By Peter Duru – Makurdi
THE recent boat mishap that claimed the lives of 26 children and wards of mobile police personnel of the MOPOL 13 Squadron in Makurdi may be a child’s play if the police authorities fail to urgently evacuate the households currently residing in the collapsing three blocks of two-storey buildings in its MOPOL Barracks at Adeke in the outskirts of Makurdi town, which incidentally is also home to most of the families who lost lives ones in that fatal boat disaster.
A visit to the barracks by Arewa Voice revealed the mind-boggling rot in the system and the outright failure of the police authorities to do anything about the impending doom that may plunge the state into avoidable wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Aside from the storey buildings, virtually all the houses in the barracks are not conducive for human habitation. In fact, they could best be described as a residence for anyone on a suicide mission. All the structures and facilities in the barrack are completely dilapidated, overtaken by weeds and in a sorry state.
There is no gainsaying that if something urgent is not done each of the three buildings which are complemented with eight blocks of two-bedroom flats on each floor, including the ground floor, may come crashing down on the over 80 households and probably close to 400 humans currently occupying the buildings.
Aside from the storey buildings, almost all the bungalows in the barrack are also in a state of disrepair and unsafe for human habitation due to years of total neglect by the authorities. The barrack can best be described as a death trap for both residents and visitors alike.
In fact, it was reliably gathered that some of the occupants who were allotted living quarters in the barracks had to pack out for fear of the buildings collapsing on them.
According to one of the residents and wife of a police inspector currently on special duty in Maiduguri, who spoke on condition of anonymity, some of the mobile police personnel have resorted to seeking accommodation for their families in safer places outside the barracks though at exorbitant rates.
“Some of us are still here because we cannot afford to pay the high rents being charged by landlords in Adeke village; but the very few who can afford the rents have moved out of the barracks. We have been living here for about four years now and each day we pray to God to safeguard us from disaster because you don’t need a soothsayer to tell you that the buildings are disasters that are waiting to happen.
“In fact, if you look at the top floors of the building, you will discover that there are no roofs on some segments and many are also not occupied because when the roofs began to leak the authorities refused to repair them and if you fix anything from your pocket you will never get a refund. So they have all deteriorated to the point that no one could live in those flats,” the mother of five added.
Another mother of six and wife of an Inspector who is on Special Duty in Zamfara State said they moved into the barracks some three years ago but have been living in fear because the buildings have been in a horrible state ever since without anyone showing concern.
“If you go round you will shed tears for the Nigeria Police Force and its personnel. Even when our husbands complained about the condition of the buildings and tried to draw the attention of the authorities to the situation, their superiors felt embarrassed and unhappy.
“Though my husband is on special duty outside the state at the moment, I have been able to convince him to move my children and I out of this place before the building collapses on us because it will certainly happen someday if something urgent is not done to save the buildings.
“It is sad that our husbands go out there to give their level best to this country endangering their lives to protect and safeguard the society but regrettably they retire home each day to an unsafe environment that poses a greater danger to their lives when compared to what they encounter daily in the course of doing their jobs. It is sad,” she added.
Speaking on the issue, a civil engineer, Jonathan Tyo, implored those responsible for the maintenance of police buildings in the country to carry out an immediate structural integrity test on the buildings to determine their suitability for habitation or pull them down.
“What you call the MOPOL Barracks Adeke Village Makurdi built several years ago is nothing but a death trap and everybody is turning a blind eye until those buildings collapse on the families residing in them. It is obvious the buildings may not pass the structural integrity test, hence it should be vacated without further delay because they are not habitable in order to avert a disaster of unimaginable proportion.”
The State Police Public Relations Officer, Deputy Superintendent, DSP, Catherine Anene, said the condition of the buildings in the barrack is a welfare issue and it is supposed to be handled from Abuja. “That is the much I can say about that matter for now,” she submitted.