Lagos, Makurdi, Kano, Damaturu, Abuja, Bauchi, Kaduna — Military barracks across the country are in dire need of rehabilitation and in many cases lack enough accommodation for soldiers in spite of the yearly budgets of billions for barracks repairs, Daily Trust investigations have found out.
Our correspondents, who visited military barracks in Lagos, Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi and other places report that many buildings are in a state of disrepair, with broken doors, windows and leaking roofs.
Some barracks, according to the reports, have not been rehabilitated in 30 years, and on some occasions soldiers are called upon to financially contribute to the repair work.
Lack of enough accommodation at certain barracks forces officers to live in buildings meant for their juniors, sometimes two officers in a room.
This is even as the Federal Government has spent over N11.524 billion on construction and rehabilitation of military barracks last year.
An analysis of the 2012 budget shows that the Defence Headquarters spent N140 million on rehabilitation of barracks, while the Nigerian Army spent N1.9 billion on barracks rehabilitation and N961 million on construction of new ones.
The Navy spent N1.9 billion on barracks rehabilitation and N961 million on construction of new barracks, as the Air Force spent N2.7 billion on rehabilitation and N341 million on constructing new barracks.
Units and commands of the Armed Forces also had hundreds of millions budgeted for barracks rehabilitation. The Nigerian Defence College used N64 million and N25 million for barracks rehabilitation and construction respectively, while the Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji spent N132 million on barracks rehabilitation.
For its part, the Presidential Committee on Barracks Rehabilitation spent N2.4 billion on repair of barracks, according to details of the 2012 budget.
Investigations by Daily Trust correspondents show that in spite of the billions budgeted to maintain the barracks, most of them are in bad shape.
At the Ikeja Cantonment in Lagos, the situation was made worse by the bomb blast 11 years ago when military ordinances from the civil war era exploded, reportedly due poor storage.
Even though majority of the unexploded ordinances have been moved to Kachia, Kaduna State, some houses destroyed at that time are yet to be renovated leaving about 113 soldiers poorly accommodated.
Our correspondent reports that the roofs are bad and that cracks appear on the walls as soldiers use tarpaulin and old clothing to cover the deep cracks.
Though some religious organisations and the Federal Government had undertaken some repairs at one time, soldiers alleged that those that have been repaired have since been taken over by senior officers.
"Even at that, two officers are made to share a two-bedroom flat along with their families," a soldier said.
An officer told Daily Trust that a situation where two families share a two-bedroom flat could lead to bitterness and rancour among the officers.
During a recent visit to the cantonment, the Senate committee on defence expressed displeasure on the poor state of barracks in the country.
Chairman of the committee, Senator George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers): "I am not too happy with the way officers and soldiers are being quartered in nearly all the barracks. We think that they need decent accommodation."
In his response, the Director of the Nigerian Army Engineering Corps, Brigadier General Osemudiame Osewanta, said the Army needed more funding from the government to renovate its facilities.
In Kaduna, the repairs of rundown buildings being carried out at Ribadu Cantonment and Dalet barracks are partly borne by officers and other ranks serving under the 1 Division, our correspondent learnt.
A soldier who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity said "the buildings in the barracks have not been renovated in a long time adding that those who are desperate for accommodations opt to renovate dilapidated houses by themselves."
He said also there is dire shortage of water. "Water is not regular in the barracks so we have to buy storage tanks to store water when it is supplied by the water board," he said. "Although boreholes have been drilled, due to over population, high demand and poor maintenance, the bore holes are not functioning."
A woman whose husband was posted to Kaduna some time ago said the house allocated to them was so bad that they had to carry out a major repairs before they could move in.
"We changed the doors, windows and ceiling among other things just so that it can be comfortable for us and our children because the Army management were not ready to do it for us. If today my husband is posted out, that is how we will leave the house," she said.
Spokesman for the 1 Division of Nigerian Army, Colonel Sani Usman, could not be reached for comments as at the time of filling this report. But a senior officer denied the claim that soldiers pay for the repairs of their houses.
At the Shadawanka 33 Artillery Brigade in Bauchi, Daily Trust noticed some selective repairs of homes going on. But many other houses remain dilapidated, their roofs apparently weak and sagging under the weight of large stones placed on them as a protection from strong winds.
Soldiers who spoke to our correspondent said the barracks is in need of complete rehabilitation.
In Damaturu, soldiers at the 241 Recce Battalion complained of not only rundown buildings but also lack of perimeter fence in a city hit by insurgency.
Our reporter observed that roofs of many houses were blown off by wind.
A soldier who doesn't want to be named spoke of overcrowding at the C-Company block, while another said many roofs at the barracks leak during the raining season.
"The entire barracks is surrounded by water, so whenever River Hadeija overflows our barracks becomes like a lake, and it affects the building seriously," another soldier said.
"The barracks was established in 1972, the structure was put in place in 1976, and since then no renovation has taken place," he added.
But some barracks appear to be an exception. In Makurdi, Daily Trust gathered that the barracks at the Nigerian Army School of Military Engineering (NASME) was recently renovated by the Army headquarters.
The NASME barracks enjoys stable electricity supply following the resuscitation of its power house, and also has the advantage of regular water supply from the state water board.
In Kano, structures at the Bukavu barracks appear to be well-taken care of. It was also gathered that the Bukavu barracks was renovated during the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
When contacted Kano JTF spokesman Captain Ikedichi Iweha said: "Our barracks is in good shape. We have a special sanitation committee that oversees the issue of the upkeep of the barracks."
In Abuja, the Director of Army Public Relations Brigadier General Ibrahim Attahiru said arrangements were concluded to rehabilitate all dilapidated barracks across the country but that this will be in phases.
"There were short, medium and long term plans made by the chief of army staff since he assumed work. Barracks rehabilitation is among the items in the medium term plan and many barracks were identified for rehabilitation," he said.
The army has recently concluded the rehabilitation of the Ohafia barracks in Abia state which was uninhabited for about 20 years and over 1,000 personnel were deployed there. Also, the Shehu Yar'adua barracks and the army barracks at the Mogadishu Cantonment in Abuja have been completed by the army engineers through direct labour.
Nuruddeen M. Abdallah, Misbahu Bashir, Ahmed Mohammed, Maryam Ahmadu-Suka, Hamisu Kabir Matazu, Eugene Agha, Hope Abah, Ibrahim Musa Giginyu