In the last one week, most Nigerian states have witnessed unprecedented looting of both private and government warehouses by citizens. ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU writes on the political implication of this heinous action carried out by mostly Nigeria youths.
Looting from Lagos to other states
As a result of the COVID – 19 pandemic lockdown, palliatives were distributed by the federal government to states while some were donated by individuals to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigerians.
Surprisingly, in the past few days, several warehouses filled with these relief materials have been discovered across the country resulting in the looting of these food items.
Last Thursday, like a bolt from the blue, a warehouse for food items originally meant to relieve the people of the effect of COVID-19 was invaded at Mazamaza area of Lagos state, by hundreds or maybe thousands of youths, who are now described as hoodlums.
However, items other than COVID-19 palliatives targeted at the people were criminally invaded and stolen with near-total absence of the police on the streets to quell the stealing and carnage perpetrated in many Nigerian states from north to south.
Notably, the viral videos from Mazamaza, Lagos state appeared to have inspired people to go in search of similar warehouses in other states. So like wild fire, the said hoodlums searched, located and invaded warehouses in other states like Adamawa, Plateau, Kaduna, Osun, Cross River, Ondo, Cross River, Abia, Enugu, Edo, Kogi, Anambra and Federal Capital Territory, Abuja among others.
As the looting spree continues, Nigerians have begun to ask why the COVID -19 palliatives were not distributed in the first place to the rightful Nigerians they were meant for .
Why the palliatives were found in warehouses – NGF
Explaining why some palliatives were found in warehouses, the head of Media and Public Affairs of Nigeria Governors Forum, (NGF) Abudulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, recently in a statement described the allegation that they deliberately hoarded the parliatives as “inaccurate, entirely erroneous and untrue but also mischievous”.
He further said, “The NGF regrets the loss of lives and property occasioned by the violent protests that erupted, and calls for calm,” the forum said.
Continuing, the statement read “The NGF reemphasises and corrects the impression that palliatives found in warehouses that were broken into in Lagos and some other states were kept in storage for members of the society, especially our vulnerable citizens.
“The erroneous impression in the public domain that these palliatives were hoarded is not just inaccurate, entirely erroneous and untrue but also mischievous, to say the least.”
“For the avoidance of doubt, some of the palliatives had the CACOVID stamp embossed on them, meaning that their source is unambiguous.
“As we know, CACOVID operations are mainly domiciled in Lagos, being the headquarters of most of the public-spirited organisations, corporate bodies and individuals that came together to form the Coalition Against COVID-19 -CACOVID.
“Until mid-October, when the NGF had its last meeting, up to ten states had not participated in the flag-off ceremonies for the distribution of palliatives in their states. This was because the items meant for distribution in these states had not been completely received from CACOVID.
“Some other states that still had palliatives in their warehouses chose to keep a strategic reserve ahead of a projected second wave of COVID-19.
“As of a couple of weeks ago, some states were still receiving palliatives from the federal government through the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
“The NGF wishes to state categorically that no state has been involved in or has hoarded any palliatives.”
Despite the forums explanations, political observers believed that for the palliative to be hoarded and the manner in which the looters broke into these warehouses is a pointer to the fact that Nigeria is gradually becoming a failed state.
Political elite failed Nigerians – Analyst
A political analyst, Aminu Mohammed says the unhindered looting of private and government warehouses further confirmed that political elites failed Nigerians.
In a phone chat with Blueprint, Mohammed said, ” When you look at the footage and images of how people looted with confidence in their numbers, what comes to mind is that our leaders in the last 30 years or more have failed us. The political elites have failed Nigerians.
” When you see the number and even categories of people, youth and women involved in the looting, you will know that there is trouble ahead, he said.
Mohammed added, “However, the government and political elite who have led this country for years are to be blamed. The ongoing looting across the country point to the fact that Nigeria is indeed one of the nation with highest level of poverty rate. No doubt that most Nigerians people are unemployed.
He continued, ” Previous and present government have failed to provide enabling environment, social amenities for small businesses to grow. In fact, most government policies and programmes are not centered on people’s welfare. For years, there has been a disconnect between the political class and the ordinary citizens.
“So today, many Nigerians are only struggling to scatch some money to survive day after day and the upward social mobility is difficult for many.
“Also, the rising prices of basic essentials of living, especially food, erode the value of people’s income, deepening hardship for low-income earners. Frustrations are mounting but Nigerian political elites are not bothered about it.
“The looting is the consequence of the actions and inactions of the Nigeria political elites. They over the years failed to put in policies and programmes that will uplift the welfare of the people and bring about human and physical development.
“The political elites are the problem and the solution. This is a signal to them that, if they fail to lead well and come up with programmes and policies that will uplift the people’s welfare, in the nearest future, we may not have Nigeria as a country again”.
What government need to do – Soludo
As part of ways to solve the problem, the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Prof. Charles Soludo, says there is need for the federal government to allow the youth to be at the fore in making and implementing policies for the country.
Soludo said this recently in an article he wrote regarding the uprising by the youth against police brutality and the call for better governance.
Soludo asked the federal government to “exploit the opportunity inherent in the current seeming national tragedy” by establishing a structure managed by the youth and one that would address their challenges.
Soludo said: “Yes, the initial peaceful protest has largely lost its strategic direction but we must not also respond by labelling the entire episode and dismissing it. The crisis has shown many patriotic youths and we need to harness them into a vanguard for the new or next Nigeria.
The former CBN governor continued , “Such a structured dialogue under whatever platform (for example: “Commission for the Future of Nigerian Youths”) should be dominated by the youths from the 36 states and FCT at the centre of the table. It could be an ad-hoc or permanent Commission (separate from the ministry of youths and sports) but with defined timelines to deliver results.
“Let Nigeria lead Africa in this regard by elevating the voice of the citizen to statecraft. We need their alternative blueprint for our future. If they want to suggest their version of Nigerian constitution, let them do so. It is their future and that of their children that is mostly at stake and so, let’s hear them.
“Let the commission for the future of Nigerian youths produce the youths’ agenda for security, jobs, poverty reduction and prosperity, as well as the legal-institutional- governance structure to deliver them. What kind of education and value system will underpin these and how will they emerge, etc?
“Given the high concentration of poverty in the North East and North West, as well as the spate of insecurity especially banditry, kidnapping, and terrorism, perhaps the youths might give Nigeria the magic wand for the problems. Let’s have their detailed plan for policing in Nigeria or even a template on the size, functions, salaries and allowances of elected officeholders, etc.”
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