More than 10 weeks after the destruction of many police stations in Lagos during the #EndSARS protests, the rebuilding of the affected facilities is yet to commence, thereby stalling policing activities in various communities and parts of Lagos, Daily Trust can report.
Lagos, the economic hub of Nigeria, has witnessed an upsurge in criminal activities in the aftermath of the destruction and vandalisation of police stations and posts in the state.
No fewer than 25 police stations came under arsonists’ attacks in the wake of the #EndSARS protests which rocked the state in October 2020.
From October 19 and 20 when the Lekki shooting took place, several police stations and posts were either razed or vandalized even as some policemen were killed during the statewide melee when hoodlums reportedly hijacked the protests against police brutality.
The police stations that were affected include Orile, Amukoko, Layeni, Ilasamaja, Ikotun, Ajah, Igando, Elemoro, Makinde, Onipanu, Ebute Ero, Pen-Cinema, Isokoko, Alade, Cele, Igbo Elerin, Shibiri, Gbagada, Onilekere, Makoko, Daleko, Asahun, Makinyo, Amuwo-Odofin and the Anti-Kidnapping unit at Surulere.
Other police stations that were vandalised but not burnt are Ojo, Ojodu, Mowo, PPL and Morogbo.
By weeks, the rebuilding of the police stations was yet to commence, findings by our correspondent have shown.
From Ojodu, Pen-Cinema, Isokoko, Onipanu, Anti-Kidnapping, Orile, Cele, Ilasamaja, Daleko and several other stations toured by our correspondent, the rehabilitation of the burnt/vandalized stations has not started.
Police officers, it was gathered, are still operating mostly out of their offices while others were deployed to nearby stations pending when their stations would be rehabilitated leaving most stations crowded.
At Isokoko Agege Police Divisional Headquarters, where no fewer than four vehicles were burnt during the #EndSARS crisis, our correspondent observed that the building was still a shadow of its former self.
Though most police officers at the station declined to comment, one ventured to confirm that one of the burnt offices in the divisional headquarters was fixed through contributions by the officers.
“We had to task ourselves to buy louvres to fix one of the burnt offices, which we are using at the moment. We are still expecting the intervention of government,” the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
Similarly, the Railway Police Station at Agege was yet to be fixed when our correspondent visited.
Officers were seen outside wearing mufti and unable to operate in any of the offices. “This is how we have been operating since the station was burnt. Our patrol vehicle was also burnt,” one officer also said.
The situation is not different at Ojodu Divisional Police Station where officers were seen outside in mufti while few officers were in uniform.
It was, however, observed that part of the station housing the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) was not touched.
At the Anti-Kidnapping Police unit in Surulere, which was not burnt but completely vandalized, the station was deserted. Not a single officer was in sight while a patrol vehicle which was vandalized was yet to be removed from the station.
A trader near the station told Daily Trust that the officers in the unit had not returned since the destruction of their offices. It was however learnt that the unit is currently operating from the state command headquarters.
‘At Orile police station, vigilantes man the gate’
During the #EndSARS violence, the burning of Orile police station went viral as the expansive one-storey edifice was completely razed down by suspected arsonists.
Months after, the officers at the station are still to policing the area from the burnt building.
Our correspondent met the DPO who now occupies a makeshift office made of plywood. He, however, refused to make any comment and directed our reporter to the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO).
Scores of vigilante operatives were seen at the gate of the building. It was however not clear what their mission was when our correspondent visited, while many officers were also seen in mufti discussing outside. Despite being completely razed, officers still continue to occupy what passes for the front desk.
One officer told our correspondent in confidence that despite the recent destruction, the division has intensified its surveillance and crime prevention activities within the Orile and Iganmu axes.
“Yes, we have challenges with office accommodation but we also realized that our work is not about the building,” the officer said directing our correspondent to the PPRO for further information.
The Cele Police Station at New Itire remains deserted as the reconstruction of the station was yet to commence.
A trader near the post told our correspondent that the officers at the post now operate at the main Itire Divisional Police Headquarters.
“I was around here the day this police post was burnt by hoodlums who were armed to the teeth. They were in large number; they were certainly not from this environment. They attacked the police post and set it on fire. The officers here could not stop them because they were many, in fact some of them took to their heels,” a trader adjacent the station said.
The situation is not different at Ilasamaja Police Station, Daleko, Igando, among others visited by our correspondent.
Concerns over delay in rebuilding burnt stations
Residents and community leaders have expressed concern over the delay in rebuilding the stations which they said could worsen insecurity in the state.
“In Agege-Pen Cinema axis, crime rate has increased drastically and there are fears that the various police posts have nowhere to keep the criminals if they continue to arrest them,” said a resident of Ile Epo, Mr Benjamin who narrated how he was attacked by area boys at Pen Cinema recently.
Speaking with our correspondent, an activist, Comrade Bayo Agunloye, tasked the government to swiftly fix the burnt buildings in addition to embarking on a complete reformation of the force.
He said since the #EndSARS protest, the morale of the officers has reduced drastically. “They are now very fearful,” he said.
According to him, the station at his community in Igando which was also burnt during the protest now operates at an abandoned health centre which could not accommodate most of their staff.
Also speaking with our correspondent, chairman of the Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC) in Victoria Island, Lagos, Mr. Mathew Ibadin, described the delay in rebuilding the burnt stations as “a bad omen.”
He asked Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu who had promised to rebuild the burnt stations to fast-track the process, saying, “We don’t need to delay such thing because security should always be given priority.”
He said crime rate would be high if police stations are too far from the community, adding, however, that the various communities and corporate organizations need to come to the aid of the police to ensure the burnt stations were rebuilt.
“If there is no security in a particular community, it is going to affect crime in that area, the area is going to be high in terms of crime because the more the police station is far from the people, the more people can actually commit crime within the community.
“If I see something, for me to go and report if it is too far from where I live, I would be discouraged to go there. Even before the police officers would get to the area, they (criminals) must have caused a lot of damage.”
Policing not affected – PPRO
Speaking with Daily Trust, the state Police Public Relations Officer, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi, confirmed that the rebuilding was yet to start but said the command was working with the Lagos State government which had promised to rebuild the police stations.
However, he said the delay in rebuilding has not affected policing in those areas in any way. According to him, there have been increased patrols in the communities affected.
Adejobi also stated that the command has designed a shift structure for the affected police stations and posts to use temporarily.
He also dismissed reports that the police are not responding swiftly to distress calls, saying the officers are more than ever before alive to their responsibilities.
“The state government has promised to rebuild the stations. We have written to them and they are working with our works department. I am very sure the reconstruction of those places would commence very soon,” he said.