By – Zik Gbemre.
I have often reiterated that, for us to have a ‘crime-free’ society, there is need to appropriately fund the institution that is responsible for providing the security service in the first place.
It is only when this is holistically sorted out, that we can now hold the men and officers of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) responsible for not doing their job efficiently, or said to be corrupt in any way.
For instance, we should not expect an effective Police Force when most Officers and men of the Force are not provided with funds to carry out their duties like logistics to go and effect arrests, or most importantly, to have a decent accommodation to rest their heads and that of their families.
It is sad that today, most of the Nigerian Police Barracks are an embarrassment of living quarters. Police Barracks are bedeviled with so much dilapidated structures that are signs of years of neglect and lack of maintenance.
And whether we are aware of this or not, these ‘unhealthy and unattractive working conditions’ that are faced by the average Nigerian Police Officer on a daily basis, affects his psychic and emotional state of mind to remain committed towards fighting crime. These issues are also the foundation that breeds corruption to thrive.
I was almost moved to tears when I saw a video documentary report online by Pulse Tv, which painted a vivid picture of the deplorable state of Police Barrack in the country. According to the said report: “one of the reasons for erecting barracks is to address the housing challenge confronting military and paramilitary institutions.
However, for many men and women of the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), getting accommodation in a barrack is like living in a goat pen or a house stable.
“Every day, police officers wield riffles to fulfill their constitutional duties and protect citizens, but the residential facilities the officers return to at night time, is the story of dilapidation, stench and a complete eyesore. Some of the Police barracks in Lagos that were visited, to have a firsthand feel of how they look, showed that the police barracks in Lagos are nothing but slums occupied by the Police officers.
The Mopol 2 Barrack in Ikoyi is one of the oldest in Nigeria. It is said to be the first Barrack for Mobile Police Officers (MOPOL) in Lagos and the second in the country. But since the Police Mobile Force was established, the facilities which houses hundreds of Police officers, has not been renovated.
Today, the Barrack is at the verge of collapse, and its dilapidated structures are riddled with cracked and broken walls. Littered with broken sewage pipes, and stinking drainage. Mopol 2 Barrack is ostensibly one of the dirtiest residential facilities for police officers in Lagos.
Mopol 24 Barrack, Ikoyi looks like a den. The entrance to some of the flats in the facility are more like windows of underground apartments. The occupants of the flats have to squat very close to the ground to gain access to their rooms.
The Obalende Barrack is an array of two-storey buildings with cracked and broken walls. Shielded from the noise of area boys and commercial activities in Obalande. This Police Barrack gives off an aura of a calm neighbourhood. However, there are various signs of dilapidation and reckless abandonment here.
The condition of the buildings at the Yaba Barrack Panti, is so deplorable that the iron rods in the beams that support the slabs of each floor are exposed due to the cracks in the walls.
The Mushin Police Barrack Oloson is a jungle within a jungle. From its unkept water source to the mass and chaotic electricity lines, the premises evokes an atmosphere of confusion.
“There is no visible source of water at the Ikorodun Barrack. In each of the flats in the blocks, there are containers and jerry cans for fetching water at the basement of the building.
The buildings appear more like a make-shift structure for the officers, as there are better residential facilities within the premises. The Ikeja Police College Barrack in Mobolaji Bank Anthony way, is another eyesore that embodies the rot in police facilities, and the poor maintenance culture of the Nigerian government.
The Ikeja Barrack houses the highest number of Police personnel in Lagos, but the facility is a picture of structural defect, dirt and bad smell emanating from overflowing septic tanks.
“Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mbah, says every officer and the Inspector General of Police, have been complaining about the state of accommodation facilities for Police officers. In his words:
“if you look at the number of Policemen in Lagos, and you juxtaposed that number with the number of housing opportunity available to them, you will realize that, beyond the fact that those facilities are overstretched, about 60% of theP Policemenare housed outside the Police Barracks.
So, you go to outskirts of the town to rent houses where, probably, they are a bit affordable. Your efficiency and service delivery as a Police officer, will be affected definitely because you will spend and lose a lot of man hours from your place of work to your place of residence.
Check out the Barracks in Lagos State and ask yourself; new Police Stations are springing up every day, new Area Commands are springing up every other day; how many new Police Barracks have you seen coming up? While Police Stations and Police responsibilities are multiplying at geometric proportion, residential facilities of the Police, are almost at standstill, or at best growing at arithmetic proportion.”
Even though the NPF says it is building new barracks to address the accommodation challenges of the officers, many police officers believe that the new barracks being built by the Force are a scam. Many officers are of the opinion that the NPF properties in Idimu and Badagry are too expensive; as a flat goes for over N8 million.”
The question is, how can a Nigeria Police officer whose salary is not much, afford such accommodation?
The sad situation of the examples of the stated Police Barracks in Lagos above, is the same deplorable situation of the housing challenges being faced by men and officers of the NPF.
Let me emphasize here that, though there are many issues which have left us with a Police Force that is not functioning as they should, but this accommodation challenge is often the most neglected by past and present Government at all levels.
And this is amongst the major issues that are the ‘root’ behind the ineffectiveness and unreliability of the Police, and for every corrupt practice we see in the NPF.
And if these issues are not addressed holistically, no matter the crusade against corruption in the Police Force, and no matter the criticisms against their effectiveness, it will amount to nothing and just be another mere talk that will yield no tangible results.
I find it appalling that, on the one hand, we have the Nigerian Government Officials at all levels having their accommodation issues often sorted out with public wealth, and they live in splendor and grandeur.
But on the other hand, we have Security Personnel of the Nigerian Police Force, who are daily risking their lives protecting these same Government Officials as escorts/orderlies; yet their living quarters/housing accommodation are nothing but slums and filth.
Even for Nigerian Police Officers on transfers from State/location to another, they are often left to fend for themselves without at least, provided funds to stay in a hotel at least, pending when their accommodations are sorted out.
That is why you see a situation where some Officers in the Force Headquarters or from a State Command, assigned to investigate a case for instance, would want the complainants and suspects in the said case, to help sort out their hotel accommodation needs while they carry out their investigation in the areas concerned. At the end of the day, the integrity of the case being addressed fairly will be compromised.
With this problem of accommodation, rather than effectively ensure law and order, we now have Officers who sometimes engage in all sorts of unwholesome acts just to get a decent place for themselves and family, and to make ends meet while they carry out the demands of their office.
But ‘who would blame them’, it is irrational to expect a Police officer with a family of five, for example, to effectively carry out his duties in the midst of stupendous wealth controlled and enjoyed by political leaders in government, when his own welfare/well-being in relation to the demands of his job (plus that of the welfare of his family) are not adequately catered for because of the poor state of his job as a police officer.
It is high time the Government at all levels, should pay more attention towards addressing the accommodation challenges being daily faced by Officers of the Nigerian Police.
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