Soldiers and their families at Ikeja and Ojo Cantonments in Lagos have started levying themselves to tackle biting scarcity of water.
The Nation gathered the soldiers have lived with the situation for over three years, no thanks to lack of power to pump water from the only borehole serving blocks one to three at the Cantonment.
It was learnt that each of these blocks consisted of 30 flats meaning the borehole was to serve 90 flats with only three hours of electricity for pumping of water daily.
Some of the soldiers who made a Save Our Souls, SOS, message to The Nation said most times they have to trek for about a kilometre distance in search of water to no avail.
They lamented that it was mentally and physically draining for them to return from the day’s task only to go water hunting for long distances inside the barracks but are rejected by those who have personal boreholes.
“This issue started about three years ago. When the system started rationing light from 8pm to 11pm, they forgot that there are buildings sharing boreholes. A block consists of 30 flats and we have three blocks sharing one borehole which means 90 flats.
“Imagine light for three hours to pump water for use by 90 flats. If there was light for longer hours, more flats will at least have water for essentials and wait for the next pumping but that is not the case.
“Some will go to mosque, churches, and public borehole point to fetch. Imagine a single man, after coming back from military duties still carries jerry cans to look for water in one km distance inside the barracks,” said a source who pleaded anonymity.
Another soldier told our correspondent that lack of water was the greatest challenge they faced inside the barracks, lamenting that sometimes, they had to trek as fat as the Army Engineers’ yard but were denied water by those who claimed to be working under instructions.
“Water is as important as food. Imagine me fetching water, climbing steps everyday in this modern generation, after going to long distance. It’s exhausting.
“Sometimes, we’ll go as far as Engineer Yard and they’ll tell us, they’re instructed not to allow anyone fetch water there.
“People have their personal borehole in this barracks and some even sell water because of the situation.
“So, it is all these challenges that made us the soldiers to start taxing ourselves to either buy a generator or drill a borehole.
“As soldiers we do not earn much and so, we cannot afford to do both of them. We are using this opportunity to appeal to the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, our General Officer Commanding (GOC), 81 Division, and well spirited individuals to come to our aid.
“Please help us drill borehole, then, we can use the contribution to buy generator to be pumping water,” he said.
At Ojo Cantonment, The Nation gathered that soldiers were bitter over a compulsory N200 per room compulsory levy being charged by the authority for light maintenance.
A Twitter account that focuses on military issues, @Militaryblower, which also raised the alarm on the issue, wrote: “A big trouble is coming in Ojo Cantonment, Lagos. The Cantonment boss is charging N200 per room for light maintenance and any soldier that refused to pay the block light will be disconnected. The boss says if they stopped paying, the light situation will be worse than Ikeja Cantonment.
“Another issue soldiers are complaining of is the security issue within the barracks, civilians now use inside the barracks as a passage to Ikotun, some will even park their cars in the barracks to pick it up later at night after closing hour.
“Everything is based on payment, there’s specific amount of money civilians will drop before you’re to park your vehicle or pass through the barracks. The soldier’s wives are planning to revolt and protest.”
Contacted, spokesman for the 81 Division, Lt.-Col Olaniyi Osoba, said the light issue was basically administrative, denying that the institution was levying soldiers.
“It is not true that the system is levying or forcing soldiers to make any payment. It could be that the soldiers decided among themselves to contribute to better the situation. But I can tell you it is completely untrue and false that they are being forced to pay any money.
“Light issue at Ikeja Cantonment has been bad for two or three years now but the authorities have been trying to improve on it. You know that DISCOs are now majorly private organisations and are profit driven. The authority had even gone to then to see how the light can be improved but that it yet to happen.
“So, the authority is working on it and so far, the system has tried to provide more boreholes by ensuring that every new building inside the barracks has its own borehole,” he said.