By Chioma Okezie-Okeh
Are you in trouble and within Makinde Street, Mafoluku, Lagos? Then quickly dash into the nearest police station, which is few metres away from any point on that street. Just look out for a unique building painted in grey and cream colour. No! It’s neither a bank nor the corporate headquarters of any multinational organisation. It is actually the newly built Makinde Police Station.
On October 20, 2020, Makinde Police station and its personnel quarters were totally destroyed. The destruction was the aftermath of the violence that trailed the Endsars protests in Lagos. Hoodlums took advantage of the protest and carried out vicious destruction of government and private properties, setting them on fire while carrying out acts of looting.
According to the police, 25 stations were destroyed in Lagos. They include Orile, Amukoko, Layeni. Ilasamaja, Ikotun, Ajah, Igando, Elemoru, Makinde, Onipanu, Ebute-Ero, Pen-Cinema, Isoko, Alade, Cele, Igbo Elerin, Shibiri, Gbagada, Onilekere, Makoko, Daleko, Asahun, Makinyo, Amuwo-Odofin and Anti-kidnapping Surulere. And for more than a year, policemen were forced to work under inhuman conditions while maintaining law and order.
However, Saturday Sun investigation revealed that most of the affected stations have been completely reconstructed and are now open to the public. Some of those stations reconstructed with a new architectural design include Pen Cinema, Igando, Abattoir, Makinde, Orile, Ajah, Layeni, Amukoko, Ikotun and others. All the barracks totally destroyed during the attack are yet to be reconstructed, although Saturday Sun learnt that construction of a much modern design is underway.
The private sector, led by the Coalition Alliance Against COVID 19 (CACOVID), in November 2020, reportedly promised to renovate the 44 police stations destroyed during the #EndSARS protests across the country.
The Co-Chairman of CACOVID and Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, made the disclosure while briefing the media. He said the body would also spend N100 billion to purchase equipment for the police force.
On the progress so far, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Benjamin Hundeyin, a Superintendent of Police explained that it was a joint effort by banks, interventions from Police Trust Fund, Ministry of Police Affairs and other well-wishers.
According to him, every other structure affected during the mayhem will be reconstructed with time. He further explained that the new colour was chosen by the Bankers Committee for easy identification and maintenance.
Meanwhile a senior police officer who spoke with Saturday Sun during a visit to Makinde Police Station applauded the sponsors of the project, pleading that such face lift should be extended to other stations across the country. He said: “I am not happy about what happened because lives and properties that can never be replaced were lost. However, we are also excited that we can come to work in an environment that looks like a bank. It is a good one and I wish such would be extended to other stations in the country. The Nigerian Police have lost their glory because the people that they are meant to guard see them as beggars. When you walk into a bank, the environment alone will make you stand for hours waiting for your money which the bank is using to do business.”
At the Igando axis, the structure boldly stands in a densely populated area with so much human activities. The excited policemen on duty expressed their appreciation to the sponsors while pleading with them to ensure that the facility is well maintained. A woman corporal who spoke with Saturday Sun said: “You can see the number of persons trooping into this station every day. If the compound is not maintained, we will soon return to where we were coming from. The day my daughter visited this place, she was so excited and told me that she would bring her friends to see my office. I am proud to say that I am a policewoman.” she smiled.
Across the road, a man who later introduced himself as a bus driver lamented that the new structure would make life more difficult for the poor. “Bail will now be more expensive because of this structure. Tell the government that this is not a big man’s area. The policemen will be feeling so important and very difficult to convince. Tomorrow they would use the excuse that they want to paint the office to deal with law breakers,” he lamented.
When the reporter advised him against breaking the law, he retorted in pidgin English: “Every Lagos resident is lawless; it is the person that is caught that will face the wrath of the law. Then he giggled and said: Please do not put my face on the TV. I do not want problem.”
More police personnel have applauded the new structures springing up. They then drew the attention of sponsors to other areas that they feel need urgent attention. A senior officer at the Lagos State Command, Ikeja, while praising the new face of some of the affected police stations, insisted that there was an urgent need to rebuild all the police barracks in the country.
He said: “It is a welcome development. We are also praying that they extend it to our barracks. I am in the special squad section of the command and I’m forced to live outside the barracks. It is not because I was not fortunate enough to get a slot but because the environment is not conducive to raise children. I live in fear that someone might recognise me and attack my family. I have friends in the Navy and Airforce and they have a better accommodation and enviable welfare package.
“If it is possible, the same group responsible for the renovation of some of these structures should take over the running of the affairs of the police. We need change so that our family will be respected, not referred to as barracks boys.”
A constable at Onikere Police Station commended the new renovation but also appealed to the sponsors of the project to remember their welfare. “Onikere is very beautiful and well furnished. This is how an office should be, so that the suspect will respect the police. Apart from just renovating the structure, they need to build a bigger police station for us. Lagos is highly populated, which means that the number of cases that we will be getting is also on the increase. Onikere Police Post was just renovated and the colour changed. They did not expand it. Officers still hang around due to lack of offices, which is not good. We appreciate what they have done and pray that same will be done in other police stations across the country. They should also work on our allowances or be paying us special allowances by the side. Nigeria is hard and cost of living is getting worse. We cannot protest like the others, but the truth is that an average policeman depends on tips from Nigerians to survive,” he alleged.
Also, a sergeant and one of the survivors of the EndSARS attack appealed to the sponsors of the project to extend the renovation to the various police barracks, which he said, were also in dilapidated conditions before they were destroyed. “I am hopeful that they will extend this project to the barracks. I was affected during the crisis which led to the destruction of our apartment at the Police Barracks, Ajah. I have moved my family back to Owerri where I have a house. I was lucky that they were not at home during the attack, I only lost property, but that can be replaced with time. It is not easy paying rent and school fees in Lagos. I am only hoping that by the time they rebuild that barrack, I have not retired from police work. I have just two years to retire. We are all excited and we continue to pray that God will provide more for them so that they will rebuild our barracks,” he stated.
In Imo, police personnel who spoke to Saturday Sun pleaded that such gesture should be spread across the country. “I was happy when I saw Makinde Police Station in Lagos. I was amazed because I served there four years ago. It’s so beautiful and it has enough bathroom for officers. You can sleep in the office and take your bath before heading home. They even drilled a borehole and put a big generator that can service the entire compound. May God bless them. But they should remember Imo State. We have suffered a lot in the hands of unknown gunmen. They have destroyed a lot of properties. The ones that were renovated are not up to standard. You can see the difference. Please, let them remember us,” he pleaded.