Nigerian Army Barracks In Bad Shape

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By Samuel Malik

Hauling two 25-litre jerry cans of water, one in each hand, she abruptly dropped them on the ground and wiped her brow with the edge of her wrapper.

She then decided that it was better, even if it took far more time, to move the jerry cans one at a time over short distances. “My brother, I no fit leave my water here make somebody come carry am go,” she said, catching her breath. The reporter had asked why she did not carry a jerry can home and then go back for the other.

Mama Baby, as she called herself, had managed to bring her jerry cans one kilometre away from the only reliable source of water in the army barracks at the 244 Recce Battalion, Saki, Oyo State. The hand pumped borehole was sunk about 20 years ago when soldiers who went for a peacekeeping mission in Liberia donated money to ease the water problem in the barracks.

The 244 Battalion has over the years grappled with problems of severe water shortage, dilapidated building and bad roads.

This is in spite of the huge amount of money the Nigerian government budgets every year, through the Ministry of Defence and Presidential Committee on Barracks Rehabilitation, for the rehabilitation of military barracks.

How soldiers are accommodated in barracks  

Accommodation in army barracks is usually categorised into three according to the rank of soldiers: other ranks’ quarters, sergeants’ quarters and officers’ quarters.

Privates, Lance Corporals and Corporals all live in other ranks quarters while Sergeants, Staff Sergeants, Warrant Officers, and Master Warrant Officers, also known as non-commissioned officers, NCOs, live in sergeants’ quarters.

The officers’ quarters are for commissioned officers, that is Second Lieutenant, Lieutenants, Captains, Majors, Lieutenant Colonels, Colonels, Brigadier Generals, Major Generals, Lieutenant Generals, and General. But, in a battalion, the most senior officer is usually a Colonel or Lieutenant Colonel.

Renovated NCOs building
Renovated NCOs building

Due to their population, other ranks are provided with the most accommodation followed by NCOs and then commissioned officers.

In the 244 Battalion, there are 101 blocks of 12 one-bedroom flats for other ranks while NCO quarters contain 50 blocks of two two-bedroom flats each and a detached three-bedroom flat for the Regimental Sergeant Major, RSM.

The commissioned officers quarters contain 33 houses, including a fenced and gated residence for the commanding officer.

Beautiful barracks left to rot

Built in 1978, the barracks, according to a retired soldier who began his military career in the barracks, was one of the best military barracks ever built in terms of quality and aesthetics.

“After our passing out from depot in 1979, we were taken to Ibadan and after eight months we were posted to 19 Battalion in Saki. It was a beautiful barracks, from the arrangement of blocks to the walkways. Everything worked fine,” Molta Tarki, a retired Corporal, said.

Thirty-eight years later, it is now a mixture of both dilapidated and habitable buildings, with some of the latter in need of a facelift.

The first rehabilitation of the barracks was done after 20 years when some buildings in the other ranks’ quarters were renovated. Non-commissioned and commissioned officers’ quarters, however, were not touched.

In 2010, through the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, two more other ranks’ buildings were refurbished along with the barracks clinics, primary school and commanding officer’s residence.

Renovated other ranks block
Renovated other ranks block

For the next four years, no renovation work was done in spite of the billions of naira allocated for barracks rehabilitation nationwide during the same period.

Between 2012 and 2014, Nigerian Army budgeted N4,220,908,807 for barracks rehabilitation. During the same period, the Presidential Committee on Barracks Rehabilitation, PCBR, budgeted N6,688,843,892 for rehabilitation of army, navy and airforce barracks in the country.

Aside the army allocations, however, the 244 Battalion had money specifically set aside for it.

In 2012 and 2013, the PCBR allocated N22,125,000 and N3,331,359 respectively for renovation works in the barracks while in 2014, N150 million was allocated for renovation and asphaltic landscaping as part of the federal government-funded constituency projects.

Despite these provisions, it was only in 2015 that more buildings were renovated.

According to our findings, 18 building were renovated in 2015, 12 of them in the commissioned officers’ quarters. The remaining six were in the NCOs quarters.

Out of the 101 buildings meant for other ranks, our reporter found 25 unoccupied blocks, totalling 300 one-bedroom flats, desperately in need of attention.

Blocks of unrenovated buildings
Blocks of unrenovated buildings

In 2010, the first time work was done in the barracks since the advent of democracy, only two buildings in the other ranks’ quarters were renovated and nothing has been done since.

The Ministry of Defence has refused to respond to a freedom of information request sent on January 25 by the www.icirnigeria.org seeking information about army barracks rehabilitation projects and their status. The ministry had written back to the ICIR on February 9 asking for a meeting with the Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, DPRS. Signed by J. A. Ibidapo, Deputy Director, Research and Statistics, DD R&S, the ministry asked the Centre to pick a date for the discussion. However, our letter suggesting a date for the meeting has been ignored since February and no response has come from the ministry

Water shortage compounded by bad roads

The 38 year old roads inside the barracks are now pothole-ridden and require fixing, with soldiers resorting to filling the potholes with sand and stones, especially during rainy season. Erosion has continued to wash away large portions of the roads.

The ones who bear the brunt of the bad roads most are the women, youth and children that have to use them when they go to fetch water at the borehole.

In three years, 2012–2014, the Nigerian Army budgeted N278,548,812 for provision of water in barracks but there is no evidence that the 244 Battalion benefited from this money.

Due to the water shortage, many homes own a pushcart that can each carry up to twelve 25 litre jerry cans of water but pushing them is a herculean task and can take up to an hour, depending on the pusher and the distance. This is beside several minutes and hours one spends queuing to get the water.

This 19 years old hand pump borehole is the major source of water in the barracks
This 19 years old hand pump borehole is the major source of water in the barracks

A soldier, who does not want to be named, said the best time to get water, especially for unmarried soldiers who have to be at work by 8:00am, is to go to the borehole when everyone is sleeping.

“If you go there anytime from 12:00 am, you are sure of not wasting time to get water because many people have gone to bed,” he said, adding that sometimes there are people even at that time of the night.

Some of the women spoke to our reporter but refused to reveal their husbands’ identities to prevent them from being sanctioned by army authorities.

According to Magdalene, she cannot push a cart on the road because her house is more than one kilometre away from the borehole.

“I don’t have grown up children to help me fetch water and when my husband is not around I have to do it myself and that is why I monitor my children to ensure that they do not waste water,” she said.

Ummi, whose husband is in the North east fighting Boko Haram, relies on people she pays to get her water, especially when the borehole gets spoilt. “My husband does not like me going out but if I don’t, how do I get water. Sometimes I pay some children when they close from school to fetch me water,” she said.

For Jamilu and his friends, it is no problem moving the carts as they have mastered how to deal with both the weight and bad roads.

“Sometimes three of us use one cart, each person having four jerry cans. What we do is that we tire a rope in front of the cart, so while two people push it the other person pulls the rope,” he explained.

In the past, however, things were not that bad, according to Tarki.

“You see, there is a mountain close to the armoury and on that mountain there are two giant tanks that supplied water to the whole barracks in the ‘80s. Then, there were hardly water taps outside the buildings because people did not need them, as the ones in kitchens and bathrooms worked fine,” he explained.

“However, somebody stole the generator that supplied light to the pumping machine and before you knew it, the machine too was gone and they were not replaced.”

To cushion the problem, a tap was put beside the barracks clinic when it was renovated in 2010 but like the other taps in the barracks, it needs electricity to function. The unstable power supply, or low voltage when it is available, means it cannot be relied upon.




     

     

    A hand pumped borehole was provided at the officers’ quarters but this is too far for most people, as the quarters are at one end of the barracks.

    Thus, Mama Baby and other residents have to rely on the hand pumped borehole provided by soldiers themselves 19 years ago.

    “We don tire for this water problem but wetin we go do na? If to say army fit put at least two more boreholes for the barracks, e go reduce the problem,” she said.

    This investigation was done with support from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting

     

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