Personnel of the Nigeria Police Force presently lack descent accommodation as evidenced in most police barracks nationwide.
While much is required from the police in maintenance of peace, and security of lives and property of citizens, most policemen after toiling in the rain and sun day and night, sadly do not have decent homes to sleep, and worse still, many work and retire without having a home to spend the rest of their lives with their families.
Our correspondents checked out the situation in some barracks across the country and dug out what the authorities are doing about this.
At Ijeh, sanity departs with relocation from Kam Salem to Louis Edet
The Ijeh Police Barracks at Obalende, on Lagos Island, is one of the oldest barracks in Nigeria.
It is about five minutes walk from Kam Salem House, the former headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force.
Once upon a time, the rows of the two-storey and bungalow buildings at Ijeh Barracks, residence to thousands of the junior ranks in the police, were a cynosure of some tidy arrangement. Not anymore.
It would seem environmental sanity at the barracks moved along with the relocation of the Force Headquarters from Kam Salem House in the early 1990s to Louis Edet House, Abuja.
Ijeh barracks now looks nauseating, so much so that when the chairman, Nigeria Police Trust Fund, Suleiman Abba, visited the barracks on Friday, September 11, 2020, he declared that he would have ordered its immediate demolition but for the fact that the police personnel residing there would be rendered homeless.
Abbah, a former Inspector-General of Police, bemoaning the state of the barracks, said, “What I’m seeing today is a dilapidated barracks.
“If not that I don’t have where to put them (policemen and women and their families) today, I would have relocated them and brought down the buildings and rebuild them to a habitable status,” he said.
Abbah, assessing the extent of decay at Ijeh Barracks, Mopol 20 police barracks and the Police College, Ikeja, in company of the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, Hakeem Odumosu, Commissioner of Police in charge of Works, Department of Logistics and Supply, Aliyu Abubakar; Area ‘A’ Commander, Lion Building, Assistant Commissioner, Bode Ojajuni, announced on the spot, a federal government’s intention to “demolish dilapidated barracks and renovate those that are still good for human habitable status, with the provision of modern toilets, flowing water and safe roofs where water will no longer leak into rooms, as well as provide safe electricity, as that is what the police deserve.”
Our correspondent who visited Ijeh Barracks last week reports an eyesore of crumbling buildings and overflowing sewer lines, which are worsened by the current pouring rains.
As observed, about 10 blocks of room-and-parlor and self-contained apartments have been left abandoned for years, making it almost impossible to walk around them now whenever it rains.
There is unabashed neglect of the barracks, with stinking gutters, loose electric wires, leaking roofs, broken doors, shattered windows, torn roofs and rusty balconies everywhere.
Ubiquitous heaps of waste adds to the generally unpleasant sight.
Some policemen who spoke with our correspondent but preferred to remain anonymous for fear of being sanctioned, said they had lodged several complaints with the police authorities but there had been no succour.
“Each time, they would say they would send officers to inspect the structures and undertake repair works, but that remains a story.
“All the structures are in bad shape.
“We pass sleepless nights here as frogs share our rooms with us,” one police sergeant said.
The policemen lamented that the federal government and the police leadership had neglected the maintenance and upgrade of police barracks across the country, and especially those in Lagos, most of which were built more than 40 years ago and had largely not been renovated since then.
The barracks in Lagos include, apart from Ijeh Barracks, the Police College, Ikeja; Mopol 2 Barracks in GRA Ikeja; Apapa (Queens Barracks), Iponri Barracks, Area ‘C’ Command Barracks Ojuelegba and the Elere Barracks, Agege, all of which are presently in a sorry state and are crying for rehabilitation.
The situation at the Police College, Ikeja, one of the seven police training institutions across the country, which also houses policemen and their families, has been a tad better after it took a Channels Television documentary in 2013 to push the police authorities into rehabilitation action.
But the rehabilitation would appear to have been concentrated on the college hostels, which the Nigerian Army engineers redesigned, and not the residences, which are falling apart and have the same pitiable sight as the Ijeh Barracks.
Residents of Police College, Ikeja, rely on water vendors for their daily water needs.
Over-crowding makes living in these barracks unbearable as three families share a two-bedroom flat in some blocks, irrespective of gender and family size.
Sad tales from Kaduna
Large cracks on walls, leaking roofs, broken and smelly sewage channels as well as dilapidated structures dot the Command Barracks located along Constitution Road in Kaduna.
The barracks which is one of many in the state housing mostly wives and children of policemen who are always on special duties in other parts of the country, can best be described as a slum due to its state.
Built in the 1970’s, the police barracks can best be described as a death trap as the occupants are exposed to inhuman conditions and diseases including malaria, Lassa fever and typhoid fever, among others, residents told our correspondent.
The barracks comprising the women’s block containing one room and a parlor semi-detached was meant for new recruits, then a two-room and a parlor semi-detached and a three-room and a parlor detached was meant for inspectors.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the only source of potable water collapsed in the late 1990’s.
The three wells dug in the barracks are the only source of water, which is only used for washing clothes, bathing and cleaning the restrooms.
The residents depend on sachet water for drinking and cooking.
A resident who did not want his name in print said, “We are relying on three wells dug by good Samaritans.
“One of them was a widow who dug and donated the well after receiving her late husband’s pension.
“This barracks needs the attention of the federal government as well as the police authorities to ensure that it is suitable for human habitation.”
A mother of three children who lives in one of the buildings said she and her husband had to make little repairs in order for to remain in the house.
“Apart from the dilapidated nature of the house, there is also the issue of water, so we have to wake up very early in the morning to get water from a nearby well, which is the only source of water in the barracks,” she said.
Another source who resides at the Kawo barracks who simply gave his name as Abraham told our correspondent that most of the bungalows have large cracks, and in some cases run all the way to the foundation.
“Aside the cracks, most of the toilets are blocked. Sometimes, you even see faeces dropping out from broken pipes with stench oozing out,” he said.
Another problem, he said, is the issue of water which is a major issue in the barracks as the only functional borehole is now overstretched to the point that people have to queue late into the night before getting water.
The Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID) barracks located along Ibrahim Taiwo road, Kaduna, just a stone throw from the police headquarters of the Kaduna State Police Command, and the situation there is not different. It lacks basic amenities like potable water, electricity, and healthy environment.
The state of infrastructure at the Kurmin Mashi, Kaduna Polytechnic and Rigachikun barracks is also the same.
A source told our correspondent that there is no barrack accommodation for officers except for the four houses on College Road in Unguwan Dosa, adding, “We have been forced to look for alternative accommodation for our families.”
A policeman who lives at the Kurmin Mashi barracks said, “We are just managing, what can we do?
“The few of us here are even lucky.
“Just don’t talk of facilities here, we just try to make the place habitable by keeping it clean, at least we have a roof over our heads.
“The authorities know what to do, you know the number of police personnel here and you see what is called barracks here, I just hope they will change their hearts and do something about it because it is really affecting our productivity.”
Aside from the bad condition of the barracks, the security situation has deteriorated to a level where life and property of the residents are no longer safe, he added.
“We are here because some of us cannot afford the exorbitant rent in town, but not that we enjoy anything here or that we are comfortable.
“We undertake all the repairs in the barracks, and yet the rent is deducted from our salaries every month in the office for maintenance.
“Another major challenge in the barracks is security. Our rooms are burgled on a daily basis.
“You would sleep and wake up and discover that your property has been taken away,” the source said.
Ogun barracks replicate Lagos situation
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that in Ogun State, it is a replication of the state of things in Lagos police barracks.
Dilapidated structures, spoilt sewage systems, leaking roofs, epileptic power supply, deplorable roads and lack of potable water, among others, are some of the challenges policemen and women living in the barracks in Ogun State have been grappling with for decades.
Our correspondent, who visited three police barracks in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, observed a common run in the environments that policemen reside in with their families.
The barracks are the State Police headquarters, Eleweran, Police Mobile Force at Oke-Ilewo and the one at Ibara.
The barracks in Ibara, comprising three-storey buildings and bungalows, are completely in a deplorable state.
The structures are visibly weak, with dirty water oozing from the spoilt sewage system polluting the environment.
From afar, one could view the decay in the wooden windows.
It was learnt that the policemen personnel residing there are constantly battling lack of water and power supply.
A retired policeman who said he had lived in the barracks for more than 30 years, sounded well resigned to fate.
“The situation has become our normal way of life,” he told Daily Trust on Sunday.
He added, “It is the general problem in all the police barracks.
“In the 1980s, the leadership of the force used to visit barracks and demanded what needed to be repaired and would fix it appropriately.
“But things have gone worse.
“Those roofs you are seeing are leaking and the windows are in bad shape. There is no electricity or water supply, although our water supply has improved since some weeks. That’s some of the challenges we are facing.”
When asked how much he has been paying monthly for his apartment, he said the unfixed amount used to be deducted from the salary of police personnel.
He, however, added, “The accommodation has been free since President Muhammadu Buhari came on board.
“They don’t deduct rent from our salaries again,” adding that the non-payment of his entitlements was, however, still holding him back in Ogun State.
A different story in Oyo
It is a different story about rent payment in Oyo State where policemen at the Iyaganku Barracks, Ibadan, told our correspondent that the police authorities deduct N18,000 monthly from the salary of any Inspector residing there and N7,500 from that of a Constable as rent.
Iyaganku, the first police barracks in the then Western Region built to accommodate officers between the ranks of Deputy Superintendent of Police and Constable, is now in comatose.
Our correspondent, who visited the barracks on Thursday, reports that some of the residents there tapped electricity from wires without any visible electrical meters, while potable water is unavailable in the flats.
The road to the barracks itself is flooded and almost impassable, while the environment is dirty and the buildings are unkempt.
Our correspondent noticed that some of the structures have almost collapsed, while the roofs of some of the buildings are falling off.
From a vantage point, he observed some wives of the policemen cooking with firewood in their respective corridors, as he saw heaps of refuse in every part of the barracks.
Investigations by Daily Trust on Sunday revealed that between seven and 10 families at the Iyaganku Barracks share one toilet without the basic amenities, except for some detached apartments for senior staffers.
Our correspondent also gathered that about 27 rooms at the barracks had been rented out to civilians, while police officers could not get accommodation they had paid for.
It was learnt that residents of some of the detached buildings built for senior officers had been living there for more than 40 years for lack of financial strength to get accommodation outside the barracks due to unpaid entitlements.
An officer told Daily Trust on Sunday that many of the retired officers are wallowing in abject poverty because they have not been able to receive their entitlements from the government “despite that they spent a better part of their lives serving the Nigeria Police.”
The wife of a late officer roasting plantains for sale to survive told our correspondent, “Since the demise of my husband, we have had nowhere to go than to maintain this quarters.
“Unfortunately, my husband didn’t get his gratuity before he died, and even as his next of kin, I have not been able to get a kobo from the government.
“How do you expect us to leave here?
“Two of my children are now graduates without reasonable jobs.”
At the Eleyele police headquarters, also in Ibadan, our correspondent observed, aside a decadence of facilities that fashion designers, hair stylists, recharge card sellers and other shop owners have taken over the barracks.
One of the shop owners when asked how much the traders there are paying as rent monthly and to whom they are paying, retorted, “Why do you want to know the amount we are paying?
“We are paying money monthly, period.”
Osogbo Barracks has less eyesore
The sprawling police barracks at Oke-Fia, Osogbo, the Osun State capital, is a bit less an eyesore than the others in the other South-west states.
The walls are also dirty, though, and the environment very rough.
The buildings look old and many of the rooms have no widows.
The paints on the walls have faded completely.
The roofs also look old and dirty except for those of some few flats that were renovated recently.
The wife of a policeman who simply gave her name as Mary but would not disclose the name of her husband, said she had lived in different barracks with her husband and that despite the poor condition of the Osogbo Barracks, it is better than the other barracks she had resided in.
“Police barracks are just like Ajegunle in Lagos.
“Barracks are just ghettos.
“We live rugged life in the barracks.
“It’s quarrels here and there.
“That’s why the environment is dirty because no one wants to clean it.
“If one cleans it, another one will roughen it up again.
“In this barracks in Osogbo, we have water.
“You can see people fetching water over there.
“So water is not our problem.
“Also, we enjoy good electricity supply.
“On the environment, how can you be expecting sanity from lunacy?
“Please, this is barracks life.
“You are on your own, if you like, clean your room,” she said.
In Ekiti, divisional hq hosts officers
There has been no officially designated police barracks in Ekiti State since it was created in 1996.
The Okesa Divisional police headquarters is where there is the presence of some mini low-cost housing units, about 80 of them, for some officers and rank and file of the force.
The structures look very old and need proper rehabilitation.
While some mini-flats there appear to need rehabilitation, the one-room apartments are old, the environment unkempt and the roof begging to be replaced.
Most of all the policemen and women serving in the Ekiti State live in rented apartments scattered across the local government areas of the state.
Despite the grim stories of neglect, abandonment and despair emanating from police personnel living in barracks in other states of the South-west, their counterparts in Ekiti State that our correspondent spoke with maintained their desire to have one in the state.
“That won’t be a bad idea at all. After all, that is the official habitation of policemen,” one sergeant enthused.
Bauchi barracks in bad shape
Police barracks across Bauchi State are equally in deplorable condition, findings by our correspondent revealed.
A visit to the barracks in Yelwa area of Bauchi metropolis revealed that the structures there have suffered long neglect, and are in a serious need for renovation.
The environment is also in deplorable state because water has accumulated in many parts due to lack of proper drainage, causing untold hardship for residents and visitors right from the entrance to many parts of the barracks.
The habitation is bushy, a situation that exposes residents to reptiles and other animals.
Many parts of the buildings, especially the fittings, are in bad shape, some windows are patched with zinc, others with wood and other materials to cover the damages.
Although a block of houses was renovated, majority of the structures there require attention.
At the township barracks along Yandoka Road, the challenges are the same except that the structures there appear better than those in Yelwa Barracks.
Efforts to speak with residents were not successful.
Policemen lack accommodation in Taraba
Less than 10 per cent of the police personnel in Taraba State have official accommodation, our correspondent reports.
Daily Trust on Sunday findings revealed that most of the personnel in the state reside in rented quarters while others reside in their personal houses.
The barracks located behind the Jalingo Police Division was built more than 40 years ago.
It has a few blocks and only about 200 policemen are accommodated there.
It was renovated by late the Taraba State governor, Danbaba Suntai, eight years ago.
It was learnt that since the state was created, no police barracks has been built.
Our findings also showed that the police headquarters and police barracks project along Nursing School in Jalingo was abandoned since the past 15 years.
The roofs of some of the structures have been blown off by the wind while many other structures are at 40 percent completion level, leaving the entire area to be over grown by weeds.
A police officer who requested anonymity told our correspondent that only 5 to 8 per cent of the police personnel have official accommodation in the state.
It was gathered that many policemen have built their own houses in Sabon Gari, Mile 6, ATC Quarters, Nana Aisha Quarters and Magami Quarters among other areas in the metropolis.
Another police officer said everyone knows that policemen have no adequate accommodation in the country.
According to him, only a few of the men and officers in the force are accommodated in barracks.
The police spokesman in Taraba, DSP David Misal, declined comment when contacted.
Individuals fix apartments in Ilorin
The A, B and F divisions of the police barracks in Ilorin are in bad shape. Easily noticeable are the unkempt environment, dilapidated structures, dirty and deteriorating fittings.
When our correspondent visited the barracks it an officer who spoke on condition of anonymity said the barracks had suffered long period of neglect from the authorities.
The officer who said he resides at the A Division Barracks said; “This is my ninth year in this barracks, I cannot remember when last a maintenance or renovation work was done here.
“You can see how bad the structures and its fittings have become.
“We have had to spend our money to fix things here and that’s why the barracks is in this condition”.
At the B Division, an officer told our correspondent that the authorities had on a number of occasions requested for the renovation but the requests were yet to be granted.
“I learnt that requests were made for the renovation but till now there has been no response.
“The few good apartments you see here were fixed by individuals. Some apartments have no toilet.
“The fittings, windows and pipes have rusted and fallen apart.
“I must tell you that the condition of the apartments is deplorable.
“Please, help call on the authorities to fix our barracks, they are in terrible condition,” he said.
Police authorities respond
When contacted on the findings, the spokesman of the Nigeria Police Force, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Frank Mba, said; “Without mincing words, the state of police barracks across the country can be better than they are now.
“At present, apart from inadequacy of barracks in terms of number and spread, only a few barracks would meet the expectations of such housing facility standard or be considered satisfactory.
“Many of the barracks are in fact old and require urgent renovation.”
He added; “Over the years, various police leaderships had adopted creative approaches towards overcoming accommodation challenges faced by officers of the Nigeria Police Force.
“Some of the measures that have been adopted over the years include the establishment of the Police Mortgage Bank (FMB).
“The bank gives housing loans to police personnel with minimal interest rates devoid of collateral.
“The Police Cooperative also assists police officers to acquire houses on owner – occupier basis.
“Besides, the Department of Logistics and Supply engages in repairs and refurbishment of existing facilities from the available limited resources of the Force.
“The federal government recently gave approval for the creation of the Police Trust Fund (PTF).
“It is hoped that with this development, sundry matters such as inadequacy of barracks accommodation and maintenance of existing facilities would be easily addressed by the Force.
“There is no doubt that police barracks play vital roles which profoundly affect officers’ productivity and effectiveness.
“This is more so in the area of rapid deployment or mobilization of personnel for urgent tasks, especially, during national emergencies.
“Besides, by the very nature of the Force, barracks help to promote group culture, discipline and esprit de corps.
“Also, officers dwelling in the barracks have opportunities for peer review and other opportunities for personal and collective development.
“It is also well known fact that barracks is a mini-Nigeria and children born and bred in the barracks are pan-Nigerian in nature.
“Most of them are multilingual and relate freely with persons from other ethnic nationalities.
“It is also unarguable that on the average, barracks accommodation offers officers the kind of safety and security that may not be found elsewhere.
“Therefore, to answer your question, I will say categorically that police barracks are still very relevant to the Force and will remain so for a very long time to come.
“Now that the Nigeria Police Force has been re-energized with the approval of the Police Trust Fund and the birth of a brand new Police Act, there is no doubt that the Force will be able to address some of the challenges highlighted above confronting the force.
Hope rising, but not enough
Daily Trust gathered that a housing scheme was launched last year by the Nigeria Police Force to reduce the challenges among the rank and file of the police.
The force signed a joint pact with Echostone Nigeria Limited, a property development company, to develop 100,000 homes for its officers nationwide at the total cost of N750 billion.
But 100,000 homes in proportion to the population of the force would required more to be desired.