Warehouse plundering: Rampage for COVID-19 palliatives claims lives in Taraba, Kogi, as mobs attack Abuja

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By Moses Adeniyi

The plundering of Warehouses across   the Federation, has deepened as more lives were on Sunday lost to stampede in Kogi and Adamawa States, while mobs successfully ransacked a Warehouse in Abuja, after a number of attempts.

Reports have come to show that many State Governments have within their confines COVID-19 palliatives hoarded for questionable purposes.

As the #ENDSARS protests have degenerated to attract scavenging and looting, the attack and rampage on warehouses for COVID-19 packages meant to be distributed to the masses have continued to spread across States in the Federation.

The development which has trailed the discovery of the rampage on a warehouse at Maza-Maza Lagos, where COVID-19 packages were kept last week, has expanded to attract looting of several Warehouses across the Country in search for hoarded packages; a development that has recorded fatalities in some States.

While the rampage for warehouses began from the South, the trend has been extended to the Northern part of the Country.

States  where hoarded packages have reportedly been discovered following rampages on Warehouses include Lagos, Edo, Ekiti, Osun,  Cross River, Kwara, Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa, and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Taraba

On Sunday, no fewer than six persons  reportedly died and many injured in a stampede in Taraba State, following a break into the Government’s warehouse in search for hoarded COVID-19 palliative packages.

Following invasions on facilities on Saturday, the Taraba State Government had imposed a curfew in Jalingo, the State Capital.

According to the State’s Deputy Governor, Engr. Haruna Manu, in a statewide broadcast in Jalingo, the curfew would run from 11:00 p.m. on Saturday to 8:00 a.m. on Monday when the government would further review the situation.

He had announced: “Following certain bad happenings in the state and around the country, government has decided to impose a curfew on Jalingo, to forestall further breakdown of law and order.

“The curfew will run from 11 :00 pm on Saturday to 8: a.m. on Monday as the government will thereafter review the situation.

“At about 5 pm of Saturday, October 24, 2020, vandals forced their way into government warehouses and looted essential commodities meant for distribution as palliatives in the state.”

However, mobs who defied the curfew order resumed their looting on Sunday with rampage on COVID-19 isolation centres at the NYSC Orientation Camp, fertilizer stores, and Essential Drugs among other government and private facilities within the State.

Kogi

No less than four persons were reported dead and many injured on Sunday,  from a stampede that followed the storming of the Kogi State warehouse in Lokoja by hundreds of people to cart away the remaining palliatives from the building.

Looting in the warehouse located along the Murtala Mohammed way, Lokoja, the State Capital, started as early as 7 a.m. on Saturday and extended till Sunday by a mob comprising mostly of women and youth who stormed the facility for COVID-19 palliatives.

The dead victims were said to have been trampled upon when the gates were thrown open for people to storm the facility to cart away palliatives.

Recall that the state government had last week commenced the distribution of COVID-19 palliatives to all the 21 local government areas, within its jurisdiction.

Abuja

After a number of attempts, a mob eventually broke into warehouses located at the Idu Industrial Estate, Jabi, Abuja, (FCT) tentatively in search of hoarded COVID-19 palliative packages.

Following the development, the police authorities on Sunday reportedly deployed a helicopter and additional police operatives to ward off the scavengers.

It was learnt that the mob which scaled the fence and broke down the doors of the warehouses despite the presence of armed policemen who fired tear gas canisters, had among them middle-aged men and women, who reportedly stormed the warehouses and carted away bags of rice, cartons of cereals and tin tomatoes, bales of clothing and local materials, among other items looted.

It would be recalled that attempts by a mob to plunder a warehouse where COVID-19 palliatives were believed to be kept at Area 10, Garki, Abuja, was foiled by the Police.

Adamawa

On Sunday, a mob attacked and looted a warehouse with COVID-19 palliatives at Kwana-Waya in Yola, the Adamawa State capital.

According to a video which went viral on social media, persons including the elderly, carted away food items from the warehouse, as they were calling on others to come for a share in the free shopping.

The mob which carted away cartoons of noodles, bags of rice, and other food items, had their way through for a full looting, as they overpowered Security personnel who arrived at the scene, due to their overwhelming numbers.

Reactions trails hoarding

As the discovery and revelations of hoarded COVID-19 palliative packages continue to expand, the Socio- Economic Rights and Accountability Project has called on the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding the alleged hoarding of the palliatives in warehouses in several States.

In a statement signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP made the demand in a petition directed to the Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, which was dated 24th October, 2020.

The petition which was available to journalists on Sunday was, copied to the  Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay.

The statement read partly: “Some people have reportedly discovered and taken away COVID-19 palliatives stored in warehouses in several states including Cross River, Edo, Ekiti, Kwara, Kaduna, Lagos, Osun, Plateau and Taraba states, with some of the people reportedly saying: ‘the food is ours but they are keeping it for themselves’.

“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.

“Tracking, monitoring and ensuring COVID-19 palliatives are timely, effectively, and efficiently distributed to those most in need would improve transparency and accountability, respect for human rights, as well as remove the possibility of political considerations or bribery in the distribution of the palliatives.

“Serious concerns that the alleged hoarding of COVID-19 palliatives in several states and the apparent failure to timely, effectively, efficiently, and transparently distribute the palliatives and other reliefs to the poorest and most vulnerable people have continued to deny many citizens the much -needed support.”

SERAP also further called on the ICPC “to visit the states where COVID-19 palliatives have been discovered in warehouses, and to track and monitor the distribution of palliatives across the 36 states of the country, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to remove the risks of diversion, and ensure that the palliatives get to those most in need, and not used for political or corrupt purposes.”

Following the rampage on Warehouses and the attendant discovery of hoarded COVID-19 palliative packages, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)  Kaduna state, on Sunday berated the Kaduna State Government, describing as “disturbing and repugnant”  the fact that Government officials, in the face of hunger and untold hardship made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, could withhold palliatives that should have been “used to relieve poor citizens from the hardship and hunger that the pandemic came with.”

In a statement by the CAN Chairman, Kaduna State,  Rev. John Joseph Hayab, issued on Sunday, which condemned the looting, stating that “two wrongs cannot make a right”,

Stating that the official guilty of what it described as an “unholy act”  must take responsibility for it, the Association called on the  government to investigate and take drastic actions against those “whose greed and insensitivity caused the near break down of law and order.”

The statement read: “Following the event of yesterday 24th October, 2020 in some parts of Chikun and Kaduna South LGA of Kaduna State where looting and vandalization of public and private properties is reported to have been carried out which necessitated the enforcement of 24 hours curfew in those areas and later in the entire 23 LGAs of Kaduna State, the leadership of CAN Kaduna State Chapter held a virtual meeting today 25th October, 2020 with church leaders and other stakeholders in the affected communities to have an objective understanding of the matter, assess it and chart a way forward.

“Against this background, CAN Kaduna State Chapter, condemns in strong terms the vandalization and looting of public and private properties in Kaduna State by youth.

“We are sad to know that palliatives were discovered in warehouses located in Barnawa in Kaduna, as a result of which the youths fell into the temptation of vandalizing the property and looting the said palliatives stored there going as far as searching for other warehouses in other locations within Kaduna. CAN frowns at such actions and condemn it in strong terms.”

“More disturbing and repugnant is the fact that Government officials, in the face of hunger and untold hardship that has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic could withhold palliatives that should have been used to relieve poor citizens from the hardship and hunger that the pandemic came with.

“We note that whoever is responsible for holding these palliatives is/are to take responsibility for this unholy act. In that regard, we call on government to investigate and take drastic actions against those whose greed and insensitivity caused the near break down of law and order.

“CAN calls on all persons who may still have palliatives in their warehouses for selfish gains against the poor masses to as a matter of urgency bring the palliatives out and share them to the citizens that they are ment for.

“Should you choose to keep these palliatives in your custody, the youths may still find out in the near future which will still bring us back to this ugly experience as there is nothing hidden under the sun.

“CAN calls on those responsible to come out publicly and apologize to the citizens for withholding what belongs to us at a time we needed it most.

“CAN also is calling on the youths to resist the temptation of vandalizing and looting. We understand the pains, we feel it too but as responsible leaders and organization we all know that two wrongs don’t make a right.

“Our youth must note that destroying public and private properties is never a justified means of expressing grievances. We advice that you report such suspicious steps to your leaders rather than resort to looting.”

Recall that on Saturday, one person was reported dead following the attack and looting of the Warehouse of Edo Pharmaceutical Company in Benin City by a mob in search of hoarded COVID-19 palliative packages.

The mob reportedly cart away goods such as cartons of pastry, LPG gas cylinders, bags of rice, gallons of vegetables oil, vehicle batteries among other valuables, worth millions of  Naira.

The mob which defied the State Government imposed curfew, also reportedly made away with other Covid-19 palliatives branded with   ‘CACOVID’  inscription.

Reports gathered revealed that following the search for hoarded palliatives in Benin City, the Edo State capital, Youths had   stormed the government warehouses on Medical Store Road in Uselu and Textile Mill Road where they looted the palliative items allegedly meant for COVID-19 pandemic.

The mob which broke the human shield mounted by the military, entered the medical store in their hundreds including young and elderly persons  sighted carting away several bags and cartons of food items with inscriptions tagging “COVID-19, Not for Sale.”

In reaction, the Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie while reacting to the development, had said “the government warehouse breached in Medical Stores Road, Benin City, storing palliatives materials and medical supplies, served as a strategic reserve to mitigate eventualities in the state.”

He explained further that: “Upon receipt of relief materials, there has been an ongoing process of distribution for the past seven months to the vulnerable and poor population to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in the state.

“The vandalised warehouse stored some strategic medical assets, looted such as vaccines, high-end equipment and other supplies.

“The government has distributed most of the palliative materials sent to the state and what was stored at the warehouse, which has now been breached in Medical Stores Road, was strategic to mitigate eventualities.”

On Friday the looting of state-owned warehouses, degenerated into plundering of houses of prominent politicians in Cross-Rivers, especially members representing the State in the National Assembly.

Despite the 24 hours curfew declared by the Cross River governnent on Friday, what began as invasion of state-owned warehouses has degenerated into looting spree as hoodlums looted various establisments  including malls and  confectioneries, among others.

Following the looting of a Warehouse in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State Capital on Friday, the Ekiti State government, had on Saturday raised an alarm that the huge quantities of items, mistaken for food yet to be distributed as COVID-19 palliatives, were poisonous.

The State’s Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation, Mr Akin Omole, in a statement in Ado Ekiti mentioned that the items carted away were Single Super Phosphate and NPK fertilisers, which they erroneously thought was “Gaari” (Cassava flour).

In a related statement, the State’s Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Security, Dr Olabode Adetoyi, warned that most of the items carted away contained chemically-treated seeds meant for planting.

Recall that in reaction to the looting of a Warehouse for COVID-19 hoarded palliatives in Ede, Osun State, the Osun Food and Relief Committee on COVID-19 had on Friday said the looted items were not hoarded, but rather kept for the flag-off of the official distribution.

Secretary to the committee, in Osogbo, Alhaji Bayo Jimoh, had in a statement said that the looted items were donated to the committee as palliatives to the people by Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID).

Irate youths who broke into the warehouse in Ede town carted away such COVID-19 palliatives such as beans, noodles, sugar, salt, garri, rice, pastas, vegetable oil, among others.

Recall that the plundering of warehouses across the Country took off following the plundering of a Warehouse by a mob at the Old Ojo Road and Kirikiri Town in Mazamaza area of Oriade Local Council Development Area, LCDA, Lagos State, where  COVID-19 food packs were discovered and carted away last Thursday.

The Federal Government had following the development denied ownership of the raw food items comprising beans, noodles, sugar, salt, garri, rice, pastas among others, while the Lagos State Government had in reaction condemned the looting.

Stating that the food items which were packed in large bags with COVID-19 palliative inscriptions on it,  was undergoing distribution but had to be halted due to protests before the invasion of the warehouse, the State Government in a Statement by the Commissioner for Agriculture, Abisola Olusanya, disclosed that the warehouse is not state-owned and its usage was made available to the CaCOVID group.