By Ikeddy ISIGUZO

ALL in the name of searching for warehouses that hid Covid-19 palliatives, a wave of looting ran through parts of Nigeria. Hardly anything was spared. What could not be looted was burnt in some instances. The anger was worse than what anyone could imagine. It was a barometer for the detachment of the government from the people. Or what was it?

It was also an indication of the level of lawlessness available in the land. People across all demographics were involved in the looting. Nigeria was united. Ignoring age, gender, tribe, tongue, religion, political affiliation, morality, people descended on private and public property, converting them to personal use, or destroying them.

Cost of the losses can only be guessed. Governments have been busy throwing up figures. Lives were also lost. How much do lives cost?

Were the police on strike while hoodlums set on the country?

Governors are scrambling to maintain law and order in their various domains may erect new abuses. One of their measures is the threat to make house to house searches for looted palliatives and other government property.

Mike Ozekhome, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, has warned Governors about the illegality of invading people’s homes in search of looted palliatives. He told Sahara Reporters, “If Governors are saying that people have looted government properties one thing becomes clear, looting without permission is a criminal offence. So, no state government can simply take the law or result to self-help and barge into the homes of these people allegedly searching for so-called looted properties.

“They will first go to a court of law and obtain a search warrant before they can enter any homes at all. The search warrant must indicate why they are going to search the house with dignity of people and fair hearing with their right to privacy and family life.”

He berated the Governors for hoarding food items meant for the people while thousands of Nigerians were dying of COVID-19 and starvation.

“Hunger, poverty, abject penury, melancholy and hopelessness reigned supreme in the land. These governors heartlessly and shamelessly hoarded the properties meant for the people they govern.”

Tope Akinyode, also a lawyer, said governments should not cut corners to get justice. “If someone takes another person’s property that is stealing and there are legal procedures to follow to prosecute and charge such person to court.

“The court determines whether that person has actually stolen the property or not. Executive fiat or legislation cannot determine the ingredient of stealing has been established unless it has been determined by court and the guilt of an offence cannot be established,” he said. 

How cryptic the past few weeks have been are partly capture in these 20 pictures that could summarise Nigeria at the looting phase of a once peaceful protest against police brutality. That the police and other security agencies watched as the looting continued, or even participated, could be gleaned from calls by police authorities on their men and women to return to work. At least one agency fired an official that joined the looters.

It was Bloody

One of the successful looters could be seen logging a bag of rice to his own ‘warehouse’. The price included his bloodied head which smeared the bag of rice, possibly the blood of those he conquered was in the mixture. He was luckier. Some died on the same mission in Abuja and elsewhere.

Sleeping on Loot

Fears or remorse were absent about what had been done. What else would explain a looter resting (after a hard day’s job) on the cartons of noodles he had loaded in a vehicle? If we wanted to search the minds of the looters, the man in question represented them. The palliatives were ours, we did no wrong in taking what belonged to us.

Tractors Were Looted

Only 48 out of 110 tractors that belonged to the North East Commodity Association, NECAS, which has been supporting agriculture in the North East since 2018, had been recovered so far. Many seemed to have changed ownership or may never be seen again in one piece – they were taken down in parts and sold as spares. If the looters are so creative with tractors, food items may not be too difficult to disperse.

Someone Looted Jalingo

While others busied with warehouses, a young man made away with the street sign that announced Jalingo, the Taraba State capital. Was his intention to loot the entire city or obliterate its existence? Whatever it was, evidence suggests his satisfaction at making Jalingo his.

Ekiti State House of Assembly Too

The signboard for Ekiti State House of Assembly was triumphantly taken away. We can only hope that some people have not set up their own parliament. We would know if they start making laws, the first of which could be amnesty for all looters.

Looting Was Inclusive

Who could have imagined that in the struggles invested in looting the physically challenged would survive? The man with his bag of rice heaved to the shoulder, an amputated leg, a clutch on one hand, was the proof that the exercise was not discriminatory. The fittest survived; he was one. Nigerians were possibly still kind-hearted enough to yield to his circumstance.

Gender Sensitivity

The genders were well represented. Whether it was scaling fences or pulling off roofs of warehouses to access the palliatives, there was no gender discrimination. The riskier journey of getting the loot home reflected the abilities of the genders. It is no mean feat getting two bags of rice (100kg on the bike) and having a comfortable ride.

Desperation

Asukwo’s cartoon where people were retorting to suggestions that the foods were not safe for consumption says a lot. Hunger kills. Covid-19 kills. Would it matter if the palliative kills? Hunger does not leave much room for reasoned discussions. 

Can You Beat This?

Did you know that a motorbike can take a ride on another motorbike? We now know. The new owner of the new motorbike was well-seated to protect his loot, after all loots were reportedly re-looted.

Uncounted Loot

Governments and subject matter experts are busy counting the financial costs of the wild protests. Nobody appears interested in the revelations about the depth of our looted morality. Let us not imagine it is only about the morality of those who looted the streets and warehouses in the past few weeks, there are more vicious looters whose sense of entitlement has infected our national ethos. Their mentees hold the future hostage.

Lastly…

A message that was on cars stickers mainly in Lagos, when General Sani Abacha reigned, in the previous century, surfaced on a keke – Stop Stealing Government Hates Competition. It was not confirmed at press time whether the keke was one of those involved in relocating palliatives from warehouses.

Please share. Your comments, complaints, concerns, and commendations are welcome.

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