At Obalende police barracks, some of them were seen hawking sachets of water with the view to contributing to the economic empowerment of their mothers.
– Where kids of fallen cops withdraw from school, beg for living, turn to crime for survival
They gave their lives for us in the line of duty. They died that others might live. They took the bullets that the bad boys meant for all of us. They stood in the gap between us and death. They provided security for others while alive. But, alas, there’s nobody to provide financial security for their children now that they are no more.
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That, in a nutshell, is the sad story of the Nigerian policemen who died in the line of duty. Reports say over 500 children of about 100 policemen and officers who paid the supreme price while responding to emergency calls are now out of school for failure to pay school and ancillary fees.
Children take to crime and begging
It is now commonplace to see some of them roaming the barracks and looking for something to eat. The females among them, according to findings, are vulnerable to all sorts of fleshly temptations while the males, more often than not, take to pilfering and other petty thievery. In fact, they are said to have become barracks urchins responsible for the vandalisation of exhibit vehicles parked at various open places within the barracks.
It is not unusual to see these children run after strangers to beg for food at the slightest opportunity. Social events within some of the police barracks, particularly in Lagos, provide an opportunity for some of them to look for strategic places from where to grab leftovers as soon as the party is over.
Their mothers who are largely not skilled in any profession would be seen selling petty things by the roadside while the ‘established ones’ fry yams/bean cakes at some makeshift shacks that littered the barracks as a way of making ends meet. The established ones also sell spirits known as paraga in local parlance and are known to convert their apartments into beer parlours and pepper soup joints.
A weeklong investigation by Saturday Sun revealed that some of these children have been turned into street urchins. They move from one barrack to another, wearing same old school uniforms because they simply cannot afford new ones. At Oduduwa Police barracks, our correspondent met one Sunday Agbo, who claimed to have lost his father, a sergeant, in the Benue State herdsmen attack. He dropped out of school, he said, because nobody was ready to shoulder the responsibility of paying his school fees and those of his two younger brothers.
“We live by begging,” he said, adding that the sudden death of his father had taken a heavy toll on his mother who had to feed them by “going out to visit relations who appeared not to be interested in our affairs anymore.” His mother has been waiting for the pension and gratuity of their father who enlisted into the Ngeria Police Force 12 years ago, he informed. “The pension of a thing is a meager sum of money that may not take us to any level in terms of educational advanc ment. We have to feed, clothe and live in a conducive environment. But all these are now like a luxury,” he lamented.
Making a living the hard way
At Obalende police barracks, some of them were seen hawking sachets of water with the view to contributing to the economic empowerment of their mothers. Largely underaged, those of them who are not hawking, are seen helping neighbours do some domestic chores: washing cars, plates and sweeping of their surroundings.
Speaking with Saturday Sun, Samuel Ikan, aged 9, said that his father died on his way to Abuja to resume duty. The vehicle that was conveying him and other passengers was reportedly ambushed by armed bandits who rained bullets on them indiscriminately. “My father was ambushed and killed like an inedible snake,” he sighed. “Now our education has hit the rocks.”
The story is not different at the Police Mobile Force barracks, Keffi, Lagos. Like most of the obituary papers pasted on the walls of the residential quarters indicate, many of the officers and men were slain in the line of duty. A serving police officer attached to the unit and who pleaded that his name should not be mentioned in print told our correspondent that seven of their officers perished in the first half of last year.
“It is not today that our men and officers started dying while on duty just like that. It takes the grace of God to go to work and come back in one piece. I know of four officers whose children have become beggars overnight, because their fathers died while responding to emergencies at Ikorodu. But we shall continue to do our work because that is what we signed up for. The public does not love us. They ridicule us most of the time. Our big Ogas too do not help matters. They parade us like criminals whenever we make a mistake. Policing is a thankless job.”
Categorising victims according to fate
At Gowon Estate barracks, also in Lagos, out of three officers who were said to have lost their lives in the past one year, only one still has his children schooling. A source at Force Headquarters, Abuja, tried to categorise the affected children. First, there were those who lost their dads when they were mowed down in bomb attacks by Boko Haram insurgents on some of the police stations. “We lost not only men but also arms and ammunition to the invading religious campaigners. Sadly, majority of the torched police stations have not been reconstructed till date.”
The second group is made up of those officers who were killed while trying to respond to distress calls from various robbery operations across the country, most especially in big cities like Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, etc. The source noted: “The police recorded one of the most shocking casualties involving our officers and men during the Offa robbery in Kwara State. The incident happened at a time the police eggheads were planning to re-strategise their operations particularly as they concern armed robbery and related high crimes. During the Offa robbery, our officers were massacred like flies. It was a terrible incident that jolted us here at the Force Headquarters”.
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The third batch of officers whose families are suffering are those who died from terminal illnesses. “Although this category is never a daily occurrence but in what you could call a happenstance, we have about 20 of such cases in a year across the country.”
Cause of suffering
The source attributed the cause of the suffering of most families of the slain officers to the police tradition, which demands that, if an officer’s family happens to be living in the barracks before his untimely death, they should be immediately ejected and his apartment taken over by another officer within a record time. This type of treatment can cause a big psychological trauma for the officer’s family. Besides, it could mean the end of education for his children. “Because the breadwinner is gone, they may be withdrawn if there is no money to continue to send them to school or transferred to another school if their mother has the capacity,” a police officer attached to the Anti-Robbery Squad, Ogun State Command, declared during our correspondent’s enquiry. “It could amount to an unmitigated humiliation on the part of the family members when slain officers’ belongings are routinely flung out by the Provost Officers who would claim that they were acting on order from above.”
Attempts to have the Force spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, an acting Deputy Commissioner of Police, speak on the matter proved abortive as repeated text messages sent to his phone line were never responded to.