HomeNewsSeven Dead in Rush for Subsidized Rice by Customs, Sale Suspended

Seven Dead in Rush for Subsidized Rice by Customs, Sale Suspended

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In a tragic turn of events, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has halted the sale of foodstuffs, including rice, at discounted prices after a devastating stampede at their Old Zonal Headquarters in Yaba, Lagos State, led to the death of seven individuals, including a pregnant woman. This decision, announced on Monday by the Chief Superintendent of Customs and National Public Relations Officer for the Comptroller General of Customs, Abdullahi Maiwada, comes in the wake of the incident that occurred last Friday.

The NCS had initiated the sale of seized food items at a subsidized rate of N10,000 per 25kg bag as a means to alleviate the economic burden on Nigerians amidst soaring living costs. However, the noble intention turned tragic when chaos ensued as individuals, desperate to secure their share, were crushed in the mayhem triggered by hoodlums attempting to breach the compound’s security.

The aftermath of the suspension was palpable on Monday as residents, who had hoped to purchase the subsidized rice, voiced their frustration and despair. The scene at the Yaba Customs office was one of desperation, with people from various walks of life, including the elderly, lining up in vain hope of securing a bag of rice. Despite assurances from the officers that the stock was depleted, the crowd only grew larger.

The incident not only highlights the dire economic straits faced by many Nigerians but also the dangers that can arise from well-intentioned but poorly managed public distribution efforts. Intending buyers, like Toyin Oke-Owo, expressed their dire situation and appealed to President Bola Tinubu for intervention, underscoring the acute hunger that drives such gatherings.

In response to the calamity, the NCS issued a statement expressing regret over the incident and extending condolences to the families of the victims. The statement detailed the initial success of the distribution process, which prioritized vulnerable groups among the over 5,000 beneficiaries, until the unfortunate turn of events when the crowd, informed of the depletion of stocks, surged beyond control.

This incident serves as a sobering reminder of the pressing need for effective strategies to address economic hardship and the implementation of safer, more organized distribution mechanisms for aid. As the NCS reassesses its approach to aid distribution, the broader conversation about addressing Nigeria’s economic challenges and ensuring the safety and well-being of its citizens during such initiatives remains paramount.

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