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Nigeria Customs halts food distribution after fatal stampede

Nigeria Customs moves to expand trade relations with Benin Republic

The Nigeria Customs Service has announced a temporary halt to its national food distribution initiative launched in Lagos over the weekend due to a tragic stampede resulting in fatalities.

According to Abdullahi Maiwada, the Service’s National Public Relations Officer, the intervention aimed to ease Nigerians’ hardships and enhance access to vital food items by directly distributing seized edible goods approved for consumption by competent courts of law and relevant government agencies.

“The exercise was conducted following meticulous planning to address all potential risks that may emerge during the exercise. As part of our process and control measures, we had Nigeria Police and military personnel to ensure crowd control.

“We also fully equipped a medical team on ground in anticipation of potential risks during an exercise of that magnitude. Their presence was part of our proactive approach to ensuring the safety and well-being of all participants.

“The disposal of the food items got off to a smooth start at about 0800hrs. We enjoyed the cooperation of the large crowd that obliged us, giving preferences to the elderly, people living with disabilities, pregnant women, and other vulnerable Nigerians who showed up for the exercise. This was the case up until about 1700hrs, as attested to by the over 5000 beneficiaries and members of the press.

“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,” Maiwada said .

He added that “Following this incident, an internal investigation was initiated to understand the circumstances surrounding this unfortunate event. “Considering the recent unfortunate event, we regrettably announce the suspension of this exercise until we establish what transpired on Friday, 23 February 2024.”