Military personnel and their family members at Wellington Bassey Army Barracks 6 Battalion, Ibagwa-Abak, Akwa Ibom State, have been forced to endure terrible living conditions over the past three months.
During this period, the entire barracks has been without electricity and water supply, leaving soldiers and their family members to suffer immensely.
As a result of this situation, occupants of the military facility have been forced to defecate inside the bush and other unconventional places around the barracks.
Soldiers, their spouses and children have had to trek to a nearby river to bathe and also collect some water for domestic purposes.
Due to the unclean state of the water, many of its users within the barracks have had rashes and other skin infections during this period, SaharaReporters gathered.
Military personnel, who can afford sachet water known in local parlance as ‘pure water’, ration its usage for drinking in their homes as a result of the financial implication.
Those who are unable to afford this, are left in dilemma: boil before drinking the unclean water to minimise damage or gulp it that way and await maximum ‘knockout’.
The situation, according to findings by SaharaReporters, has led to rising cases of water-borne ailments in the military barracks.
A soldier, who spoke with SaharaReporters over the issue, revealed that all pleas to the Commanding Officer of the barracks, Lt. Col. Ogwueri, to provide electricity and water over the last three months have fallen on deaf ears as the suffering for military personnel and their family members persists.
The soldier disclosed that due to the distance of the river from the barracks and the stress of carrying heavy containers to fetch water there, some people in the barracks don’t bathe sometimes but use sachet water to clean vital parts of their bodies, just to avoid smelling.
He further disclosed that the lack of electricity supply within the barracks has made it difficult for them to use most of their electronic appliances.
The barracks has a massive water facility but this has been left to rot away due to lack of electricity supply to operate it.
“We have been reduced to animals in our living conditions by the leadership of the barracks.
“For over three months, there have been no electricity and water supply in the barracks because the commanding officer has refused to connect both despite receiving money for same.
“All efforts to make him reverse this situation have not yielded any result, he has continued to keep us in darkness.
“Imagine, we as soldiers defending Nigeria as a country, going to bathe in a river while our wives and children carry buckets and containers to fetch water there for domestic use.
“This is the suffering we have been facing for over three months at Ibagwa-Abak Barracks.
“People are falling ill often because of the dirty water they are forced to use for bathing and cooking sometimes.
“It is not everybody that can afford ‘pure’ water. Even if you can afford it, how many bags will you be able to buy every day for you and your family to use for all your needs?
“We have been defecating inside the bush because of the lack of water in the barracks. Almost every corner in the barracks has turned to a toilet. The smell is not pleasant at all.
“We are paid peanuts yet we are deprived of basic amenities that could have made life easier for us and our family members.
“It is better for government to look into our situation urgently before things get out of hand,” the military officer said.
Another soldier, who spoke with SaharaReporters over the issue, disclosed that some of them have quietly moved out of the barracks with their families in order not to suffer continually at the place.
“I had to move my family out of the barracks because the suffering is too much.
“My apartment is still inside the barracks but I hardly stay there anymore. Life there is not good at all,” he said.
In September 2020, Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, inaugurated 168 reconstructed houses at the barracks.
Udom said he made the move after seeing the deplorable condition of the facility.
“The pitiable situation of the barracks caught my attention when I came on an inspection with the then Commander of 2 Brigade. What I saw was very disturbing and I decided that I will change the story of this barracks for good.
“I decided to add a water scheme to help residents with their water needs. I have been told of the issues relating to power unavailability in the barracks and I’m determined to do something about it,” Udom had said at the time.
But more than one year after his visit and intervention, lack of electricity and water supply remains a major problem at Wellington Bassey Army Barracks 6 Battalion, Ibagwa-Abak.
The situation has left soldiers and their family members at the risk of a disease outbreak as a result of open and indiscriminate defecation and consumption of unclean water.
Respite for occupants of this Akwa Ibom military facility might still be far away, especially following the reduction in the 2022 budget of the Nigerian Army.
According to the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Faruk Yahaya, the N579 billion approved for the military wing for the 2022 fiscal year was grossly inadequate and may impede its ability to deliver on key areas of operation including the welfare of soldiers.
“In preparing for the year 2022 budget, the Nigerian Army proposed the sum of N710 billion. However, the budget ceiling of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning reduced our proposed sum from N710 billion to a total sum of N579 billion.
“This reduction would impede the capacity and tempo of the Nigerian Army in carrying out its constitutional duties,” Yahaya said.
Except things changes quickly, soldiers and their family members at Wellington Bassey Army Barracks 6 Battalion, Ibagwa-Abak in Akwa Ibom State may continue to endure harsh living conditions, raising the risk of illnesses and deaths at the military facility.