By Nurudeen Jacobs.
If you know Louis Edet House, headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force in Abuja the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, very well, you will have a very clear picture of the landmarks I will be alluding to in this piece, very well.
The Force Headquarters, by the way, is on the immediate Eastern flank of the ‘Three Arms Zone’, the agglomeration of the executive, legislative and judicial arms of the federal government, in the capital city Abuja. That is if you are standing on the ever busy Shehu Shagari Way in the Central Business District, Abuja and facing the skyscraper directly.
To be sure, only a boulevard separates the left side of the complex, from the premises of the Court of Appeal headquarters, at the very heart of the federal judiciary. Almost directly behind the Force Headquarters is the Asokoro annex of Protea Hotel, which shields the famous Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, Abuja.
To facilitate the proximity of personnel to on-duty places of religious worship, a purpose-built mosque and a chapel, respectively, were conceived as part of the complex. The mosque has long been completed and put into use, while the chapel remains largely uncompleted.
It is not unusual, therefore during the specified times for religious prayers, to see officers and other ranks of both faiths, gravitate towards the rear of Louis Edet House, to observe their prayers.
In recent weeks, however, it has become commonplace to hear calls to worship, at a brand new facility, built across the road from Louis Edet House, within the precincts of the Force Headquarters Extension housing the Department of Finance and Accounts.
The implication of course, is that a second place of worship, has just been added to the existing Louis Edet House mosque, to serve, in specific terms, staffers of the Finance and Accounts Section of Force Headquarters.
So, blaring loudspeakers directed at the Police Commissioners’ Quarters, adjacent the Force Headquarters, have become the new irritants in what should ordinarily be a serene working environment, bordered by what has been serially described as the most upscale accommodation ever conceived by the Nigeria Police, for its officers.
Within the immediate geographical radius of the new religious project, is the Police Officers Wives’ Association, POWA Primary School, highly regarded for its instructional quality and discipline. The Police is equally constructing a massive complex to house the headquarters of its Microfinance Bank, within the area.
I am actually at a loss how people are expected to work and deliver optimally, live in the senior officers’ accomodation or learn, in an environment with so much noise pollution.
Let me be clear here, this is not about my aversion for the preponderance of places of worship within the limited land area, of just a few hectares of land on which the Police Headquarters and its ancillary offices, are situated. After all, I am a practising muslim, observing the on going Ramadan fast.
We hold the global medal, albeit dubiously, of the ‘most religious people’ in the world and I bet the survey encapsulates just how much in physical infrastructure and productive man hours we devote, as a nation and a people, to religious preoccupations.
What with the mass of Evans Onwuamadikes, the ‘Vampires’, the drug couriers, the systems hackers and similar official and unofficial, known and unknown, we continue to spawn?
Rather, I am pained, that the Police Force which is a serial complainant, about the inadequacy of its aggregate fiscal resources to carry out its statutory obligation of protecting the rest of us, would prioritise the construction of a model place of religious worship, over and above the provision of working tools and conditions, necessary for the optimum performance of its personnel.
I am equally at a loss about why the operations of the edifice, have remained an unrestricted noise hazard to its surroundings.
Yet, the Nigeria Police Force is capable of delivering dividends on a good day. The capture of billionaire kidnap kingpin Evans, has been wildly celebrated. But long before now, the Police had actually recorded landmark breakthroughs which attests to their capacity to rise to big occasions.
The accolades, trophies and recognitions which are deservedly bestowed on Nigerian Police officers and men whenever they are on United Nations, UN assignments, across the world, is testament to the quality our law enforcement agents are made of.
But the proliferation of religious monuments when there are a million and one pressing needs in the Service, creates the erroneous impression of an overflow of resources, in need of vagrant expenditure sub-heads.
If the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, intends to show sensitivity in the light of the recent avoidable and unnecessary fissions which ethnicity and religion have precipitated across the country, he should immediately direct the discontinuation of the operations of the duplication called ‘Police Force Headquarters Mosque Annex.’
Louis Edet House does not need two functioning mosques to minister to the religious health of police personnel, specifically within work hours. Those who desire to spend more time in the sacred serenity of such places, are at liberty to do so in their local places of worship after official hours.
The last time I checked, even the seat of government, the Presidential Villa, Aso Rock, had just one mosque which was built when the complex was conceived by former President, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. President Olusegun Obasanjo who assumed office six years after Babangida, added just one chapel to the presidential complex, in eight years.
Indeed, if IGP Idris intends to demonstrate the dispassionate secularity which his office and social embodies, he must, as a matter of urgency, ensure the immediate completion of the stillborn chapel in Louis Edet House, so that posterity will applaud him.
It is not for him as the nation’s top cop, to foster the erroneous impression of religious bigotry of any kind, especially at a time like this when strident efforts are being consummated to dispel suspicions of an ethno-secular agenda in the polity.
What to do with the structure? Assign it to the Force Imam, if he doesn’t have an office.
● Nurudeen Jacobs, a public affairs commentator, works and resides in Abuja.
That Louis Edet House extension
By Nurudeen Jacobs.