Nigeria: Customs Suspends Rice Distribution After Fatal Stampede

Nigeria: Customs Suspends Rice Distribution After Fatal Stampede

By Ahmad Hadizat Omayoza, Mamos Nigeria

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has halted its food disposal initiative after a tragic stampede on February 23 claimed the lives of seven individuals during the distribution of 25kg bags of rice at its Zonal Headquarters in Yaba, Lagos State.

The announcement of the suspension was made in a statement by Mr. Abdullahi Maiwada, the National Public Relations Officer of the NCS, on Monday. Maiwada emphasized that the suspension was a necessary measure to ensure the safety of Nigerians and to allow the service to thoughtfully plan its next steps without compromising the vision of the initiative.

The NCS had initially announced on February 20 that it would facilitate the direct disposal of food items that had been forfeited to the Federal Government. This initiative was aimed at addressing the challenges of food security in Nigeria and the rising costs of essential food items, with a particular focus on improving the lives of the indigent population.

The distribution of 25kg bags of rice began on February 23 at a discounted price of N10,000 in Lagos. The NCS had assured that the exercise would be managed to ensure that the benefits reached those who were most in need.

However, unforeseen challenges arose during the pilot distribution when the bags of rice went out of stock. This led to heightened desperation among the crowd, who charged through barricades in search of rice bags inside emptied containers. The resulting stampede led to fatalities and injuries, prompting the NCS to suspend the exercise until a thorough investigation could be conducted.

The NCS has initiated an internal investigation to understand the circumstances surrounding the tragic event. The service expressed its condolences to the families of the deceased and assured them of its unwavering support.

In response to critics who questioned the selling of rice at a discounted price rather than distributing it for free, the NCS spokesperson clarified that the items had monetary value and were sold to generate revenue for the government. The spokesperson also noted that the price of the rice had been discounted to enable indigent individuals to afford it.

The decision to suspend the distribution of rice underscores the importance of ensuring the safety and well-being of citizens in all government initiatives. It also highlights the need for thorough planning and management to prevent such tragic incidents in the future.

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