Policemen in Imo State sent out of their homes demonstrate against non-provision of alternative accommodation. There is concern that the development may undermine security during the festive season, The Nation reports.
The stench of excreta mixed with sweat and endless streams of smoke coming from charcoal burners and cigarettes hung thickly in the air. From a narrow pathway connecting some makeshift houses a handful of underfed children came running in every direction.
Not too far from a dingy restaurant built with disused zinc, no fewer than 10 men of varying ages sat round a gigantic table carrying bottles of various shapes and contents while a thickset lady in her early 50s served them.
They chatted at the top of their voices, each trying to outshout the other in their argument, quite oblivious of their surroundings. Once in a while, a shrill cry of a baby pierced through the cacophony of noises.
At another end, shoe cobblers and food vendors jostled for space as they meandered from one narrow path to the other, dodging soak-away pits partially covered with equally rotten planks.
At the entrance, one is greeted by the sight of washed clothes hanging precariously on every available space, including low-hanging electric cables.
Welcome to a typical police barracks in Imo State. Apart from the poor condition of the barracks, the accommodation is not enough for the Police officers serving in the state, prompting some of them to look for alternative housing outside the barracks.
Piqued by the development, operatives from the counter-terrorism unit of the Imo State Police Command took to the streets to protest the anomaly.
For two days, the hooded police officers barricaded the Owerri/Orlu road in Owerri, the Imo State capital resulting in heavy gridlock and panic in the area.
Shooting sporadically into the air, the demonstrators who hid their identities also set bonfires on the highway.
Narrating their ordeal to newsmen, one of the protesting officers said, “We have been pushed out of our quarters on Orlu Road by the management of Federal Medical Centre Owerri. To make things worse, our commander supported the act and no alternative place has been provided for us.
“We moved into this place in 2015 after our quarters in Nekede were marked for renovation. But this base 7 of CTU of Nigeria Police Force started operation in this state in 2011. We have done more than enough to ensure safety and security in this state. This is not the best way to treat us considering the kind of work we are doing in this state”.
Speaking further, the officer said, “As we demonstrate, our families are stranded. Bulldozers are destroying the quarters. Our property, documents, credentials and other personal belonging are outside.
“We demand better treatment. We are human beings working for the betterment of this country. We should be treated like human beings, not like animals”
When contacted, the State Command Public Relations Officer, Orlando Ikokwu, told our correspondent that alternative quarters have been provided for the protesting policemen.
The command spokesperson said that the state commissioner of Police, Dasuki Galadanchi had instructed the CTU commander to ensure that his subordinates settled in the new quarters as quickly as possible.
Ikokwu said that the protesting cops failed to understand that the quarters where they were ejected from were not supposed to be their permanent quarters.
He said that the protest would not deter the command from fighting crimes and making the yuletide period a crime-free one.
Police welfare is a constant issue of discourse, with concerns that the law enforcement agents cannot give their best in face of glaring welfare deficits. They are poorly kitted and are also said to be outgunned by some felons they are expected to go after. Remuneration is equally a concern.
In July policemen in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital and epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency took to the streets shooting into the air and chanting war songs in protest of what they called six months unpaid allowances. Some of the protesters wore hoods to mask their faces. Some did not bother to conceal their identities. The protest was filmed and widely circulated especially on social media.
However, police authorities in Abuja denied that the protest took place, saying the policemen seen on the streets went to the command headquarters to find out why their allowances were being delayed.