Violence never seems to be an ending concept in Nigeria’s socio-political lexicon. It will not be an assumption to say that it is the most potent took which both leaders and followers have utilised to achieve their aims and make the demands known.
The last few weeks have affirmed the above fact as the nation witnessed a stream of events which will not be forgotten in years to come. While the country is still counting her losses from the just concluded, #endsars protests which claimed innumerable lives, it is as though the country is faced with another challenge of ending the looting of warehouses where COVID-19 palliatives are stored for distribution and also ending jailbreaks across the country.
Lest we forget, the civil society organization, Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) in the second quarter of the year inaugurated a nationwide distribution of multi-billion naira food palliative and other relief items to mitigate the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable Nigerians, many people erroneously thought that the palliatives will be equitably and fairly distributed in line with the wish of the partners in the Coalition.
The relief materials for which were estimated to be in billions were to be distributed across the 774 local governments across the country. By reliable statistics, the project was meant to impact over 10 million households nationwide. At the peak of the inauguration of the project which was meant to cushion the effects of hunger and poverty in vulnerable Nigerians, CACOVID’s Director and Chief Executive Officer of Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF), Mrs Zouera Youssoufou, intimated journalists that the food distribution was the next line of action planned by the organization to provide relief materials to the public to reduce the burden caused by the pandemic.
How said is the fact that the purpose of the entire project was defeated, no thanks to nefarious and unscrupulous elements of the public who invaded several warehouses across the country carting away essential food Items.
On October 22, 2020, the first port of call was the warehouse located in Mazamaza, a remote location in Lagos State. Viral video clips trending on social media revealed that the looters who had been christened hoodlums by the government forced their way into the several warehouses located in the country and took away several food items. The last weekend also recorded similar events in Kwara, Osun, Ekiti States where warehouses were looted and food items were stolen.
Just at the beginning of the week, hoodlums disguising as end SARS protesters looted Cross River COVID-19 palliative warehouse at Bishop Moynagh Street, State Housing Authority in Calabar. In the same vein, hoodlums in Benin City, on Saturday, stormed the government warehouse along Medical Store Road in the Uselu, axis of the Edo State capital and looted the COVID-19 palliative items stored in the warehouse. As it has been since warehouses stocking Covid-19 palliatives were discovered by hoodlums in Lagos, the story has not been the same from almost all the 36 states in the federation.
Who do we blame for all these streams of violence?
In the first instance, the government of the day has proven to be insincere in her dealings with the citizenry. As if the minds of the citizens were gullible, the government was quick to note that it had no hand in the mayhem as the situation was beyond its control.
The Lagos State government, in particular, noted that the looted warehouse was not state-owned and its usage was made available to the CaCOVID group. The State Government had been allowed to commence rebagging of food items allotted to it from the quantities meant for South-West states.
“The re-bagging was being done to account for each beneficiary receipt, as was required and monitored by the CACOVID team. The distribution was ongoing but had to be halted due to protests, before the invasion of the warehouse yesterday. For effective distribution of the food palliative, groups such as transport unions, ethnic groups, religious associations, artisans and tradesmen association, market men and women association, People Living with Disabilities, orphanages and old peoples’ homes among others were being used as distribution channels to their members”, the government asserted.
Sadly, not all citizens believe these lies being told to the ears of Nigerians.
Several people believe that the government is at fault for the looting Nigerians believe that hunger is behind the looting. It is sad that Nigerian politicians with all their entitlements and financial benefits still think of fighting for crumbs which are meant for the masses. This has put forward several questions. “Why then are they elected if they cannot meet the needs of their followers?
Different statements emanating from the verbal coffers of the government on the non-distribution of the palliatives in most states in a country where huge percentage of over 200 million of the people are suffering from malnutrition and hunger are been considered to be deceits.
A vivid example was the explanation given by a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, representing Ikorodu Constituency, Sanai Agunbiade aka SOB, whose property was invaded by irate youths who discovered and looted the CACOVID palliatives. He said he intended to distribute them on his birthday.
For my birthday on 25th October 2020, I have sent out, through my Media Team, a notice of my intention to give support to 50 widows who have already been nominated by different groups in a programme christened Widows Mite for Widows and also distribute to some vulnerable and indigent individuals across the three local councils of my constituency, some palliative materials donated by the state and federal governments, as well as myself,” Agunbiade noted. How sad this could be.
In Osun State, the case isn’t different either as the Secretary to the food distribution committee noted that the materials weren’t hoarded but secured for an official flag off. Does this sound reasonable at all?
The current stream of events has made Nigerians understood the fact that our political leaders have no interest of the masses at heart. How could palliatives that were meant for the people or rather their constituents in time of need be hoarded leading to large scale hunger?
This has buttressed the fact the rich, who are at the pinnacle of political administration are utilising their positions to exploit the poor. This is obvious as several of the items were stored away not only in warehouses but also in their houses. Against this backdrop, not a few of them believe that it’s nothing short of wickedness for those in the position of authority to keep the provisions while people were starving during the lockdown.
It is high time Nigerian leaders understand that the cost for inciting and fueling violence is much more expensive than the cost of quelling it. To prevent a national disaster, issues relating to welfare shouldn’t be treated with levity. After all, the holy books have affirmed the fact that a leader who inflicts sufferings on his or her followers for no just reason will be in in the danger of the judgement.