National Hardship: Customs Suspends Food Disposal Over Stampede Deaths

Seized food items being sold to needy Nigerians at discounted prices by the NCS
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From Ankeli Emmanuel, Sokoto

The National Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service ( NCS, Chief Superintendent of Customs, Abdullahi Maiwada, has disclosed that the planned nationwide subsidized sale of seized grains to Nigerians has been temporary suspended.

Maiwada, who made the disclosure, Monday in a statement, also extended the Customs’ condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and those who sustained various degrees of injuries during a stampede in the Lagos pilot flag-off of the exercise.

Maiwada wrote: “The Nigeria Customs Service extends its heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives during the unfortunate incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the affected families during this challenging time, and we assure them of our unwavering support.

“We are working with hospital authorities to establish contact and engage directly with the victims’ families on their next steps. Following this incident, an internal investigation was initiated to understand the circumstances surrounding this unfortunate event.”

He reiterated that the noble initiative of disposing off seized but edible food items as directed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was aimed at alleviating the hardships faced by Nigerians.

Stating how prepared the NCS were for the smooth conduct of the exercise, Maiwada said all necessary measures including police, military and team of medical personnel were on ground to control the crowd and mitigate any potential health risk that may emerge during the exercise.

Continuing, the National Customs’ image maker said over 5,000 Nigerians benefited between 8 in the morning till about 5 in the evening when they ran out of stock and asked the crowd to come back the next day for continuation of the exercise.

He added: “However, unforeseen challenges arose when we ran out of stock and announced the continuation of the exercise the following day, leading to a regrettable outcome. The crowd became desperate and charged through our barricades in search of rice bags inside emptied containers. In the stampede that ensued, some fatalities and injuries were regrettably recorded.

“As a service deeply committed to the welfare and safety of Nigerians, we recognize the need for heightened sensitivity and preventive measures in all our operations. Considering the recent unfortunate event, we regrettably announce the suspension of this exercise until we establish what transpired on Friday, 23 February 2024. This should help us to properly articulate more robust and comprehensive action that will not defeat the noble intention”.

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