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Why angry Nigerians help themselves with food items kept in discreet warehouses

THE EndSARS protest has been described as probably one of the landmark acts of resistance in the history of Nigeria. And the invasion of food warehouses by angry Nigerians has sent an unmistaken message to the ruling class that injustice of any form will no longer be taken with silent equanimity.

Thousands of protesters from various states had occupied major cities from seventh to 20 October, demanding the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) unit amidst agitations for good governance.

Though initially peaceful and coordinated, the protest suddenly took a new twist immediately it was hijacked by the fiery youth. A day after the Lekki shootings, it culminated in forceful retrieval of public and private properties, widely blamed on years of systemic failure and lack of public trust in governments.

But of particular interest are the CACOVID food warehouses invaded by Lagos residents. Incidents were recorded in Plateau, Osun, Taraba, Adamawa and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), where the palliatives were allegedly kept away from the people,  a position widely contested by the state government authorities.

Roof to a warehouse in Jos used to store COVID-19 palliative being removed by members of the public. Photo Source: UK Daily Mail

“Both the state emergency management agency as well as the state governments are in the position to prepare food items and other materials in case of any eventualities. So, it is not true that the state governments and the FCT are withholding foods,” Abbas Idris, Director-General FCT Emergency Management Agency said Tuesday while debunking the allegation.

Several videos and pictures have shown how aggrieved persons stormed the various locations carting away bags of rice, cartons of noodles and other food items.

On October 23, Osun State government raised alarm about the attack on its warehouse used to store palliative supports received from the Cacovid. The next day, a similar attack took place in Ekiti state as residents stormed a warehouse oblivious of the fact that the Cacovid was earlier disbursed while what the public termed as the interventions were poisonous grains kept in the state’s silos for cultivation purpose.

The 24th of October also witnessed another attack on a warehouse in Edo State.

Many believe the state governments deliberately hoarded the palliatives despite evidence of hardship in the country.

CACOVID, a group of private sector alliance working to support the federal government and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to address relevant problems posed by the global pandemic raised about N30 billion part of which was used to provide the looted food items. Though it is yet to make an official statement on the incidents, reports show that the group gave reasons for the staggered distribution of the palliatives.

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Drawing the line between morality and poverty

During first quarter of the year, at the onset of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) outbreak, a report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed a high level of poverty in the country. The NBS report titled, 2019 Poverty and Inequality in Nigeria says 40 per cent of Nigerians, almost 83 million people live below the poverty line of N137, 430 yearly.

In August, Kingsley Moghalu, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) shared concerns on the extreme poverty rate in the country. His concerns were particularly on how poor governance and corruption have affected the nation’s growth, thus driving the socio-economic problem.

“90 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty and the country is essentially bankrupt…” he tweeted.

Extreme poverty is defined by the United Nations as a situation characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, drinkable water, shelter, food and even sanitation facilities. Current reality has further shown level of poverty in the land. Majority lack access to these basic needs. Most worrisome are the homes of politicians and the Oba of Lagos raided by the aggrieved persons.

So the question is how justified is the action of those who invaded warehouses? Should they have allowed reason and morality to overshadow their hunger? There were concerns the palliative might not get to the beneficiaries due to the corruption of the public officers.

The federal government, for instance, had repeatedly claimed the nation is food secured, independent findings by The ICIR showed otherwise.

Nigeria Poverty Clock shows 51 per cent of Nigerians living in extreme poverty. Photo Credit: Poverty Clock

The World Poverty Clock, a global initiative used to measure the extreme poverty rate across nations further adduced to the above findings on the rising poverty rate in the nation.

As of date, the clock shows that 51 per cent of Nigerians are living in extreme poverty. The figure amounts to 105, 097, 856. A further breakdown shows 53, 133, 553 males and 51, 964, 303 females.

From the perspective of the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), Nigeria still appears to be on a low ranking. The 2020 HDI rates Nigeria 0.53 among the least developed countries, two places to Sudan and six to Yemen.

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First launched in 1990, the HDI is ranked on a scale of 0 to 1.0. While nations within the range of 0.8 to 1.0 are considered high in the HDI ranking, those below 0.55 takes the lowest ranking.

The HDI is measured using indicators such as per capita income, education and life expectancy. As such nations with high HDI have a higher level of education, higher lifespan and greater wealth but that’s not the case with Nigeria.

 

Hoarding of palliatives proof of government wickedness, ineptitude –  Nigerians

“…it is a product of government’s ineptitude, greediness and wickedness,” Francisco August said, reacting to the incident.

“So during the lockdown, they were just hiding the food. I wonder about the kind of government we have. Many people have died of hunger,” Mafeg Pam, who lives in Jos told TheJakartaPost.

 

Chinoso Eze said the government should be blamed for hoarding the palliatives, and not the people who retrieved it. “They hid the COVID-19 palliatives, now the citizens found it by themselves. So it is not looting. They are taking the COVID-19 palliative that was meant for them.”

This argument is perhaps, the most popular among the people, but despite this submission, opposing opinions posit that no matter the condition, taking food items without permission should not have been an option.

In the meantime, Plateau and Osun state governments, for instance, have issued a 48-hour deadline for looters to return palliatives earlier taken from the warehouses. In Abuja, security officials have also been visiting individual’s homes to recover the food items, and parading the suspects including those who have taken items other than food items.

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