Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that the efforts by the police to provide adequate accommodation for its personnel has come to fruition with the recently completed flats in Badagry, Lagos.
However over flogged the cliche 'man is a product of its environment' has become, it has nonetheless proven to be true times without number. For the men of the police force, their sometimes irascible behaviour are often blamed on their environment and living conditions.
Whilst the policemen are expected to be out there fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities in either internal security or mediating in civil cases, they often times face the challenge of inadequate office and residential accommodation and some often live under inhumane and pitiable conditions. More sad, is the fact that most of these officers who have served meritoriously before retirement are often left in the lurch once their service years are over.
Thus, in a bid to boost the welfare and living conditions of officers of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, recently inaugurated the first tranche of 312 units out of the proposed 1,083 units of two and three-bedroom flats at the Muhammadu Buhari Housing Estate in Mowo area of Badagry, Lagos, built by Reamax Realtors Ltd.
Also, given that food and shelter remain tops on man's hierarchy of needs, this welfare measure is expected not just to boost the commitment of the officers in securing the nation, but to provide a roof over their heads through affordable accommodation.
Planned over 64 hectares of land, upon completion, the estate is billed to have facilities like nursery and primary schools, a mini shopping complex with a banking facility, an event management centre and a petrol station.
Already, some of the beneficiaries have received the keys to their flats and at the inauguration, two police officers, DSP Felicia Obembe and Sgt.Blessing Okurube received keys to their flats and thanked the IG on behalf of other beneficiaries.
According to the Commissioner of Police Cooperative, CP Shola David, the 1,083 units of flats named Muhammadu Buhari Estate at Badagry was in fulfilment of the IG's promise to improve the welfare of Nigeria Police Officers.
He said, "Today is a remarkable day in the history of the Nigeria Police under the leadership of the IG as he inaugurates the 1,083 units of flats at Muhammadu Buhari Estate. This is the first phase which has 312 units consisting of three and two bedroom flats and officers of the Nigeria Police have shown interest.
"This is in fulfillment of the IG's promise to improve the welfare of Nigeria Police Officers as he has decided to be here to inaugurate the project. We will be calling on the IG for inauguration soon as the same project had been embarked upon in Kaduna, Kano, Zamfara and Sokoto."
Like Badagry, like Idimu
A journey of a thousand miles they say begins with a step and the same can be said of the recently inaugurated estate as it started about eight years ago under a previous administration.
The first estate named the Goodluck Jonathan Housing Estate in Idimu, a 500 unit of three-bedroom flats constructed for officers and men of the police force in Lagos, was also targeted at catering to the housing needs of police officers at a subsidised rate and it also served as a morale booster and in essence drove the desired result as regards the officers living up to their responsibilities.
As the first time the police would use the initiative to build an estate on buyer-owner basis, the project took eight months to complete and it represents another successful Private-Public Partnership in providing housing for policemen.
Again, given the deplorable state and conditions of different barracks across the nation, which either needs rehabilitation and constructing of new ones, these additional 312 units constructed in addition to the 500 in Idimu was a step in the right direction.
In Idimu, the flats were constructed on owners-occupier programme for officers who will pay through the Police Cooperative Society and each block of flat cost N8 million for interested officers, given that similar projects were ongoing on in Badagry, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna and other parts of the country.
Need for shelter
It would simply be stating the obvious to say that the living conditions of the police in the barracks are at best deplorable. Years of alleged mismanagement and paucity of funds further deteriorated several barracks across the country, therefore throwing personnel of the force sometimes to the elements.
Having analysed this situation, the current Inspector General of Police, Idris, recently sent the ball rolling in ensuring that its serving personnel who would one day retire are provided with affordable housing.
Idris who also inaugurated the newly constructed Mopol 22 Headquarters building in Ikeja, said he was committed to improvement of the welfare of police officers, adding that one of his pivotal keys borders on welfare of men and personnel.
He said, "In my inaugural speech on July 22, 2016, I said the Nigerian Police Force will henceforth be guided by international core values of policing with integrity, ensuring that the rule of law prevails in all our actions and activities. I also assured police personnel of my determination to accelerate all issues as regards the welfare of police men and their families such as promotion, prompt payment of salaries, provision of affordable housing units among others.
"These promises I pursued with zeal because of my firm belief that police officers deserve the support in terms of welfare and other logistics given the nature of our job. In view of the above, my administration has sustained major result oriented initiatives aimed at reinvigorating the police welfare system through police cooperative and insurance which involved investments made by police personnel.
"The product of this painstaking effort has culminated into these housing units named after the President whose moral support has brought us this far. It is therefore with high sense of fulfilment and honour and gratitude that I inaugurate the Muhammadu Buhari Housing Estate Mowo, Badagry, Lagos State in keeping my promise to my hard working police officers across this country.
"If you may recall, similar projects were inaugurated in other parts of the country such as Katsina, Zamfara, Niger and FCT while that of Enugu will kick off soon. The welfare of the personnel of the Nigeria Police Force especially the rank and file is utmost for a more functional proactive and effective police force.
"Consequently, I enjoin you to be at your best applying best practices in our dealings with the civil populace with total loyalty to our dear nation. I also thank the police cooperative society and our partners for making this dream come through."
The Realtor's drive
For the brain behind the 500 units constructed in Idimu and the recent 312 units in Badagry, the dream to build affordable accommodation for policemen was not without its share of challenges. According to the CEO Director, Remax Realtors Ltd, Mrs. Adefunke Adesoji, the challenges included additional sand filling to forestall flooding, as well as the rise in dollar which inadvertently affected the cost of building materials.
In her speech at the project inuguration she said, "On behalf of the chairman and the board of Remax Realtors Ltd, we are pleased to commend the uncanny leadership qualities of the IGP for making today a reality and finding time out of his busy schedule to inaugurate this project .
"We do appreciate your support since you came on board, through moral and financial support at the most critical time. We see this not only as support to our organisation but rather your unflinching commitment to the welfare of the men and officers of the force by providing them with decent and affordable accommodation they can all be proud to call their own, now and at retirement, which indeed is one of your goals when you mounted the saddle.
"The event of today has been a journey of about eight years when the management of the Nigeria Police Force under IGP Mike Okiro (rtd.) mooted the idea of a House Ownership Scheme for the men and officers of the Police Force.
"Since then, Remax Realtors has worked with the Nigeria Police Multipurpose Cooperative Society to provide 500 (three bedroom flats) at Idimu which was inaugurated by former President Goodluck Jonathan -and the estate christened as Goodluck Jonathan Housing Estate.
"Today, is another landmark occasion where Remax do have the privilege to be involved with the inauguration of another estate under our current President-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd). The estate when fully developed would have 1,083 bungalows of both two-bedrooms and three-bedrooms delivered to the Nigeria Police Multipurpose Cooperative Society.
"The amenities provided are modern, with water reticulation systems to provide water to the estate, a central sewage processing system and over 14 Kilometres of paved road running through the estate. Other facilities planned are a nursery and primary schools, a mini shopping complex with a banking facility, an event management centre and a petrol station.
"The estate is planned over 64 hectares of land to give a befitting layout and ambience for a 21st Century development that would appreciate in value particularly giving the intended commercial significance of Badagry being put in place by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State and eventual completion of the 10-lane expressway under re-construction.
"The construction of Muhammadu Buhari Estate threw up several challenges that led us to the drawing board on many occasions, severally, the most significant of which made us to raise the levels by filling up the land mass with sands, in order to forestall the likely effect of flooding that would likely occur from a raised road level when the expressway is completed.
"The project also suffered a major shock, having been caught at construction stage with massive foreign exchange devaluation. For example, the exchange rate at contract signing was N156 to one dollar this rose and invariably hovered at N380/450 to one dollar at different points. This led to higher cost of building materials on both imported and local goods, thereby spiralling costs of construction at an astronomical rate.
"I can't conclude my speech without thanking our financial backers. I would like to thank especially Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc who gave the initial financing of over a billion naira. We do indeed appreciate your commitment and assurance to continue to support this laudable initiative should we get the project to the level where the impact of foreign exchange devaluation can guarantee a project that would adequately cover the cost of funds. We also do thank the Police Mortgage Bank Plc for providing further funds to meet the shortfalls at critical moment for reasons highlighted above.
"Our commitment to the IGP and the Police Multipurpose Society Ltd, is that we want our tomorrow to be better than yesterday, that the delivery of other housing units would definitely be an improvement in timing and quality over what we are doing today. We do crave your continued support for a historic moment that all the housing units should be delivered within your tenure as the IGP."
With these accommodations, it would be stating the obvious to note that gestures like these, often secure the unalloyed loyalty of officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force in the sustenance and defence of democracy in Nigeria, given that government has already played their part in securing a befitting and affordable shelter for them.