By Ikeddy ISIGUZO
WHY are the authorities shocked about the anger in the land? They never imagined the consequences of their politics that has ignored the people for so long. There are still no strategies for containing the raging mobs across the country. President Mohammadu Buhari would be shocked about the fall-outs of the Covid-19 palliatives when he becomes aware.
The latest anger of the hoodlums has been visited on non-distribution of Covid-19 palliatives. Governments’ explanations have been as incoherent as the inattentiveness of our self-serving government officials who think little about the people. The trust deficit of the people for governments has taken another negative leap.
Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development on Friday 23 October 2020 made a quick denial of involvement in the warehoused palliatives. It said that the items were clearly marked ‘Lagos State Government and Ca-Covid’. A statement by Nneka Ikem Anibeze, media aide to the Minister Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq read, “Ca-Covid is short for Coalition Against Covid-19, a private sector led task force in partnership with the Federal Government, the Nigeria Centre For Disease Control, NCDC, and the World Health Organisation, WHO with the sole aim of combating Covid-19 in Nigeria. The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development did not procure, distribute, or facilitate the distribution of palliatives under the Ca-Covid initiative”. The statement was before warehoused palliatives were found in other States. It is uncertain if they were all from Ca-Covid.
Some organisations are already asking the President to probe the distribution of Covid-19 palliatives. The calls are getting stronger. “We don’t want to join issue with them (Governors). But to set the record straight, there was never a time when the Presidency or the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs said, State Governors should not distribute the palliatives given to them until a certain time,” a Presidency source told Daily Trust, as the blame sharing game continued.
Every State seems to have these warehouses stuffed with food items that may decay in storage while hungry Nigerians are made to believe governments had done their best. How do you explain to hungry, angry mobs that the foods were for tomorrow?
Once the discovery was made in Lagos, mobs were in a race across Nigeria to find where the States kept their palliatives. The findings were startling. Was the looting justified?
Judging mob actions tasks the law. The explanations for storing the foods included one Lagos legislator saying he planned to distribute Covid-19 palliatives found in his residence during his birthday celebration. What is the relationship between a birthday (a personal affair) and the public business of governments distributing resources meant for the public for a specific purpose? Is that explanation not more annoying than the discovery?
Ca-Covid appears to have sent some materials to some States as late as September. Some States claimed they were awaiting directives to distribute the items. Hopefully, our politicians are learning the importance of communicating with the public.
The new wave of looting endangers everyone. The losses are not just material. There are high possibilities of public health being compromised as hospitals and health laboratories have been looted.
Unsterilised hospital beds, bedding, collected samples (including tuberculosis sputum) were looted in a Calabar medical facility. Pause for a moment to take in how that can aid the spread of tuberculosis, among other diseases.
The looted Calabar Garment Factory, and International Conference Centre may cost billions of Naira to fix but the cost pales to insignificance when compared to the dangers posed by infected hospital materials that are in free circulation. We are dealing with mobs whose anger and hunger over-ride considerations for their own safety and before whom nothing is sacred.
What illiteracy and poverty led to the looting of health facilities? We have witnessed new lows in these protests which are quickly running beyond reason. A man was seen with a city sign for Jalingo. What will he do with it? He could sell it. If he succeeds he is into a new business, looting street signs.
The National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, has warned that its looted warehouses only held unsafe products that were billed for destruction. They would make their way back to the markets to endanger society.
A looted grains warehouse of a research institute in Jos also had “unfit for consumption” products, it announced. The grains the mobs took were being used for research. Unhealthy chemicals had been applied on them.
While Ekiti State Commissioner for Information Akin Omole said Ekiti had distributed palliatives it got, he also warned looters that what were taken from the State’s warehouses were fertilizers (not garri) and corns being pre-fermented for planting. More dangers would be on the way if they do not realise the dangers.
Every warehouse is the mobs’ target. The ownership is unimportant. Once the mob sets on it, supposedly in search of Covid-19 palliatives, it takes whatever is available. Businesses struggling out of Covid-19 lockdown are losing the little they have to the anger on the streets.
More places continued to be looted in Abuja, Ado-Ekiti, Awka, Benin City, Calabar, Ede, Enugu, Ibadan, Ilorin, Jalingo, Jos, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Lokoja, Uyo, Yola, as the mobs explored inadequate security. Property belonging to legislators, former or serving, was of interest to the hoodlums who vandalised the places before burning them. The fires that left the streets ended up in private property as target. Some lives have been lost in the struggles to claim the palliatives, some in fights among the mobs, and at the hands of security forces.
Senator Teslim Folarin, representing Oyo Central Senatorial District, whose house in Ibadan was vandalised explained, “For the sake of clarification, I have just formally taken receipt of the empowerment materials from a federal agency coordinating constituency projects for federal lawmakers. I took stock of the materials ahead of a mega empowerment programme scheduled to hold in November 2020. Looted materials included over 350 motorcycles, 400 deep freezers, 350 generators, grinding machines, sewing machines, hairdressing, and barbing salon materials, vulcanising machines and many more.”
Folarin has put the pubic on notice that federal lawmakers have empowerment programmes slated for 2020. Is every national legislator distributing these items to constituents? Do state and local government legislators also have empowerment programmes?
What began as peaceful protests over the atrocities of SARS, the arm of the police that became everything the police were meant not to be, swung into demands for good governance and accountability to curb the wastes in the system. All these have thinned to the recesses of memory as hoodlums have taken charge.
Law enforcement agents should save Nigerians from the mobs. If unchecked, hoodlums would forceful take anything they want from anyone, anywhere. Even the last cover of one’s dignity, if mobs want it, they will take it.
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