Fifteen years after a series of bomb blasts from an armoury at the Ikeja Cantonment in Lagos tore through the Nigerian Army establishment, destroying buildings and property and leaving the relics for over a decade, efforts to revamp the military barracks finally came to fruition recently.
For years, the relics were a sore reminder of the horror witnessed by not just the public on January 27, 2002, but the inhabitants of the barracks, who bore the major brunt of the blasts.
However, a joint collaboration between the 9 Brigade Nigerian Army and Dangote Foundation has seen to the removal of the relics and reconstruction of the buildings in their stead.
The collaboration saw to the construction of nine blocks of eight flats each at the Alasia quarters in the cantonment, which was established in 1961.
In his speech, the 9 Brigade Commander, Brigadier General Adiku Attu, said the ugly state of the quarters, compounded by the 2002 bomb blasts, drew the attention of the command for a call to action.
While thanking Dangote Foundation, he said: “Your presence here underscores the importance and premium you place on security, which can only be enhanced through adequate provision of welfare for personnel and their families.
“Subsequently, this prompted the command to think out of the box and sought for the hand of fellowship and assistance from its numerous friends such as Dangote Cement.
“In response, Dangote Foundation came to the most pressing needs of the cantonment, a clear testament of their deep sense of corporate social responsibility in support of the Nigerian Army.
“There is still a lot in the cantonment that requires attention. As Oliver Twist, we ask for more as we solicit more private organisations to join this clarion and noble call to emulate this gesture from Dangote Foundation.”
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Tukur Buratai, who was represented by the 81 Division General Officer Commanding, Major General Joseph Dauke, said the shortage of accommodation has bedevilled the army in recent times.
“This is partly due to the increase in manpower of the army and also due to the deplorable state of the various accommodation.
“The case of Ikeja Cantonment was made worse, owing to the devastation caused by the bomb blasts of 2002 and it rendered most of the buildings uninhabitable.
“We intensified efforts to improve the living conditions of troops across the nation, but the requirement is enormous, for both the federal government and the army to handle alone.
“Therefore it became necessary to request well meaning corporate organisations, as part of their corporate social responsibility, for their assistance in improving the welfare of troops.
“On this premise, Dangote Group of Companies was approached and immediately, the president, Alhaji Aliko Dangote directed his foundation to assess the situation and renovate the structures.
“Surprisingly, on December 19, 2016, construction work commenced on site and today (Monday), a total of nine blocks of eight flats each and three boreholes have been sunk to serve the quarters,” he said.
While encouraging other private organisations to assist the armed forces, a director of Dangote Foundation, Mansur Ahmed, said no business can thrive in an environment of insecurity.
He said: “As a business, we appreciate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces. We know that no business can thrive in an environment of insecurity, so we are not relenting in our corporate social responsibility.”