Outcry over decay of police barracks
The Nigeria Police Force over the years has been confronted with numerous challenges, some of which have been caused by inadequacy of operational facilities. At various times, the federal, state and local governments have intervened by providing patrol vehicles. One case that easily comes to mind was the supply of 774 Toyota SUVs by the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) during the tenure of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Notably the Lagos State government has continued to provide large numbers of vehicles under the aegis of the Conference-57 (a body of the local governments and development councils of the state). Only recently, the Dangote Group donated fast-moving saloon vehicles to the Rapid Response Squad of the state. Just before the elections, the Federal Government radically increased the salaries and allowances (as well as election duty allowances) of police personnel.
All these interventions notwithstanding, the Nigeria Police Force is still beset by major problems. Among the problems is the non-availability of decent accommodation in the police barracks strewn across the country. A Sunday Sun investigation across the country revealed the decrepit condition of the police barracks, which makes it imperative for the National Assembly and the Executive arm to find a common ground to expedite the passage of the Police Trust Fund, which would provide legislative framework for improving the living conditions of the Force.
Have you ever visited some of the police barracks in Lagos? If you have not, you then need to take time to visit the one near you, or at least begin to observe them from afar whenever you pass by one. The level of rot there could amaze, amuse or make you sad.
From the police barracks in the heart of Lagos, like the Mopol 2 Barracks in GRA, Ikeja, to Apapa (Queens Barracks), Iponri Barracks, Area ‘C’ Command Barracks close to Ojuelegba, on Funso Williams Avenue and Police Training College Barracks, in Ikeja, as well as the Elere Police Barracks, Agege, the story is the same.
The level of unabashed neglect is disheartening and disgusting. Dilapidated buildings, stinking gutters, shabby electric wiring, broken staircases, broken doors and shattered windows, torn roofs, and rusty balconies, are what you will behold. Then heaps of waste and many other unpleasant sights complete the nauseating picture of neglect you will see. The barracks could pass for rat holes and slums and yet our men in uniform reside in them.
And as you walk round these barracks, or stare at them, what comes to mind is that, perhaps, there is a correlation between the unethical attitude of these men and women in black and the kind of environment they live. And pondering deeper would probably help you understand why our police institution keeps getting all the negative ratings from respected international agencies and rights groups.
In 2017, our Force was rated one of the top five worst police organisations in the world at the 2016 World Internal Security and Police Index. And just about a fortnight ago, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) after its survey named the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) the most corrupt government institution in the country.
The eyesore that greets one at the police barracks across the country is no news. It is in fact an old story because tons of reportage have been focused on the issue yet the concerned authorities choose to either turn a blind eye or merely pay lip service at the squalid homes of our police officers.
Sunday Sun investigations also revealed that the decay was occasioned by years of neglect by the police and government authorities. Most of the flats which were built in the 70s, have not been renovated ever since. Hence, they continue to be sinking deeper into rot.
In Lagos, the famed ‘Center of Excellence’, the police barracks at Ikeja are derelict and the flats are no longer suitable for human habitation. The walls and staircases are perforated. The pillars and concrete decks have signs of weakness written all over them. The plaster on the concrete is peeling off and the iron rods are becoming naked. The drains are silted, and stinky. The sewage system has collapsed; the toilet and bathrooms are shambolic and an eyesore to visitors.
This is also the scene at the Iponri Barracks, and the Area ‘C’ Command Barracks both situated in the bustling Surulere axis. Both barracks are an eyesore, the facilities are terribly decrepit and in a depressing state of disrepair. The occupants rely on water vendors for their daily need. Overcrowding makes living in these barracks unbearable. Three families share a two-bedroom flat in some blocks, irrespective of gender and family size. The puddles of stagnant water become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and this exposes residents to frequent malaria attacks. The stench oozing out of the drains is offensive and nauseating. However, despite the filthy barracks, it is business-as-usual for the wives of the officers, who run restaurants and various other businesses around there.
One of the residents, a police officer, residing at the Ikeja Barracks, who requested not to be identified, said that the condition of their quarters has been awful for the past 20 years when he joined the police force. “I’m making plans to relocate my family out of here,” he said, adding, “All the facilities have broken down and you can hardly breathe because of the stench coming from different corners. Our police quarters are nothing to write home about. Many of them are so dilapidated that they have all become disasters waiting to happen. Yet police officers still live there with their families.”
Another officer, a female sergeant, also lamented the poor state of the barracks. “As soon as I got married, I quit the barracks and settled with my husband. I can tell you that most of the officers residing in the barracks live there not by choice, but by constraints. Most of us police officers would prefer to be paid accommodation allowance to enable us rent more suitable accommodation outside the barracks.”
The entire buildings at the police barracks located at Nworieubi in Mbaitoli Local Council Development Area of Imo State have not only become dilapidated, but the entire environment is also an eyesore. The level of dilapidation shows that the buildings have not been renovated for several years by the police authorities.
The Nekede and Shell Camp police barracks are not good either as most of the police officers in the state prefer to rent decent accommodation within the town rather than live in the decrepit barracks.
One of the police officers, who spoke with Sunday Sun on condition of anonymity, described the condition of the barracks as rat holes which are not even fit for a madman.
His words: “These buildings are not good even for a madman to live in not to talk of a police officer, who is supposed to secure the lives and property of the people. Even when you live here you are also paying rent to the police because they deduct the money from your salary and yet you will still have to spend more money to make the house which is usually a room and palour habitable before you live in it.”
Also, another police sergeant at the Shell Camp Police Barracks, who also does not want his name mentioned, said that the policemen who are still living in the barracks are mostly those who have retired from the force and are waiting for their entitlements to be paid.
He also disclosed that most of the young policemen now prefer to rent their own houses within the town as most of them do not find the barracks conducive.
“Unlike the military where all officers and men must live in the barracks, it is not so with the police barracks because the young policemen and women these days prefer to live outside the barracks because the condition of the houses in the barracks are not conducive for them, due to the dilapidation of the buildings. But you know as a police officer you cannot petition against the authorities.
“Let me tell you most of the senior officers don’t even live in there because barracks is like a slave camp and the senior police officers who reside in the barracks live in the choicest buildings which are either newly renovated or newly built.”
In Benin, the Edo State capital, there are two major police barracks, the Esigie Police Barracks said to have been built in the 60s and located between 2nd/1st East Circular Road, Benin City, while the second one, Ogida Barracks located in Ogida quarters said to have been built in the 70s.
Both barracks are located near their police stations – the Esigie and Ogida police stations. This nearness to place of work saves time and money for the officers and men of the police force who are living in the barracks. What is common to both barracks ends with their closeness to the officers and men. While buildings at the Ogidan Barracks look old and not well maintained, comparing them to buildings at the Esigie Barracks is like comparing hell to heaven. One common cry of everyone living in the Esigie police barracks is lack of toilet facilities, bathrooms, water and dilapidated staircases.
Due to the absence of toilet facilities, it was alleged that officers and men of the force, including their families, are now dumping their waste indiscriminately in the barracks.
Attempt to speak with policemen at the barracks was unsuccessful, as the Divisional Crime Officer 1 at the Esigie Police Station referred our correspondent to the Police Public Relations Officer of the Edo State Command for an approval. But a resident of the area (names withheld) bared his mind on the state of the Esigie Police Barracks.
“This barracks is very rough. They used to throw faeces across the fence. No one can pass near this barracks again. I used to go through the road beside the barracks to my place of work, but now, due to the way the place is stinking, I have stopped taking that road.
“The stench emanating from the barracks is terrible and can infect someone with diseases. The government should assign those who will be in charge of the sanitary condition of the barracks. Secondly, warning should be given to those who specialized in disposing their faeces indiscriminately to desist from it and when caught in the act, such persons should be heavily sanctioned.
“The other solution to the problem in the barracks is that those who are living in the place should be made to carry out sanitation every week. The government should also add additional buildings to the existing ones in order to solve the problem of overcrowding in the place,” he said.
Also commenting on the state of the barracks, a police officer’s son (names withheld) who does not live with his parents in the barracks, decried the situation of the police quarters.
He said: “The barracks is very unkempt. A lot of things are bad about this place. When it rains, most rooms will be filled with water. The place is not hygienic for human habitation. Our parents live here, so, we just come once in a while to visit them, but we know that it is not good to live here. If you take a tour around, you will see a whole lot of things like dirt. No good bathroom and toilets. I do not know if this is how all police barracks look, but Esigie in particular is definitely a write off. You will be ashamed living in the barracks.
“The government should come here and evacuate everyone living in the barracks and then renovate it. If it boils down to everyone living in the barracks, then the people need orientation on how to maintain their environment. The present I-do-not-care attitude in this country is at the peak of it,” he said.
A girl living with her parents in the barracks told Sunday Sun: “There is no water and the toilets are bad, the whole area is littered with garbage. The buildings are dilapidated, the staircases are broken. There is nothing good about the place at all. The government should rebuild the barracks for us and our major concern are the toilets and the bathrooms.”
For Vera Okorojie, the Federal Government should do something about poor infrastructure in the various barracks because the working environment of the police personnel has the ability to impact them negatively or positively.
“My thought on this is that the Federal Government should do something because I feel that if the policemen are happy with their working environment and where they live, they can be more effective in their job, but if their living condition is bad, that will affect their mental well-being and also how they will treat their fellow citizens. So, I plead with the Federal Government to do something concerning the state of police barracks in this great nation,” she said.
A visit to any of the police barracks and quarters across Kwara State will reveal the sorry state of the condition under which police personnel and their families live.
Recall that it took the intervention of the former Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, for renovation of the Ikeja police barracks in Lagos State to be done, shortly after he went on inspection of the Ikeja Police Academy. It was after noticing the sorry state of the barracks that the former police boss initiated the complete renovation of the facility in order to improve the officers’ welfare. Similarly, he directed that complete renovation should be carried out in other decrepit barracks across the country.
Unfortunately, in Kwara State not much has changed in the bad condition of the barracks and quarters, some of which were constructed in the early 70s and 80s.
Sunday Sun investigations revealed that renovation was done in some chosen barracks in Ilorin, the state capital, especially for the roof of the storey building housing officers of the command while others were neglected until the former IGP retired.
The police personnel living in the barracks have seemingly resigned themselves to fate in the squalor that their residence has become. More worrying is the fact that rent is being deducted from the officers’ monthly salaries without improving their living conditions.
Similarly, the dilapidated apartments categorised into 2-3 bedroom flats as well as self-contained units, are not spacious enough for the officers and their families. Families from different apartments share toilets and bathrooms while in many cases some of those facilities have been abandoned due to their dilapidated state.
Windows have been shattered and doors fallen off the hinges. Several of the apartments are surrounded by bushes. The sewage system overflows with human excreta and left unattended, thereby polluting the environment. Also, rodents and reptiles move around unhindered within the premises of some barracks. The sight is sordid and a sad tale of utter neglect.
A police corporal, who spoke with Sunday Sun on condition of anonymity, at ‘B’ Division Police Station, Surulere, Ilorin, the state capital, disclosed that the situation of the barracks had been the same today as it was 10 years ago, when she arrived in Ilorin.
The corporal lamented over the sub-human condition that police personnel live in the barracks after spending rigorous hours working at their various duty posts. She expressed the hope that providence would enable her get away from the squalid environment.
A Police Inspector at Alapa Police Division, who declined to be named as he was not authorised to speak on behalf of the divisional command, told Sunday Sun that among other things, the toilets at the division barracks were nothing to write home about as the water cistern toilets had long ago been disconnected from water supply. He disclosed that the officers defecate in the nearby bushes, and lamented that the barracks had no perimeter wall, which has left it open to easy attack by hoodlums. To this end, he urged the government to construct a concrete fence around the quarters as well as find a lasting solution to the problem of decaying and insufficient facilities at the various police quarters across the country.
Another female Inspector of Police at ‘A’ Division Police Station Ilorin lamented that some police quarters in the state built more than 40 years ago have not been properly maintained to ensure they remain habitable for the officers.
She complained that the majority of the kitchens and toilet facilities in the quarters have been in bad condition for several years, and appealed to the Police Service Commission to look into the problems.
Despite the abysmal conditions of the barracks, Sunday Sun reliably gathered that policemen and women still jostle to secure accommodation there. It was learnt that police personnel eagerly “induce” the officers-in-charge of the quarters, to allocate residential accommodation to them in the barracks.
It was disclosed that those posted to another division or command usually use their influence to ensure their apartments are allocated to their friends or anyone who pays substantial amount for such.
A corporal (names withheld) residing in the barracks noted that in spite of the bad state of the barracks, he chose to stay there with his family due to the fact that he could not afford the exorbitant rents charged by landlords in town.
“This barracks is not too good for human habitation. But I think I have no other choice than to move out of the civilian residential apartment because my landlord increases the rent at will,” he said.
A police superintendent at the Kwara State Police headquarters, Ilorin, however, said the situation in the barracks now is far better than what it used to be. He commended former IGP Abubakar’s administration for its initiative at renovating many dilapidated barracks across the country, saying that the move greatly assisted in improving the standard of living of officers in the affected barracks.
According to him, before Mohammed Abubakar’s intervention, the story was very ugly. Many times, the quarters of officers got flooded anytime it rained, a situation that left their wives and children battling to secure their property.
“Before now, many officers had abandoned the barracks, but the situation has changed for the better,” he said.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that some of the residents of the barracks across the state occasionally come together to embark on self-help projects to ameliorate their sufferings.
The only police barracks in Kogi State is located in the state capital, Lokoja, and provides accommodation for officers and men of ‘A’ Division. The barracks, which dates back to the creation of the state in 1991, was for so long in a desolate condition until in 2013 when the then governor, Alhaji Idris Wada, renovated some blocks of the barracks along with the renovation of the police commissioner’s office, when CP Jeminiyi headed the state command.
Under that intervention project sponsored by the state government, about 12 blocks of apartments were renovated. Some pit latrines were also constructed for the use of the personnel of the command, following a request made by the then commissioner of police,
Before then, the buildings were overcrowded and dilapidated. Whenever it rained, some of the residents would seek shelter in the homes of their neighbours in the barracks. The situation was that bad.
Although there are still some accommodation challenges in the barracks, especially for the rank and file transferred to the state, the accommodation problem is not as acute as it used to be.
When Sunday Sun visited the barracks, a police sergeant (names withheld) appealed to the government to expand the barracks as it is too small to accommodate hordes of officers and men in the capital.
He specifically implore President Muhammadu Buhari to do something urgently about the condition of police barracks in the country with a view to improving them.
His words: “I want to appeal to the president to help us expand our barracks here in Kogi just as he helped to jack up our salaries. Honestly, we are suffering here because our wives and children have no conducive place to stay,” he said.
A tour of the barracks revealed its horrendous poor state with broken toilet facilities and bad sewage system. The barracks is overcrowded with attendant possibility of an outbreak of cholera.
The wife of a low-ranking officer pleaded that more boreholes be sunk in the barracks as scarcity of potable water is a major challenge there, particularly during the dry season.
While commending Alhaji Idris Wada, the former governor, who renovated part of the barracks, she called on Governor Yahaya Bello to kindly assist the police command in the state in the same way he did for the army in Lokoja, whereby the government renovated some buildings for the officer and soldiers of the Army Records Office, Lokoja.
As in the other parts of the country, the police barracks in Sokoto State, seat of the Caliphate, are in deplorable condition as the buildings have not been cared for over decades.
For instance, the GRA Police Barracks situated along Diplomat area of the state capital is an eyesore. The fallen fence, broken sanitary facilities and dilapidated structures will leave any visitor deeply disturbed by the absolute neglect of the welfare of policemen and women serving across the country.
Sunday Sun learnt that the barracks was built during the era of the late Premier of the North and Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, in the early 60s. Since then, no additional block has been built there neither was the existing structures renovated.
The GRA barracks is one of the 10 barracks constructed across the state capital and all the 10 are in the same condition. They include Mounted Troop Barracks at Gidan Mahada, Angwar Rogo Police Barracks, Marina Police Barracks, Gidan Iwge Police Barracks, Dog Section Barracks, Mobile Base Police Barracks, Old Gusau Garage Police Barracks and PTS Barracks.
A police source, who pleaded to speak on the condition of anonymity, admitted that the barracks had never witnessed any renovation in the last 16 years, when he first moved into the place.
“I thank you for coming to inquire about the condition of the barracks in the state. Two years after I was recruited into the police force, I began living in the barracks. No renovation has been done here since then. I am talking about 16 years now,” he said.
Despite the sub-human state of the building in the barracks, he lamented that police officers and men still had to pay rent monthly.
“Before the commencement of the IPPIS payment system, they used to deduct monthly rent depending on your rank; a constable would pay N4,000, corporal N5,000, sergeant N6,000 and inspector ranging from N7,000 to N12,000 depending on their level. But the deduction was stopped after the IPPIS was introduced,” he said.
When asked if there was no designated officer in-charge of the barracks’ routine maintenance, he said: “We have an officer-in-charge of these barracks and another one in-charge of Works Department, but they are not doing their job. I don’t know whether there is any allocation to carry out such maintenance works.”
A corporal (names withheld) urged the Federal Government to do more concrete things to radically improve the living conditions of police personnel. “The Federal Government needs to see the police work as a serious business and prioritise the living condition of the personnel. We have seen billions of naira devoted to other sectors and their officials. We have seen the government spend billions on the elections, we have seen the government give huge amounts to market women, through MarketMoni, TraderMoni, and other ways it pumped out money before the election. Why is it that the policemen and women serving the country have not been taken care of by this government and the previous governments?”
Most families of police officers serving under the Plateau State Police Command are passing through excruciating pains due to dilapidated nature of the barracks where they live.
Some of these officers have no alternative than to remain in the barracks under poor hygienic condition as they cannot afford good accommodation outside the barracks.
A cursory look at the buildings shows that the roofs have been blown off in several instances and no efforts have been made to renovate the blocks.
The windows of the rooms are mostly covered with polythene sheets nailed down with wooden planks, and the doors have been destroyed. Dirty stagnant water covers different locations within the barracks with no attempt to solve the problem.
The wife of a police officer who sighted the Sunday Sun reporter taking pictures in the barracks expressed hope that relief would soon come their way as she felt that the government has finally moved for the project to be started. The woman said that their living conditions in the barracks could be likened to hell on earth.
She said: “You can see this block that was renovated some time back, there is no drainage system and this can cause outbreak of diseases for the people. Some of the residents just pour out water from their rooms.
“I leave in one of the blocks which seems not to have been renovated since it was built around 1979. The rooms don’t have doors, some don’t have windows and the toilet facilities are horrible. Only God has been preserving us here. If not the disease that will break out here will claim several lives. I want the government to do something urgent about the renovation of the blocks that have gone too bad. The reason people are still living here is because they have no alternative.”
A police officer who gave his name as David said the congestion in the barracks is another serious problem. He lamented that despite the dilapidated nature of the barracks, everybody is struggling to get himself an apartment in it.
He noted that the first two blocks that face the main road were renovated some few years ago, but they have started turning into an eyesore due to lack of proper maintenance on the part of the occupants.
“I am pleading to the Federal Government to come to our aid by renovating the blocks that have not been touched the construction of the barracks,” David said.