Policemen in Rivers decry move to demolish homes

Hundreds of policemen in Rivers State have sent a Save our Soul (SoS) messages to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) following plans to demolish their homes in some stations located in the state.

It was gathered that the police authority in the state concluded plans to begin removal of what it referred to as illegal structures from police land across the state.

But hundreds of policemen occupying such structures with their family members said destroying the houses would render their wives and children homeless and beg the inspector-general of police to have a rethink.

It was gathered that demolition notices were already pasted on such structures at Mini Okoro police stations in Port Harcourt.

The notice dated June 3 was addressed to all occupants of houses at Nimi Okoro police station and signed by the police provost Marshall for the state Commissioner of Police.

The document tagged, Notice of Removal of Illegal Structures on the Nigeria Police Land, Rivers State Command, relied on a signal issued in 2004 by the then inspector-general of police.

The document stipulated that the destruction of the structures would begin on June 5 giving the occupants and their families only two days to move their belongings out of their houses.

It was gathered that the houses, which were about to be uprooted, were erected by the affected policemen following lack of accommodation for them and their families.

The policemen of various ranks especially junior officers and rank and file were said to have saved money to build small structures for their families since the government could not provide accommodation for them.

The demotion notice said: “Your attention is hereby drawn to IGP’s 2004 circular in respect of the illegal structure you built on government land without approval.

“However, the Commissioner Police in his final magnanimity has given you till 5th June 2020 to voluntarily remove the illegal structures.

“Take note that the building will be forcefully demolished after this ultimatum whether you are present or not. You are advised in your own interest to remove it to avoid embarrassment”.

Though the police were yet to send bulldozers to the area, it was gathered that the notice created panic among the affected policemen forcing some of them to relocate their properties and families to uncompleted buildings.

But the affected policemen said they had no other place to go and begged the police authority to either reconsider the demolition plan or provide accommodation for them.

A policeman, who spoke in confidence, said demolishing the buildings at this time would cause them extreme hardship and affect their productivity.

He said: “We built these structures on our own because there is no accommodation for policemen and their families in the state. We saved money out of our small salaries to give ourselves shelter. We thought of renting accommodation outside but shelved the idea because of security reasons.

“We have stayed here for many years and because our families have shelter, we can concentrate on our jobs. Over these years we have lived here, there has not been any effort by the government to build low cost housing for policemen.

“We suffered to do it ourselves and they are threatening to pull the houses down. Where do they want to us to go? What will happen to our families and children? We are begging the government and the IGP to come to our rescue. We are asking the IGP to help us because we know he doesn’t want to see his men homeless”.

Another policeman, who spoke in confidence, said the notice of demolition has unsettled them since it was issued and pasted on their houses.

“We built these houses inside Nimi Okoro Police Station ourselves with our own hard-earned money. This demolition notice has unsettled us. We have been managing these structures for many years.

“Giving us this short notice to remove these structures without providing alternatives is giving us stress and headaches. Where do we move to? Some of us have started moving their things to uncompleted buildings. We are begging the police authority and the IGP to consider our plight”, he said.

When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Nnamdi Omoni, could not be reached but a senior police officer, who confirmed the development in confidence, said it was a police internal affair and should not be subjected to public scrutiny.

He said it was improper to build illegal structures in police stations adding that the police would always allocate available accommodation to their homeless personnel.

“Even when accommodation is not available, it should not give any policeman the liberty to begin erecting illegal structure on police land”, he said.

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