Warehouse plundering: Timely distribution of hoarded palliatives to avoid humiliation

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The fact that public office holders are  by and large setting traps for their own feet is taking clearer picture since the #ENDSARS protests took off. Shying away from years of reports of Police brutalities against Nigerian citizens was a time bomb that blew-off to spark wide fires which have set the ground for series of disturbances and disorderliness that have come to destabilize and plunge the polity into a heat of crises. One of the off-shooting wings of the protests is the ongoing phenomenon of Warehouse looting in search of hoarded COVID-19 palliative packages, meant to have been shared at the heat of lockdown when the scourge of hunger was biting hard on the populace.

The unfortunate trend which has spread across the Federation, 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 Lagos event  evidently was the igniting hint that sent the signal to already frustrated mobs across other States of the Federation. In a very close succession, the rampage has had its signal registered from other Southern States down to the North of the Federation; including Edo, Ekiti, Osun,  Cross River, Kwara, Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa States, and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

It is however unfortunate that the rampage has occasioned the loss of lives in some States where the desperation to get a share from hoarded palliatives led to fatalities as  too-eager-mobs rampaging for goodies struggle to take over for self distribution adventures. Death fatalities have been  recorded in Edo, Taraba and Kogi States with scores of injuries from stampedes that accompanied the rampages.  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.   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.

It is however laughable that after denial that there were no hoarded COVID-19 palliative packages in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, the Minister of the Malam Muhammad Musa Bello on Monday was asking those in a mob who looted Warehouses in the territory to return the cart-aways, threatening that security agencies in the territory have been directed to go after them and ensure their arrest for prosecution.

After a number of attempts, a mob on Sunday 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. On Monday, another warehouse in Gwagwalada where COVID-19 palliatives were stored was looted. Having broken through the facility, looters who were taken aback with the volume of the palliatives kept without distribution to hungry masses, reportedly stressed that it would take no less than 48 hours  (about two days)to empty the large storage facility.

Following the rampage, an emergency security meeting was held on Monday, where the FCT Minister had asked those who looted the food items to return them immediately, with threats that there would be massive deployment of security operatives in and around the factories at the Idu Industrial Layout to hunt for looters. On her side, the FCT Minister of State, Dr Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu who condemned the development, said no nation can survive without food reserves which are now being looted across the Country. It would be recalled that following the spate of rampages on Warehouses where COVID-19 packages where hoarded, the FCT Minister of State had last week end, assured residents of the territory that there were no hoarded palliatives in the various Warehouses across the territory. The Minister in a statement signed by her Special Assistant on Media, Mr Austin Elemue had stated that the FCT Administration had in the past months distributed all items procured and also distributed donated items to the Area Councils, Community Associations, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Professional bodies/associations, stressing that the administration has continued to receive donations that are distributed on a continuous basis and in a transparent manner. She had affirmed that details of such distributions were in the public domain, reaching more than a million households and individuals across the territory.

Similarly, the Plateau State Government also on Monday gave a mob of looters 48 hours to return COVID-19 palliatives carted away or risk being arrested. It is much laughable that the Government have always positioned traps and places itself in the position where its own trap would catch itself. The issue of distrust that Nigeria is now known for even at the international frontiers, is much compounded with reports of ills borne out of selfishness and wicked  dispositions to greediness, flagrantly evident among public office holders. The accounts of expositions of greed  among holders of public offices have over the over years resulted to the sheer lost of confidence on the ruling class among the populace. Governance in the 21st Century democratic system calls for deep principles of accountability, transparency, and openness. Where  palliatives meant for the public are hoarded without the knowledge of the beneficiaries who are the owners indeed, any fallacious explanation is tantamount to shooting oneself on the heels. It is a practical manifestations of one of the ways the governments at all levels in the Federation have been settings their own legs into its own trap.

It is laughable that following the boggling of the residence of a Lagos lawmaker, Sanai Agunbiade aka SOB, (Ikorodu Constituency 1), and the discovery of COVID-19 palliatives worth millions of Naira meant for distribution to his constituents, the Legislator who is the Majority Leader of the Lagos State House of Assembly (All Progressives Congress) stated that he kept the palliatives as a birthday gift. Such misdemeanor is a confusticating irrationality on the part of a lawmaker on whom the public rest much expectations. Such apprehensible postures have done havoc of loss of confidence and trust in the government.

While blurry and non-convincing explanations have continued to trail the break into warehouses where hoarded COVID-19 packages have been found and looted, it is essential that the proper anti-graft agencies put on the shoes of investigation into the commendable dispositions. The Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) should work effectively with all relevant bodies to ensure the matter is given a thorough face of investigation to bring culprit found culpable of the ills to the heels of justice.

To prevent further breakdown of order, it is essential for all Federal and State authorities across the Federation to as a matter of urgency, make public the full records of all distributed and yet-to-be distributed COVID-19 palliatives within their confines; and consequently set the necessary ambiance for immediate distribution of yet-to-be distributed palliatives to the less privileged beneficiaries, who are suffering the brunt of gross economic hardship. The ongoing trend is a clear  warning bell for all public officials who have hoarded palliatives diverted into their personal coffers to honourably set the table for the distribution, to proactively prevent an open humiliation that may trail a looting by angry mobs.