Investigation

Hoarded palliatives: Why angry, hungry youths invaded warehouses

There has been widespread looting of warehouses used to temporarily store the palliative items for distribution to the poor and vulnerable as part of measures to reduce the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. This is one of the fallouts of the outbreak of violence during the #EndSARS protests. These incidents, according to this report by ISIOMA MADIKE, have been prevalent in different states across the country including the FCT

It started slowly but gained momentum immediately when youths in the FESTAC-Okota axis of Lagos State burst into a warehouse located on Benster Crescent, popularly called Monkey Village, and carted away Coronavirus (COVID-19) palliatives. The goods, according to the rampaging youth, were stocked away from the prying eyes of the public in spite of hunger in the land.

From there, they reportedly invaded another warehouse where suspected COVID-19 palliatives were stored at Mazamaza community in Oriade Local Council Development Area of the state. In a viral video, the youth were seen looting the warehouse and carting away food items such as rice, beans, yams and other edibles. They did not stop at that but encouraged residents in the area to move into the warehouse and pick whatever they could as they believed the items belonged to the people.

The near mob action was witnessed barely 24 hours after suspected thugs reportedly discovered a warehouse where suspected COVID-19 palliatives were hidden at the palace of the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu. And like a wide fire, the bug quickly spread to other parts of the country where governors were accused of hoarding the palliatives, which was mainly donated by private sector-led Coalition Against COVID- 19 (CACOVID).

However, the governors under the aegis of their umbrella body, The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), have been making frantic efforts to convince Nigerians that the looted palliative in warehouses in some states were not hoarded but kept for the vulnerable. According to the NGF Head of Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazaque Bello- Barkindo, “While some states are yet to begin distribution was because they had not fully received items meant for distribution; palliatives found in warehouses were kept for the vulnerable. For the avoidance of doubt, some of the palliatives had the CACOVID stamp embossed on them, meaning that their source is unambiguous.”

It can be recalled that as part of the fallout of the outbreak of violence during the #EndSARS protests, there has been widespread looting of warehouses used to temporarily store the palliative items for distribution to the poor and vulnerable, as part of measures to reduce the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

These incidents have been prevalent in different states across the country including the FCT. Nigerians have been very critical and expressed their anger over the non-distribution of these items in the face of hunger across the country months after the announcement of the exercise. They accuse the politicians of allegedly keeping these items for themselves, their cronies, and possible distribution during electioneering campaigns.

Oyo: How do we distribute items that can’t go round?

The Chief Press Secretary to Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo, Taiwo Adisa, told Saturday Telegraph that the issue of palliatives has been a case of endless expectations. CACOVID, he said, promised it will deliver to the state up to 150 trucks of support.

“Up till now only a few of the trucks have been received. So, how do you distribute items that can’t go round? That’s the first issue. “Then the items in those supplied so far are Spaghetti and Indomie packs.

This is Oyo State, a traditional state where we have our staple food items, which the people appreciate. We can’t reasonably distribute Indomie and Spaghetti here without incurring the anger of our people; at least you must add rice to that before it can be meaningful.

That’s why the state government asked CACOVID to make sure it supplies rice to Oyo so the items can be meaningfully distributed. We are still expecting the trucks that will bring the rice till now.

“When the state couldn’t wait anymore, Governor Seyi Makinde asked the Food Security Committee of the COVID- 19 Task Force to get other locallyproduced food items and flag off the fifth round of palliatives distribution. Remember we have done four rounds of distribution previously. We were to kick start the fifth round distribution the same week the #EndSARS disruptions started.

That was why Governor Makinde announced on Tuesday this week the im-mediate commencement of distribution of the 5th round of palliatives.” Adisa claimed that his state used its own money to purchase mainly locally produced and procured items for distribution in the first four rounds. “And now we can’t just go ahead and distribute only Indomie here, and as you know, distribution itself takes planning. That’s why we have to choose dates to certify as well, structure the logistics, which is being done right now,” he added.

However, a trader at the Bodija Market in Ibadan, Mama Saidi, said: “Though many Nigerians are hungry and angry that such food items are available and kept somewhere, if they continue to loot, it is dangerous in that such amounts to stealing. Anybody can be harmed through such activities. Unscrupulous elements may start to go and re-bag the rice for sale to the populace, and who knows what sanitary condition such food items could be in such a situation? “Some people had been killed while others were injured in the looting in some states. If it continues, the country is heading towards anarchy and breakdown of law and order.”

Ekiti youths looted poisons as commodities from silos -government

Ekiti residents, who got provoked on Friday evening October 23, angrily defied heavy downpour around 7.30pm as they trooped to the Federal Government’s Silos located in Ado Ekiti in search of the palliatives. The furious residents ransacked the State Emergency Agency (SEMA) Warehouses in the process.

It was later gathered that the youth in large numbers, who boarded vehicles and motorcycles from far distances like Ijigbo, Ajilosun and Odo Ado area of Ado Ekiti metropolis, carted away as palliatives, fertilizers and poisonous seeds said to be preserved for planting. Materials looted at SEMA were also said to be stored as reliefs for flood victims.

The youth had reportedly mistaken fertilizers for garri as well as preserved maize for consumable grains. The development propelled the state government to issue a public notice, explaining that all the palliatives allotted to Ekiti have been distributed accordingly with no left over.

The state Commissioner for Information, Akin Omole, reiterated his earlier warning that commodities being looted from the silos were poisons. Omole had warned: “The attention of the Government of Ekiti State has been drawn to plans by some hoodlums to storm some warehouses in the state under the guise of looking for COVID-19 palliatives believed to be stored in warehouses in the state.

The government would like to state categorically that all palliatives donated to the state have been successfully distributed to various categories of residents including 16 local government areas in the state (collected by LG teams), senior citizens, and market women. Others are various associations (unions, women’s groups, and artisans), youth groups, NGOs, widows, churches, mosques, landlord associations, community leaders, traditional rulers, transport unions, state orphanages and special schools, communities in Farmsteads, security officers and other vulnerable persons during the lockdown period.” These facts, he said, can be verified from all the beneficiary groups listed.

“We therefore caution those involved in the plan to desist from any attempt to invade any location under the guise of looking for COVID-19 palliatives in Ekiti State. Government has a responsibility to protect citizens’ lives and property and will not condone any brigandage in any part of the state.” The government had, immediately after the looting spree, also circulated information around the state on the inherent danger of the items.

The state Commissioner for Agriculture, Prince Olabode Adetoyi, while reacting to the looting, warned residents that those items carted away are poisonous and killers. Adetoyi said the Federal Government’s Silos, the Agric Development Programme (ADP) warehouse and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) store, that were invaded by youths in in Ado- Ekiti, contained Single Super Phosphate fertilizer and NPK, which they have erroneously identified as garri.

He said: “The SEMA store has emergency supplies for disaster response such as flood, fire or any other emergencies. Some are even making away with corn preserved for planting, with chemical pre fermentation.

All these items are poisonous and not fit for consumption. We appeal to our people not to consume these items because they can kill. Ekiti State has NO COVID-19 palliatives warehouse as all palliatives have been distributed to members of the public during the lockdown period.” Despite that, some residents who spoke with our reporter insisted that the government is being economical with the truth. They believed the government actually kept some palliatives for their own benefit.

One of such residents, Ogundipe Jacobs, told our reporter that the palliatives were kept inside the government house, and the government drafted security operatives to man the warehouse in the Secretariat to prevent people from entering the place. Another resident, Mrs. Cecilia Oludare, also said that the so-called leaders do not have the fear of God in them. “The palliatives they said are poisonous are not; it’s just to scare people away,” she said.

CACOVID reacts to looting of food items

CACOVID had, on Monday, explained why the distribution of palliatives to poor and vulnerable families to cushion the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was delayed. The coalition, according to an online portal, nairametrics. com, had said that the distribution of the relief items, which were for two million most vulnerable families in the 774 local government areas across the country, was delayed due to the magnitude of the number of food items to be distributed.

The Acting Director of Corporate Communications of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Osita Nwanisobi, on behalf of the coalition, had said that the large scale of the nationwide food programme and the timing of the orders, which coincided with the lockdowns and limited movement across the country, delayed the procurement and distribution exercise.

In a statement quoted by nairametrics. com, the coalition’s spokesman said: “Members of the Private Sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) wish to call for calm, amidst the looting of COVID-19 palliatives meant for distribution in various State Government warehouses across the country. “The Coalition is deeply concerned by the recent events and is urging those involved in the wanton destruction of public and private property to immediately desist from these raids, in order to allow the states to proceed with a peaceful and fair distribution of these palliatives to the neediest and most vulnerable in our society.

“Over the past few months, the private sector, through CACOVID has been working with governors, the FCT Minister, and the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) to procure, deliver, and distribute these food relief items to almost two million most vulnerable families (over 10 million Nigerians) across the 774 local government areas of the country, as part of the private sector’s support towards the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The sheer scale of this nationwide food programme and the timing of the orders and deliveries, which coincided with the lockdowns, and reduced movement across the country compelled CACOVID to roll out distribution in a staggered manner.”

CACOVID warned that some intended beneficiaries for palliatives will not get the relief food items due to the looting of these items by hoodlums. It, however, pointed out that not every warehouse in Nigeria that contains palliatives is affiliated with the CACOVID donation, given that the states themselves, the Federal Government, and other organisations have also made donations.

FG should sack policemen who refuse to return to work -Umar

For retired Army Captain and CEO GoldWater & RiverSand Consult, Aliyu Umar, the youth basically were born into a society, tradition and culture of looting, fortunately by people they are looting from now. Although some innocent people, he said, are getting caught, the best way out, according to him, is for the leaders to find someone that is presentable, who will appeal to these youths.

He said: “Through the traditional rulers, the politicians, they are all in this. Morally, none of them can actually come and say those hungry, malnourished, despondence youths should not steal. You can imagine its food they go after mostly. We have seen protests in other countries, China had one, did they loot, no despite the violence, destructions. So, you discover that these are people that are hungry.

“Most of the things you see them looting, you think they want to go keep it in their homes, no. They are just looking for what to sell and eat. The message is clear; there is hunger in the land and the government has to do something about it and quickly too. Look, I don’t know what kind of president that we have, the man is a black ship, honestly. He’s boxed himself so badly into this situation. He closed the border, there is hunger everywhere, believe me. “Let me tell you something; the first thing we need to do is to get the present IGP out of the way and bring in one that is going to deliver.

Getting him out of the way is going to be the statement that the one coming will take cue from, that is one. The second thing is most of the places you go you don’t see policemen, even in their stations. They seem to be putting up a silent protest because Nigerians decided to protest against their toxic practices, they have refused to work. But the government should do the simple thing, no work, no pay. “When doctors and teachers do their thing the government applies that.

Any police man, who refuses to work, should not be paid. The Civil Defence Corps is very much there to take over their role in the interim. We must stamp our foot on the ground; the police are just behaving like an overindulged child, which is abnormal.

They don’t want to come on the road again because they are no longer taking bribes. If they don’t want to do police work again, fine; they should resign. “Now the IGP has ordered them back to work and they refused.

Of course they will refuse because they are the beneficiaries of the rot the people protested against. What the president should have done long ago was to have suspended the AIGs, the DIGs and the IGP; replace them. Then those at the bottom will get the language and get back to work. Honestly, if care is not taken, #EndSARS will be to APC what Boko Haram was to PDP.”

Mistrust between public, police dangerous, says Ejiofor

A former Director of State Security Service (SSS) and chairman/CEO, APEX SAFETY & SECURITY CONSULTANTS, Mike Ejiofor, has said that the politicians are overtly wicked as far as the issue of hoarded palliatives were concerned. According to him, the politicians know that the people are hungry during the lockdown and they still hoarded such quantity of food in warehouses. “How else do you explain it, if it’s not wickedness? And it cuts across, not in one place but across the federation.

But, I also have problems with the youth, if they were only going there to collect the foods to eat, I don’t have a problem with that but going further to destroy government properties and burning private properties, what point are they trying to make? Two wrongs cannot make a right. “If they go to collect the food they want to eat, well to me even though it’s wrong, it’s stealing but people would understand.

But a situation whereby you start carrying motorcycles and everything you can carry, that should be condemned. That is not the true representation of the intentions and aspirations of the youth as being expressed in this #EndSARS protest.

“However, the truth is that there is hunger in the land. So it was an opportunity for them to vent their anger. This incident has also exposed the security lapses in our architecture. And not only that, what it means now is that we need to rebuild the police and rebuild the confidence in the police. The best argument was that the police were brutal to the people, which led to the call for #End- SARS.

But we cannot throw the baby with the bath water away. Now there is near total collapse of law and order; police were being attacked, that was going to the extreme. “And the police now lost confidence in the people, which made them recoil into hiding before the IGP now ordered them back to the public space. So, you see that the security implications are enormous. The people do not have confidence in the people again and the people don’t have confidence in the police. Mutual distrust and that does not augur well for us. But I think with time we shall overcome all these problems,” he said.

Additional reports from Sola Adeyemo (Ibadan), and Adewumi Ademiju (Ado-Ekiti).

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