Nigerian Citizens Justify Massive Looting of COVID-19 Supplies

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Amid tensions in Nigeria last week over police brutality, mobs of citizens are overrunning several government-owned facilities and ransacking palliatives meant for distribution earlier during the coronavirus lockdowns. So far, nine Nigerian states have been looted. On Saturday, security officials dispersed mobs at another storage facility under attack in Abuja.

Some protesters were demonstrating in front of a facility in Garki, Abuja, as military and police vans barricaded the entrance to the facility.

Earlier, mobs of people trying to attack the facility and make away with some food items were dispersed after security officials fired their guns into the air.

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But many, like David Ojo, remained adamant and said they wouldn't leave until they got some food.

"We need our palliatives. It is our right. My neighbor almost died of hunger because of COVID-19," said Ojo. "He used to work as security guard at a government institution, but he was sacked. What do you want him to do? I gave him beans and rice, he almost died of hunger."

A man reacts while carrying a bag of noodles during a mass looting of a warehouse that have COVID-19 food palliatives that were…
A man reacts while carrying a bag of noodles during a mass looting of a warehouse that have COVID-19 food palliatives that were not given during lockdown to relieve people of hunger, in Abuja, Nigeria, Oct. 26, 2020.

Storage facilities holding relief materials including COVID-19 palliatives have been looted across nine states in Nigeria in the last few days.

The $64 million worth of COVID-19 relief materials had been handed to authorities by the private sector coalition against coronavirus, CA-COVID.
But many state authorities had halted distribution of palliatives since the easing of lockdowns. 

Citizens justified the looting and accused authorities of hoarding items while millions of people suffered during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Abuja residents like Sunday Chukwu said they didn't receive any government supplies during the lockdowns.

"They didn't share anything here," said Chukwu. "Maybe they shared for themselves. But they didn't share for everybody and these ones now they are hiding it so that people may leave it, they'll now gather them, they'll be selling it to the people."

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This comes in the wake of rising tensions in Nigeria last week over police brutality. Nigeria has the highest number of people living in extreme poverty globally - some 83 million people, according to the country's statistics bureau. 

The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the situation for many of the country's poor.

"To think that certain persons could lock down this quantum of food and materials as we are seeing them in their premises, in their custody and watching while people wallow in poverty and difficulty is really unthinkable," said Vivian Bellonwu, head of Social Actions Nigeria. "I think that it is quite mean, I think it's highly insensitive and I think that this is a betrayal of trust of the people. It's an indication of systemic failure."

Demonstrators demand palliatives be given to them from a storage facility in Abuja, Oct. 24, 2020. (Timothy Obiezu/VOA)
Demonstrators demand palliatives be given to them from a storage facility in Abuja, Oct. 24, 2020. (Timothy Obiezu/VOA)

The Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) on Monday said the looted COVID-19 palliatives in warehouses in some states were not hoarded but kept for the vulnerable people.

But as security officials monitor facilities across Nigeria more closely, various state authorities are making plans to commence distribution.

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