By Chioma Okezie-Okeh, Lagos; Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan; Tony Osauzo and Ighomunye Lucky, Benin; Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri; Laide Raheem, Abeokuta; Tony John, Port Harcourt and Obinna Odogwu, Awka
They look resplendent in their uniforms. Some even wear a smile on their faces. But in their hearts, many police officers in Nigeria are at the moment frustrated, sad and angry.
Months after their offices and homes in police barracks were vandalised and razed by hoodlums during last October’s EndSARS protest, those buildings have remained in that state. The families of those that lost their lives in the violence have yet to be compensated, while many now do their jobs under trees.
Recently, there was some domestic violence at a home in Mafoluku, Lagos. And to avert a possible loss of life, Saturday Sun reporter who witnessed the incident raced down to the nearest police station to report the matter. Makinde Police Station, the nearest, was one of the stations totally destroyed by criminals who hijacked the ENDSARS protest in October 2020 to unleash mayhem on the state and other parts of the country.
Standing by the gate was a policewoman seriously screaming at anyone who sought entrance into the compound. “If it is not a serious case, please go away from here. You can see that we do not have space for unnecessarily family matters. Please, if it is a family issue, go and meet your pastor to settle the matter,” she hissed and reluctantly opened the partially destroyed gate.
Inside the police station, the compound was still littered with debris from the destroyed building. Carcasses of burnt cars littered the compound which shares space with a two-storey building which was occupied by not less than 50 policemen and their families.
“This is just our operational base for those within this area.” explained the sergeant who was at a makeshift counter.
“We do not keep suspects in this police station. At the end of the day, they are moved to the nearest police station or transferred to the State CID (Criminal Investigative Department), Panti. Since government does not want to help, people like you can help us. We cannot function well in such an environment,” she further stated.
One of the officers spotted under the tree taking a statement from a complainant chipped in: “It is just that we have sworn an oath to serve, if not we are treated as animals. Most animals are better than us. Please go round and see things for yourself. We have no restroom and policemen stay under the tree to collect statement from suspects. We were hopeful when several persons in high places, including the Inspector General of Police, visited our station that things will change. The truth is that if government does not waste time in rebuilding these destroyed stations, it will send a strong message out there. We feel abandoned.”
Another policeman claimed that his apartment was among those razed at the police barracks in Ajah.
“I moved my family back to Sokoto because there was no place provided for us since we were stranded. I lost all and till date nothing has happened, it’s all on the pages of newspaper that different groups visited and promised to rebuild our barracks. I managed to rent a room in Makinde where I am staying and managing my life.
“If indeed Nigerians have any value for policemen, they should help and rebuild our stations and barracks. Those who claim that they were victims of police brutality are compensated; no one has observed that thousands of policemen who were rendered homeless are Nigerians.”
Another senior police officer at Makinde Police Station said that the way they are treated is the main reason why miscreants destroyed police offices and residence. “No one should expect wonders from us again. We have been hopeful that the governor would help us rebuild this place as he promised. Even the Vice President Yemi Osibanjo during his visit last November assured that our barracks and stations will be restored. Since then, no one has even visited to show that there is a plan on the way.
We only hear of the magic they are going to do on television and in newspapers. As I speak with you, Makinde Police Station does not have up to two operational vehicles. Anyone that has a case to report must provide a vehicle because our private vehicle was also destroyed. We are still battling to cope as humans by struggling to get a roof over our heads,” he said.
Just like Makinde, some of the other affected police stations and formations include Orile, Amukoko, Layeni, Old Area J Command Ajah, Elemoro, New Area J command, Elemoro, Igando, Ilasamaja, Ebute-ero and its barracks, Ikotun, Isokoko, Pen Cinema, Onipanu, Alade, Ojo, Ojodu, Cele, Ilogbo-Elerin, Shibiri, defunct Anti cultism office at Gbagada, Makoko, Daleko, Ashamu, Makinyo, Amuwo Odofin, defunct anti kidnapping office in Surulere, and Old SARS office in Ajegunle.
Saturday Sun also visited Igando and observed that the policemen were moved over to a community hall opposite the burnt station. Saturday Sun learnt that the community quickly got the alternative because of the high rate of crime in that area.
“There are a lot of miscreants in this area and it is also highly populated. We need police presence to restore sanity while we wait for government to rebuild it,” said Segun Adisa, a businessman who was at the police station at the time of visit.
He claimed that the business community in the area is willing to assist government to build a standard police station. “They need to be relocated to a bigger area. The burnt area is too tight. The level of damage has shown that we need help to fight these miscreants that have relocated from Oshodi and other areas.”
From Igando to Pen Cinema along Agege axis, the story is the same. At Pen Cinema, officers were seen in what is left of the vandalised building attending to complaints. “Despite everything that happened we must do our job. Some of us who were wounded were promoted, so that was a reasonable consolation. You can see that this place is crowded as usual and this plank that I am sitting on is my new office,” the constable said, holding unto his rifle.
Lagos State Police Spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi, a Chief Superintendent of Police, told Saturday Sun that there are plans to rebuild the police barracks and stations destroyed during the protest. “The process is on but I don’t know when exactly it will take off. But I can assure you that the new design for the structures in Lagos is ready.
“We have makeshift structures for all of them. The Commissioner of Police has assisted them in provision of patrol vehicles. Policing has been returned to those areas. We are doing our work and security of those affected areas is solid.”
From Lagos to Oyo State the story differs as some of the destroyed police facilities have been rebuilt. At the peak of the #ENDSARS Protest in the state, five divisional police headquarters were burnt by hoodlums in the state, while two other police facilities were also touched.
Four divisional police headquarters were razed in Ibadan, while one was burnt in Iseyin on Oke-Ogun axis of the state. The burnt police facilities in Ibadan include the Ojoo Divisional Police Headquarters, where 12 vehicles and the building were completely razed, and Egbeda Divisional Police Headquarters at New Gbagi Market, Old Ife Road, Ibadan, where the structures and three vehicles were burnt.
The two other police facilities burnt in Ibadan are Monatan Divisional Police Headquarters, Alabebe, where 13 vehicles inside the premises of the station were burnt alongside the buildings in the compound, as well as the Divisional Police Headquarters, Alakia-Adelubi, where six vehicles were burnt.
Akobo Divisional Police Headquarters, Ibadan was partly burnt, and firearms were said to have been carted away by the hoodlums. Ogungbade police station was also attacked by the hoodlums.
The Divisional Police Headquarters in Iseyin was razed and looted by hoodlums. Items carted away from the facility, according to the police, include generators, electronic gadgets, office equipment, guns and ammunition. The police hostel at the back of the station was also vandalised and looted. The Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) at the station was razed.
Some weeks after the protest, Governor Seyi Makinde visited the headquarters of Oyo State Police Command, Eleyele, Ibadan, during which he commiserated with the police over the loss of some of its gallant officers.
Makinde also promised that his administration would rebuild all the vandalised police stations in the state. A recent visit to some of the attacked police stations revealed that some of them have been fixed partially through the efforts of individuals, Police Community Relation Committee (PCRC) and some police personnel by themselves.
At the Egbeda Divisional Police Headquarters, Ibadan, the administrative block has been fixed. The PCRC hall has also been fixed partially and it is serving as a temporary office for police personnel in the divisional headquarters, pending the time the main office block that was razed would be rebuilt.
A policeman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Saturday Sun: “This place was completely burnt down. But we thank individuals and members of PCRC that have come to our aid. They rebuilt and painted the small building that we are using now. I spent my personal money to buy a set of furniture in my office. At least I should make my office a bit comfortable for me. But majority of our officers that were using the main office block before the tragedy, are currently using the PCRC hall. It is not convenient for them, but they are managing it.”
Also, the Iseyin community has rebuilt a block of seven rooms at the Iseyin Divisional Police Headquarters for policemen, apart from providing a borehole for the station. The community also fixed the toilet facility for the station. The police hostel at the back of the station that was vandalized and looted during the protest has also been renovated by the community. But the main office block at the station has not been fixed.
But the vandalised Ojoo Divisional Police Headquarters has been abandoned completely. The police personnel attached to the division, as gathered, have been distributed to some of the divisional headquarters at Moniya, Agbowo, Bodija, and Sango. The Akobo Divisional Police Headquarters that was partly burnt has been fixed completely and policemen have returned to the hitherto deserted facility.
Spokesperson of the Oyo State Police Command, Olugbenga Fadeyi, a Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP), refused to comment on compensation for families of the slain policemen, rebuilding of the burnt facilities, and where displaced policemen were posted.
But the Special Adviser to Governor Seyi Makinde on Security Matters, Mr. Fatai Owoseni, a retired Commissioner of Police, told Saturday Sun that compensation to the families of slain police officers would not be done arbitrarily. According to him, the Judicial Panel of Enquiry on #ENDSARS in Oyo State, under the chairmanship of a former Chief Judge of the state, Justice Badejoko Adeniji, would decide the compensation to be paid to families of slain police officers, as well as victims of police brutality.
On the renovation and rebuilding of burnt and vandalised police stations, Owoseni stated that appropriate steps were being taken to fix the police facilities. He explained that the renovation or rebuilding of the facilities isn’t what the state government could just jump into based on certain protocols that should be followed. He added that the Force Headquarters had set up an Evaluation Team from Abuja to visit the burnt facilities across the country and make recommendations on the cost of fixing the razed stations. He said it was too early to begin to say the government has not rebuilt the burnt facilities in the state.
In Imo state, all hopes for those affected police facilities to be rebuilt seems to be on the governor. Already, the only one fully reconstructed at Aboh Mbaise has been destroyed again by rampaging youths. At least a total of 11 police posts were attacked.
The Mbaitoli Police Division in Mbaitoli Local Government area (LGA) of the state seems to have recorded the most damage.
The station was completely razed and vehicles parked inside belonging to both the station and its visitors were razed as well. As at the time of this report, the station is still under reconstruction while the officers there are temporarily relocated to the Mbaitoli Development Centre.
Other stations affected are the Ehime Mbano, Ezinihite Mbaise and Orji police stations. Also, the police posts at Aboh Mbaise, Ahiazu Mbaise, Ngor Okpkala and Umuloho Police Station in Obowo were among the stations that went down in flames.
Similarly, the police barracks at Owerri Local Government area as well as the Orlu Divisional Police Station in Orlu Local Government area was also completely vandalized.
Just recently, the Aboh Mbaise police division earlier attacked by the hoodlums was attacked again after it was fully reconstructed. A police woman was wounded during a gun duel with the hoodlums.
Meanwhile, some of the policemen functioning temporarily from some government quarters have expressed displeasure about their present offices. Some of them who spoke with Saturday Sun are worried that their temporary site would expose them to more forms of attack, even as some others lamented that the place was not conducive enough.
A sergeant from one of such stations, who do not want his name mentioned, said: “It is not safe being at the centre of where people live. If there is a similar occurrence, are we protecting the people around here or ourselves? The casualty might be too much.”
Others also said rooms that were not ordinarily built for the purpose of detention of suspects were being used as cells, making the place overcrowded.
But the state government has assured that the facilities would be built, although no one knows when. State commissioner for Information and strategy, Declan Emulumba, when contacted, said the governor, Hope Uzodimma, had promised to ensure an adequate police protection of lives and property to all the residents of the state irrespective of the tribe and religion.
In Ogun State, no fewer than six police stations were either vandalised or burnt by hoodlums during the EndSARS protest. These include Atan-Ota, Ososa, Imoru, Oru-Ijebu, Obada-Oko and Idowa police stations.
Out of these, the police station in Obada-Oko has been totally rehabilitated, while that of Ososa and Oru-Ijebu are undergoing renovation. That of Atan-Ota, Imoru and Idowa are still not renovated.
When Saturday Sun visited Obada-Oko Police Station, things have returned to normalcy. All the damaged doors, the front gate, the shattered windows and damaged cell had also been fixed.
A source who spoke to our correspondent under the condition of anonymity, explained that the station, which suffered invasion by the hoodlums, had to be quickly fixed in order to provide the needed security for Obada-Oko and its environs, which according to him are prone to robbery attacks because of its proximity to the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway.
The source further hinted that measures had been put in place structurally, to prevent such invasion in future.
A resident of Erunbe Community in Obada-Oko, Festus Adegbola, expressed his joy over the reconstruction of the police station.
He said the police station, which used to serve as operational base of the disbanded Zonal Intervention Squad, has gone a long way to help provide security cover for the residents of Obada-Oko.
In Rivers state, Oyigbo Local Government Area was the only area affected. Hundreds of youths alleged to be members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) unleashed mayhem on Oyigbo, killing six soldiers and four policemen. They also razed police stations,
The suspects invaded Oyigbo Police Area Command, killed two police officers and set the entire facility ablaze, including 60 vehicles. Also, Adam Police Station was set ablaze with about 15 vehicles, including an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC).
When Saturday Sun visited the burnt Police Area Command and stations, it was discovered that they are currently occupied by the Nigerian Army. Men of the Nigeria Police were seen operating from the lock-up stores (shops) built at the front of the Oyigbo Area Command.
Three policemen who reluctantly spoke with the reporter on condition of anonymity, declined to comment. They said they still felt bitter losing their colleagues, and wouldn’t want anything or anybody to remind them of that sad development.
In Edo, some of the policemen who now operate in the open, also expressed their frustrations, especially when it rains.
The affected police stations are Oba Market Police Station in Oredo Local Government Area, Ugbekun Police Station, St. Saviour Police Station, Idogbo Police Station, Dumez Police Station in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area, Textile Mill Road and Ogida Police Stations in Egor Local Government Area of the state.
A visit to some of the burnt police stations showed that the officers and men are operating from public buildings, under trees and temporary canopies.
For instance, police operatives from the burnt Oba Market station are now operating from Oredo Secretariat close to the burnt station.
When asked how conducive their temporary operational base is, one of the police officers, who spoke to our reporters on condition of anonymity, said although the place is not conducive, the officers have no option than to continue carrying out their duties of protecting lives and property of citizens of the state.
“Just look at the place we are. Does it look like a police station? This is where we now operate from, Oredo Secretariat. But we must do our job,” he said.
At the burnt Idogbo Police Station, some of the policemen were seen sitting under a canopy while others were also seen taking shelter close by.
One of the officers, who didn’t want his name in print, told our reporters that they were highly humiliated by those who hijacked the #EndSARS protest.
“These Upper Sakponba boys humiliated us. But as at now, the Commissioner of Police said we should try our best and make our presence felt in the area. But how can we do our job when we have no specific place to stay? You can see us sitting under the canopies. It is not that we like it or we are enjoying it, but it is what we must do.
“Insecurity is the challenge of this country. We wear uniforms, so we cannot hide. If you are bringing in guns, where is the armoury to keep them? We don’t have vehicles. We are just trying our best to see that policing continues. We are appealing to the state government to help us rebuild our station,” he pleaded.
At St. Saviour Police Station, the police officers were seen sitting under a tree. The officers said they would be without a shelter if it rained.
It was recently gathered that the Edo State Government has embarked on simultaneous rebuilding of the burnt police stations through one of its agencies, Edo State Oil and Gas Producing Areas Development Commission (EDSOGPADEC).
Currently, the police stations are at various stages of rehabilitation and total rebuilding with new design and new features such as police cells, armoury, office for the armourer and bullet proof doors which will make the stations less likely to be overrun by hoodlums in the future.
It was learnt that the Oba Market Police Station would be relocated to James Watt street, off Mission Road due to lack of adequate space.
The Chairman of EDSOGPADEC, Pastor Kennedy Osifo, gave May this year as the likely completion date.
Spokesman for the Edo State Police Command, Princewill Osaigbovo, said the state government was matching words with action in trying to rebuild the burnt police stations in the state.
Rebuilding in Anambra
In Anambra, the story is entirely different. Most of the police stations and facilities destroyed have been rebuilt or undergoing reconstruction. Some of the stations are Osumenyi Police Station, Ezinifite Police Station, Ukpor Divisional Police Station, and Ichi Police Station in Ekwusigo Local Government area.
For example, the 3-3 Divisional Police Station, Onitsha was razed. Eight buildings were completely razed, ten vehicles burnt and the station’s fence pulled down. A chapel in its premises said to be newly roofed at the time with expensive roofing sheets was vandalized.
In Osumenyi community, Nnewi South LGA, two police officers lost their lives while another was beheaded and burnt in Ogidi, Idemmili North LGA.
At Ekwusigo Central Police Station and Area Command Headquarters in Oraifite community, Ekwusigo LGA, the losses were many.
In Nnewi town in Nnewi North LGA, the Central Police Station and police barracks were destroyed.
The police station located at the Oraifite axis of the Onitsha-Owerri Expressway has three buildings which were vandalised and set ablaze.
Luckily, the rebuilding process has commenced in some of the police stations. Chairman of Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing, Chief Innocent Chukwuma, is currently undertaking the rebuilding of Central Police Station and Nnewi and the project is also completed.