in Nigeria, in the eyes of Nigerians. Here in Nigeria, the Chinese are derisively referred to as ‘Chinko’. Citizen David Dio relates this scenario, “Look at it this way: You give me loan for a particular project and the contract of that project must be awarded to you and then you come and recruit the locals to destroy the project so that I will be requesting for more loans and the contract would be awarded to you. That is a tactical war against my progress”. It should be stated that these Chinese persons appear to be acting on their own with no official backing from their home government, for, China as a state entity has been helpful to Nigeria and other African countries. Another citizen, Mohammed Maimako volunteered this information, “They have finished removing the entire rail line between Lafia down to Kafanchan axis, this is done in collaboration with security agents. I can confirm that what is remaining on the rail lines are those place where road crosses over it” While Ayuba Umar considered the vandalisation as “economic sabotage of the most grievous proportion”, Yusuf Usman advocated the maximum punishment prescribed by the law for the offenders. He explained that under the principles of our jurisprudence, a person is presumed to intend the natural consequences of his/her act. That is, the vandalisation would lead to derailment which in turn would cause mass deaths.
Kudos should go to the Nasarawa State Police Command for bursting this highly connected syndicate which included some its own men. Kudos to them for resisting offers of cash gratifications as well as pressures from certain quarters to release some of the arrested persons. CP Longe says investigation into the issue continues.