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'Suffering and starving': In Nigeria, citizens raid warehouse full of undistributed aid

On October 24, hundreds of people raided the contents of a warehouse said to contain undistributed Covid-19 aid in Jos, Nigeria. (Screenshot: Twitter)
On October 24, hundreds of people raided the contents of a warehouse said to contain undistributed Covid-19 aid in Jos, Nigeria. (Screenshot: Twitter)
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Hundreds of people descended on a warehouse containing food and palliative relief supplies in the central Nigerian town of Jos on October 24 and 25. Amid escalating social unrest in Nigeria’s #EndSARS police brutality protests, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and increasing economic insecurity, citizens say that the government should have already distributed these provisions. Despite reassurance from the government that aid would be properly allocated, Nigerians continue to mobilise across the country.

In videos posted on October 24, we can see a massive crowd of people surrounding a State Emergency Management Agency warehouse in Jos, the capital of Nigeria’s Plateau State. Some broke into the building and made their way to the roof to toss bags of grains to the hundreds of people gathered below.

A video posted on Twitter on October 24 shows hundreds of people looting a warehouse in Jos, Nigeria, as others gather to watch.

Following the looting, people on the streets cart away sacks labelled “Not for Sale.”

News began to spread on social media that other warehouses may contain food and emergency supplies after Covid-19 palliatives – mainly foodstuffs such as guinea corn, maize, rice and noodles – were looted in Lagos on October 22. Numerous posts encouraged Jos residents to search for stockpiles of Covid-19 palliatives nearby, causing crowds to descend on several Jos warehouses – and the home of a politician.

‘The crowd had tripled since I arrived’

A video posted October 24 on Twitter provides a closer look at the people tossing sacks of food to those below.

Emmanuel (name changed on request of anonymity), a Plateau State native and entrepreneur, heard about the raid on social media. 

 

I saw posts on Twitter calling for residents of Jos to locate and raid Covid-19 relief materials warehouses. I am from a lower-middle-class family, so food isn't a problem for us yet, but I decided to join those raiding the warehouse as a show of solidarity to the general disgruntlement and rage of the masses at the way the country has been poorly run.

As soon as I got there, I noticed that some parts of the roofing sheets had already been torn open. Sacks of food supplies (maize, guinea corn) had already been removed from the rooftop, thrown down at random to an agitated crowd, and carted away. There was no fighting, only periodical arguments on the ownership of the sacks that were thrown down from the rooftop. Meanwhile, some people were already trying to help themselves by creating more openings in the warehouse to gain access to the relief supplies. The crowd was on a rapid increase. It wouldn't be totally out of place to say that the crowd had tripled from when I first arrived.

Similar looting has occurred in cities across Nigeria.

A video posted on Twitter October 22 shows looting in a warehouse in Lagos.

A video posted on Twitter October 23 shows people carrying sacks away from a warehouse in Ekiti State.

Undistributed stockpiles

The sacks of food in the Jos warehouse were labelled as relief from the federal government of Nigeria. Videos taken inside the warehouse show piles of these sacks stored on several levels.

In a photo provided by one of our Observers, we can see a sack labeled “Federal Republic of Nigeria Food Relief.”

A video posted on Twitter on October 24 shows the interior of the warehouse with sacks of grains stacked almost to the ceiling.

Nigeria’s president directed the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to distribute 70,000 tonnes of grain from this reserve starting in April. But, with overflowing warehouses across the country, citizens are asking why some provisions were not allocated.

Plateau State denied any claim that they were hoarding Covid-19 aid. In a Twitter thread, they insisted these supplies had been delivered by the federal government October 16. They were meant to be immediately distributed, until #EndSARS protests interfered.

Read more on the Observers >> Nigerian protests against police brutality upended by deadly violence

Several other states said they were waiting for higher directives before distributing their aid. The federal government has denied the fact that any local governments were told to wait for further direction before distribution.

‘Citizens are dying of starvation and they hide these relief materials from them’

Michael (name changed on request of anonymity), a 23-year-old student from Jos, said he believed the raid was a symptom of increasing precarity in Nigeria.

 

People decided to go there because they are suffering and starving. When I arrived everyone was trying to get hold of the food items for themselves. I felt bad because how can we have such a wicked government, where their citizens are dying of starvation and they hide these relief materials from them? There is hunger and starvation because there is high inflation of food prices in the market and not everyone can afford to buy due to lack of employment and poor wages and salaries. People were just struggling to go in and out to get the foodstuff.

An estimated 68 percent of Nigerian households have experienced food insecurity as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has affected more than 60,000 people and taken 1,132 lives in Nigeria since March. With inflation on food products nearing 17 percent in September, more and more Nigerians are having difficulties affording basic goods.

The Plateau State government and police have given people until October 28 to return stolen relief goods or risk arrest. Meanwhile, more than 300 people have already been arrested for suspected looting, while police have identified one individual as the source who mobilised the action on social media.

Following nationwide looting, several Nigerian states have begun distributing their aid for fear that they it will be stolen.

Article written by Pariesa Young

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