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#EndSARS: Femi Adesina launches tirade at angry youths who invaded food warehouses, but ignores data on poverty

FEMI Adesina, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the looting and destruction of properties that have followed the #EndSARS protests, characterizing it as unjustifiable criminality.

But the president’s spokesman appears to ignore data on poverty in Nigeria.

Speaking on Sunrise Daily, a Channels Television programme, on Thursday, Adesina said being poor isn’t a justification for anyone to take to armed robbery, referring to the series of looting recorded in different states across the country.

“Criminality is criminality. Would it justify armed robbery because the man was poor? Would you justify armed robbery because the man didn’t have money?

“Just as you cannot justify armed robbery because a man was poor and took a gun to rob another person, you can’t also justify the lootings going on because it is pure criminality. My view is that it is not everybody that is hungry that engaged in that looting. This is the truth, it is greed and pure criminality,” Adesina said.

Following the discovery of government storehouses for COVID-19 palliatives, several states across Nigeria have recorded incidents of looting by Nigerians believed to be the most vulnerable.

The palliatives which the Federal Government announced it was distributing to lower class Nigerians at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, were found to be stored in warehouses, yet to be shared with those it was meant for.

Follow The Money, a Civil Society Organisation said during the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a total of 57 Freedom of Information (FOI) request letters were received by 27 State Government agencies, requesting details of COVID-19 funds and the distribution of palliatives— only six responded.

The group said the six states that responded assured that the palliatives were distributed accordingly, even though they refused to provide details of distribution and evidence of the same.

However, evidence now shows that most states in fact never shared the government-provided palliatives.

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In Abuja, a crowd stormed a government-owned warehouse, suspected to be filled with COVID-19 palliatives. Several media have reported that many angry youths could not access the palliatives until they forcefully retrieved it from various warehouses where the food items were stored.

“We need our palliatives. It is our right. My neighbor almost died of hunger because of COVID-19,” David Ojo told VOA. He said his neigbour used to work as a security guard at a government institution, but he was sacked. “What do you want him to do? I gave him beans and rice, he almost died of hunger,” Ojo said.

Nigerians have condemned the hoarding of palliatives meant to minimize the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“…it is a product of government’s ineptitude, greediness and wickedness,” Francisco August, a Nigerian said, reacting to the discovery of palliatives hidden in warehouses.

Another Nigerian identified as Mafeg Pam expressed frustration that agents of the government were intentionally starving people during the pandemic.

“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,” Pam, who lives in Jos told TheJakartaPost.

According to a 2019 United Nations Human Development Report, Nigeria’s Human Development Index value for 2018 is 0.534— which put the country in the low human development category—positioning it at 158 out of 189 countries and territories, This indicates that the majority of Nigeria’s estimated 200 million population live below the poverty line and at the peak of the pandemic, had a tougher reality than people in other countries.

Adesina however believes that the #EndSARS protests led to the looting that ensued. According to him, the protests birthed anarchy that then led to criminality.

“I don’t agree that it is all about poverty. Yes in any country, you will have people that are poor, hungry…that is one of the reasons you have a government to ensure that the number of the poor reduces progressively.

“So this crowd of people you see going to loot are not necessarily hungry or angry; they are taking advantage of the collapse of law and order that came as a result of the protest,” Adesina said.

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Adesina’s view appears to ignore the statistics of poverty in Nigeria.  According to Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organization, Nigeria continues to suffer a rising level of food insecurity. The World Poverty Clock estimates the number of  Nigerians living in extreme poverty at over 105 million as of 2020. Out of this number, over 53 million men and 52 million women live in extreme poverty.

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