Caring for our Public Properties?

by Rev. Uche Dr. Obodoechina

What do we mean by public properties? Who owns them? How were they acquired? Who has the duty to care for these properties? And what happens to these properties if nobody cares for them? And finally what could be the consequences should this happen? These and similar questions readily come to mind each time one thinks of our collective common good.

Without being technical, Public properties are those goods and services that belong equally to the members of a given society. It is the summary of the good that belongs to each and every member of the society. These can include but not limited to our environment and all the goods and services therein. There are also other structures and infrastructures provided by the government and by the public that belong to the public.

These are those structures and infrastructures that are designed to ensure the wellbeing of the members of a given society. For instance, the roads and electricity poles and wires, the pipe borne water and water ways, the public gardens and parks, the markets and the public places of recreation and sports, the various institutions of learning including health institutions, the seats of governments including the paraphernalia of properties at the disposal of government for greater services to the people.

In fact, our public properties are too numerous to be enumerated in this brief reflection. We have only tried to remind ourselves about those goods and services that are common around us and belong to us all. There are lots and lots more that belong to us. But how do we handle these properties to ensure their availability and serviceability? Nigerian society is one with a great difference.

It is a place where care for public goods and services do not receive due attention from both the government and the people. The lack of maintenance culture is evident around us. Neither the government nor the people care sufficiently for that which belongs to us all. Repairs of public buildings and offices in most of our government quarters and secretariats for instance are exceptions. People do not just care. And one wonders what the future of such establishments will look like.

Even though we live in society and are community conscious we do not care for community goods and services as such. There is an understanding or an attitude that public properties do not belong to anybody and thus do not matter after all. This poor attitude forms the basis for poor public care for such amenities. Is it any wonder that our public goods are in dilapidating forms? People do not care about what belongs to everybody. But they pay due attention to what belongs to them as individuals.

Is it any wonder that our consciousness for the good of the other is too low? It is not an exaggeration to say that our love for the self is sometimes very excessive. Of course, one should love oneself. But one should also love the other. One is also bound to love and care for those things that belong to the other and to the community.

Otherwise the basis of our belonging to one society will be defeated. It is the responsibility of state and its government to provide public goods and services. Yes, it is not enough to provide them, it is also important that such structures and infrastructures are maintained. That is the justification for maintenance culture. It is not just the responsibility of the state.

It is also the duty of every member of the society to take appropriate care of public goods and services. Our environment for instance is our common home. When we do not care lor the environment, the environment will not keep us. It is therefore urgent today that each and every one of us makes a commitment to respecting and preserving that which belongs to us all.

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