• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Hunger, anger ignite unprecedented food looting

Another truck load food, essential items looted in Abuja

In an event unprecedented in recent history, residents of multiple Nigerian cities have resorted to mass looting of food warehouses and food trucks in recent days, as hunger and anger over rising food prices reach a boiling point.

In the latest incident, a crowd looted food items on Monday from a truck in the DaiDai, outskirts of Abuja, the Nigerian capital, a development that looks like a repeat of the 2020 #EndSARS protest where government and private organisations counted losses as citizens invaded warehouses and shops to help themselves.

This comes barely 24 hours after some residents of the Federal Capital Territory raided and plundered a warehouse belonging to the Federal Capital Territory’s Department of Agriculture (FCTDA).

Sunday’s incident happened amid the current economic crisis in the country which has seen the prices of goods and services increase by over 200 per cent without a corresponding increase in income.

‘’There is suffering in the land, there is suffering for the workers, no worker can live on 30,000 naira ($18.40) minimum wage and over 150 million Nigerians are living below the poverty line,” Joe Ajaero, president of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) told demonstrators in a protest.

When President Bola Tinubu took office in May 2023, he removed a fuel subsidy as part of his economic reforms. But the measures sent fuel costs soaring and the prices of food and transport almost tripled.

“Across all states in Nigeria presently there is crisis of survival from the part of the people. So, it is not just this particular occurrence, a truck bearing foodstuff was randomly attacked and looted. I do not support this in any way at all because we must have an environment where we can secure lives and property,” Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a senior advocate of Nigeria said on Channels Television’s breakfast show (The Morning Brief) on Monday.

“But it is a reflection of the fact that the economic policies of the present administration are not helping the people of the country and of course, these occurrences showcase the frustration that people are going through.” He added.

The naira lost around 70 percent of its value and dropped to record lows after Tinubu scrapped the pegging to the US dollar last year.

Last May, N10,000 would buy $22, now it will only fetch around $6.40.

The plunging naira has resulted in a rise in the price of all imported products and inflation has soared to 30 percent.

“We haven’t seen anything like this before,” Abdulahi Mohammed, local journalist in Kano, who witnessed the Monday looting incident said on X. “People are hungry, they are angry, and they see no other option but to take what they need to survive.”

Dire conditions sparked protests in several northern cities including Suleja near the capital Abuja, Minna in Niger State, and the economic hub of Kano.

To feed their children, women in northern Nigeria have even resorted to digging up anthills in search of grain stored by the insects, according to videos shown on social media.

Last week, some youths stole food items from trucks stuck in traffic along Kaduna Road in the Suleja area of Niger State.

The attackers reportedly overwhelmed the truck drivers and looted scores of bags of rice before they were dispersed by soldiers.

The Nigerian government has condemned the looting and vowed to restore order. However, analysts warn that addressing the root causes of the crisis, such as widespread poverty and food insecurity, is crucial to prevent further unrest.

On Sunday, the Police Command in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) said it has arrested 15 suspects in connection with the vandalism of a warehouse belonging to FCTA in Abuja.

“The command wishes to state that normalcy has since, been restored to the area and the situation, under control,” The Police Command said in a statement.

At least 63 percent of Nigeria’s 220 million population lives in extreme poverty, Nigeria’s statistics bureau said.

Many poor Nigerians have had to give up products considered a luxury, such as meat, eggs, milk and potato.
In 2015 Nigeria banned rice import in a drive to boost domestic production.

But the price of locally-produced rice has spiralled, pushing the staple out of reach for many. The cost of maize flour, millet and sorghum has also shot up.

Deadly raids and kidnapping for ransom by criminal gangs in the northwest and a jihadist conflict in the northeast have displaced many farming communities, BuisnessDay’s findings showed.

In a report this month the World Bank warned of acute food shortages in seven states due to the violence.
Nigeria has also shut its northern border with Niger following a military coup that toppled President Mohamed Bazoum last year, preventing millet and cowpea from reaching northern Nigerian markets.