Amid tensions in Nigeria last week over police brutality, mobs of citizens are overrunning several government-owned facilities and ransacking palliative meant for distribution earlier during the coronavirus lockdowns. So far nine Nigerian states have been looted. On Saturday security officials dispersed mobs at another storage facility under attack in Abuja.
Some protesters demonstrating in front of a facility in Garki, Abuja as military and police vans barricade the entrance to the facility.
Earlier, mobs of people trying to attack the facility and make away with some food items were dispersed after security officials fired their guns into the air.
But many like David Ojo remain adamant and say they wouldn’t leave until they get some food.
“We need our palliatives. It is our right. My neighbor, almost died of hunger because of Covid-19,” said Ojo. “He used to work as 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”.
Storage facilities holding tonnes of relief materials including Covid-19 palliative have been burglared and looted accross nine states in Nigeria in the last few days.
The $64 million worth of covid-19 relief materials had been handed to authorities by the private sector coalition against coronavirus, CA-COVID.
But many state authorities had halted distribution of palliative since the easing of lockdowns.
Citizens justify the looting and accuse authorities of hoarding items while millions of people suffered hunger during the coronavirus lockdowns.
Abuja residents like Sunday Chukwu say they didn’t receive any government palliative during lockdowns.
“They didn’t share anything here,” said Chukwu. “Maybe they shared for themselves. But they didn’t share for everybody and these ones now they are hiding it so that people may leave it, they’ll now gather them, they’ll be selling it to the people”.
This comes in the wake of rising tensions in Nigeria last week over police brutality. Nigeria has the highest number of people living in extreme poverty globally – some 83 million people according to the country’s statistics bereau.
The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the situation for many of the country’s poor.
Vivian Bellonwu, the head of Social Actions Nigeria has this to say.
“To think that certain persons could lockdown this quantum of food and materials as we are seeing them in their premises, in their custody and watching while people wallow in poverty and difficulty is really unthinkable,” said Bellonwu. “I think that it is quite mean, I think it’s highly insensitive and I think that this is a betrayal of trust of the people. It’s an indication of systemic failure”.
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) on Monday said the looted COVID-19 palliative in warehouses in some states were not hoarded but kept for the vulnerable people.
But as security officials monitor facilities across Nigeria more closely, various state authorities are making plans to commence distribution.