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Looting continues nationwide

By Saxone Akhaine, Abdulganiyu Alabi (Kaduna), Bertram Nwannekanma (Lagos), Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Matthew Ogune (Abuja), Charles Akpeji (Jalingo), Emmanuel Ande (Yola) and Ibrahim Obansa (Lokoja)
26 October 2020   |   4:33 am
Looting of items meant for COVID-19 palliatives, which began few days ago, continued in warehouses across the country, spreading to the nation’s seat of power, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

A resident carries a bag of food on her head during a mass looting of a warehouse that have COVID-19 food palliatives that were not given during lockdown to relieve people of hunger, in Jos, Nigeria, on October 24, 2020. Ifiok Ettang / AFP

• Youths risk death over expired foods, drugs
• Many killed, many injured
• Abuja, Adamawa, Taraba, Kogi under attack
• NAFDAC, Kaduna urge caution
• SERAP asks ICPC to probe hoarded palliatives

Looting of items meant for COVID-19 palliatives, which began few days ago, continued in warehouses across the country, spreading to the nation’s seat of power, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

Adamawa, Taraba, and Kogi states, yesterday, had their fair share of the plundering, as warehouses and private shops were attacked in an extended #ENDSARS protests by youths. Protests against police brutality and bad governance have, in the last two weeks, rocked major cities in states and the FCT.

Many, including the National Agency for Food & Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), and the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Oodua Youth Parliament, among others, warned of immediate and far-reaching impacts on the economy.

In Abuja, looting took place despite presence of security agents, who fired teargas at the invaders. Women, youths and children in Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) carted away bags of corn, LPG gas cylinders, bags of rice, gallons of vegetable oil, vehicle batteries, millet, roofing zinc, cement, among other valuables worth millions of naira.

The attack on warehouses began in early hours of yesterday and continued until 11:30am, as desperate youths and women defied police teargas and emptied the storerooms.

The Guardian gathered that two ladies collapsed of exhaustion while struggling to enter the warehouse.

Some youths, who spoke with journalists, accused government of hoarding food items and other COVID-19 palliatives meant for the people, adding that most of the items, particularly the bags of rice, were bad for consumption, having expired.

The warehouse invasion turned tragic in Lokoja, as three residents allegedly died during the stampede. Hundreds of people had stormed the Kogi State warehouse in Lokoja to cart away COVID-19 palliatives from a storehouse.

Women and youths invaded the warehouse, located along Murtala Mohammed Way, as early as 7a.m.

Security agencies deployed in the area remained civil as residents took away stored items. Security agents were seen advising the people to maintain peace and avoid anything that would lead to stampede.

DUSK-to-dawn curfew by Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State to prevent looting failed as youths emptied warehouses in sight. As of the time of filing this report, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) orientation camp located in Siberi Village in Ardo-Kola Local Government Council, had become a shadow of itself as all items in the camp had been vandalised.

Warehouses in Jalingo metropolis and its environs were also vandalised.

The action, which started Saturday evening on government warehouses, was extended to private warehouses.

In Yola, the Adamawa State capital, youths attacked and looted six warehouses as early as 7 a.m. when church services were going on. While security agents tried to halt looting at the biggest warehouse in North East located along the Yola-Gombe Road, youths, women and children took over the central store, along Mohammed Mustafa Road.

Youths, in large number, chanted: “This is our national cake, these people are wicked”, even as the combined efforts of the military and police failed to stop them.

The youths, who were described as hoodlums by the Police Public Relations Officer of the Adamawa Command, CSP Suleiman Nguroje, carried away foodstuffs and non-consumables for hours.

The Yola episode caused gridlock along the Yola-Gombe Road and Mohammed Mustafa Road, as motorists could not access the routes.

BLOODBATH was averted at Central Store when a policeman fired a shot at youths. Soldiers quickly intervened and ordered the cop to leave the place.
On hearing gunshot, hundreds of youths started arriving with sticks and other local weapons but were calmed down by soldiers with the assurance that nobody would interfere with their peaceful looting.

People take the metal sheets off the roof of a warehouse during a mass looting of a warehouse that have COVID-19 food palliatives that were not given during lockdown to relieve people of hunger, in Jos, Nigeria, on October 24, 2020. Ifiok Ettang / AFP

The PPRO said that the police were on ground to prevent looting of private businesses and houses.

According to Nguroje, the Adamawa police command will soon commence full investigation to ascertain those behind looting of warehouses in the state.

Hoodlums also defied 24-hour curfew imposed on two Plateau councils — Jos North and Jos South — at the weekend to break into the Plateau Agricultural Development Programme (PADP) in Dogon Dutse, carting away bags of fertiliser and other farm inputs.

The home of Yakubu Dogara, former Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives was among the houses vandalised by the rampaging youths.

The looters broke into Dogara’s house located near Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH) at about 10 a.m.

Sources said the hoodlums, in their large numbers, broke into the house, attacked everyone, including Dogara’s brother, before looting the building.

Hoodlums also, vandalised the warehouses of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) and looted foodstuffs and other items. They destroyed property and carted away valuables.

They also vandalised the state secretariat, the water board and other government buildings and made away with some valuables, it was learnt.

At the time of filing this report, hundreds of youths, including women, were seen with agricultural inputs taken out of the premises of PADP.

Founder/president of Evangelical Bible Outreach Ministries International, Jos, Plateau State, Prophet Isa El-Buba, appealed to youths in the state to desist from looting and destroying public property.

KADUNA State Government warned of serious danger in consuming grains, food items and drugs looted from various warehouses in the state.

In a statement yesterday, the Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, said NAFDAC had updated government about items looted from their warehouse in the Narayi area of Chikun Local Government Area, with a warning that they were hazardous.

“The looted items at NAFDAC warehouse include expired, prohibited and dangerous drugs. Persons who consume such drugs are at great risk of serious illness and death, Aruwan warned.”

He added that the management of a food processing company, whose stores were looted in Kakuri, had also disclosed that the stolen grains had been treated with chemical preservatives, which rendered them unsafe for consumption.

“Residents of Kaduna State are hereby notified to be vigilant and careful about the source of the food and medications they take and where they buy them, to avoid these dangers. “

Government appealed to the public for information on identities of the looters and location of the stolen items.

A Yoruba sociocultural group, Oodua Youth Parliament, expressed yet another concern about the ongoing looting, stealing, destruction of lives and properties, especially in the South-West region, warning that it was capable of scaring investors away.

In a statement, the Speaker of the group, Abdulmajeed Oyeniyi, said the destruction of lives and property in the region was becoming too alarming and was capable of chasing away investors.

“The South-West has remained one of the unifying factors of the country and at the forefront when it comes to attracting investments. This happened all because the region has been peaceful,” he noted.

IN the face of the concerns, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has been called upon to investigate the circumstances surrounding the alleged hoarding of COVID-19 palliatives in warehouses in several states.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) made the call in a letter it sent to the ICPC Chairman, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye.

Dated October 24, 2020 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation asked the agency to “ensure the prompt and effective prosecution of anyone suspected to be responsible, if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence of hoarding and diversion of palliatives.”

It noted that the palliatives ought to have been distributed to the poor and most vulnerable people during the lockdown.

SERAP’s petition followed reports that some people had discovered and taken away COVID-19 palliatives stored in warehouses in different states.

According to the group, it would seem that Nigerian authorities asked people to stay at home as a protective lockdown measure but then failed to discharge its responsibility to effectively and transparently distribute COVID-19 palliatives to ease the hardship faced by the poorest and most vulnerable people.

SERAP also said: “Unless promptly investigated, the allegations of hoarding and diversion would undermine public trust in any efforts to bring the spread of the pandemic under control, exacerbate the negative impact of the crisis, and deny those most in need access to basic necessities of life.”