Metro & Crime

Burnt police barracks: Protectors become helpless, homeless

In the last one week, Nigerians have gone to hell and back, with many now homeless while others may become bankrupt after hoodlums’ attacks on their sources of livelihood. Although there have been tales of woes from different parts of the country, everybody is still shells-hocked over the murders, arsons and looting which have characterised the initially peaceful #EndSARS protests, which started on October 7. Following the shootings of #EndSARS protesters by soldiers on October 20, 2020, at the Lekki Tollgate in Lagos, some alleged, protesters went on the rampage, burning, killing and looting.

People have agreed that the Nigerians that carried out the wanton destructions were not part of the #EndSARS peaceful protesters, who kicked off the demonstrations. Those mostly affected by these attacks are members of the Nigerian Police. Many of them are now homeless while others are still in different hospitals treating injuries. When hoodlums besieged police stations, they didn’t care that most of these stations had barracks.

These barracks are homes to many personnel and their children. The police, before now, had been having challenges with accommodation for their personnel across the nation. This explains why most policemen sleep in exhibit cars, after reporting to new posts. As the smoke from the burnt police stations begin to disappear, stories of how police stations were razed have continued to emanate from different communities.

The Secretary of Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC), Makinde Police Station, Pastor George Okoye, recalling how the station was attacked and then burnt down, said he had never witnessed such an act of wanton destruction in his life. He said the new Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of Makinde Police Station, Chief Superintendent of Police (CSP) Francis Ebuhuoma, along with other policemen in the station and families living in the Makinde Barracks would have been burnt, but for the intervention of Air Force personnel.

Okoye is a resident of Makinde. He said: “The hoodlums targeted Makinde Police Station. It happened on Wednesday. They first came about 11am, but the DPO came out and appealed to them. He even gave them money.

When it was 3pm, they came back. They were armed with fuel in small cans; used for storage of water. They wanted to burn the DPO and the policemen inside the station, but someone alerted the Air Force.

They came and started pleading with them, but they refused to listen. Even while the Air Force men were still pleading, some had started hurling fuel at the building and fire had started.”

Okoye added that when the Air Force men realised that the hoodlums were determined to burn down the police station and barracks, they begged them to allow the police personnel and those in the barracks to leave. He said: “They accepted and then after everyone had gone out, they started looting and burning down the place.

It was terrible.” According to Okoye, aside from the destruction of the police station and barracks, what also hurt him was the destruction of the PCRC Multi-Purpose Hall. He explained that the hall was built by members of the PCRC. According to him, for three years each member had been contributing money towards the completion of the building. The PCRC members were also planning to paint and inaugurate it before the end of the year.

The dream, however, becomes a stillborn as the hoodlums looted the metal doors, aluminium windows, tiles, bags of cement, imported WCs, standing washhand basins, toilet accessories, over 80 plastic chairs and sets of office chairs in the DPO’s office. Okoye said that everything stolen amounted to N1,811,500, excluding the cost of the building itself. “Before the arrival of the Air Force, the DPO radioed the Area F Commander.

The commander called and urged the Air Force to rush to Makinde Police Station to rescue the policemen. They burnt and looted the police station and barracks for three days. They looted from Wednesday to Friday.

The multi-purpose hall alone cost us N1.4 million before we could get it to this level. We tasked ourselves to build it and bought those items. “We have been assisting the police. We were hopeful that the hall could be put to use for many things.

The policemen used to have their meetings outside, under a canopy. We saw the hoodlums remove the doors and windows, cart them away and we couldn’t do anything,” Okoye added. On his part, the PCRC Auditor, Alhaji Oladega Tajudeen, said he wept over the destruction. He said: “What I saw that day brought tears to my eyes. We watched them loot our sweat and we couldn’t do anything.”

The PCRC members urged the government to quickly come to their aid, not just to recover the looted items, but to rebuild the station and barracks. Okoye called on the government not to waste time in rebuilding the Makinde Police Station. He said: “We seriously want our police station back. Makinde is an area infested with crimes and criminals.

We can’t afford not to have a police station in this community. “Those of us living in this community know how we’ve been working day and night to ensure and maintain security. It has not been easy. In fact, the boys who burnt Makinde Police Station came from Oshodi, Mushin and Orile-Oshodi. They’re not even from this community.”

A product designer, Oke Obi-Enadhuze, who helped build a blood donation app for Life Bank Services, was stabbed to death during the burning of the Makinde Police Station. Oke’s brother, Daniel, said the family lived in the police barracks beside Makinde Police Station.

The thugs stormed the police barracks, looted homes and attacked people. Daniel said when they arrived at his home, his brother tried to protect the family but the thugs stabbed him in the neck.

At Ajuwe Police Station, which also housed the Area J Command, the hoodlums did not only burn the stations down, but also burnt and looted banks adjacent them. A witness, Iyke Egbogu, said the thugs started burning and looting on Wednesday.

He added: “When they got to the police station, policemen tried to repel them for four hours, shooting sporadically, but the hoodlums were too many. The station was burnt because there was no back-up. The police had to run for safety or get killed. Before they came en-mass, two Corolla cars first came to the station with people armed with sticks and then a 4MATIC car came.

These men were armed with machetes and guns. “They burnt two of our water trucks. They burnt Zenith Bank, First Bank, Fidelity Bank and Access Bank. They burnt 10 vehicles at Access Bank, looted and damaged its ATM.

At First Bank, they burnt five cars, while at Zenith Bank they burnt three cars and looted four ATM points. “Also at Fidelity Bank, they burnt all the cars, but I didn’t count them. The protesters also burnt shopping malls along that stretch of the road, looted electronic shops and boutiques.

“We’re not happy that media stations were so focused on what happened at Lekki Tollgate, but nobody was reporting or telling the story of the hell we were going through at this part of Ajah.” Another witness, Michael Igbokwe, living at Okokomaiko area of the metropolis, said the hoodlums stormed Okoko Police Station on Thursday.

He added: “They were armed with sophisticated guns. They wanted to burn down the police station, but Okoko youths teamed up and confronted them. The problem started at 9pm and lasted till 3am. The policemen shot into the air to scare and disperse them but it didn’t work. They would have burnt down that police station, but for the youth in the community.

“Ojo and Ajangbadi police stations were partly torched. Many houses at Alaba Rago were completely razed. Many people will be homeless.” At Area M Police Command, which also houses Idimu Police Station, the hoodlums were said to have left after policemen told them the arsonists too would be consumed by the inferno. “We’re not saying you shouldn’t burn the station, but we want to let you know that the whole of this area is lined with NNPC pipelines,” the policemen reportedly told the hoodlums.

The state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, on Tuesday, said the command had arrested 520 suspects for murdering six policemen, inflicting injuries on 38 others, among other crimes. Among those arrested was a 15-year-old boy, Staven Samuel, who joined other youth to burn down Shangisha Police Station and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) buses at Berger Terminal. Samuel, an apprentice, said that he was heading home, when he ran into the protesters. He said: “I reside at Ojodu Berger. I left home to meet my boss, who is a bricklayer at Ketu. But my boss asked me to return home because of the situation in the state.

“As I was going home, I met a man who we call Alhaji. He gave me a gallon of fuel and asked him to follow him to Shangisha Police Station. When we got there, Alhaji collected the gallon of fuel from me, went into the station with other protesters and burnt down the station.

“After we left there, we went to the BRT terminal at Berger and set the buses on fire. After which I was asked to go home. We are 30 in number that carried out the act. We were about to leave the scene when policemen arrived. I was arrested.”

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