• Saturday, April 20, 2024
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Customs suspends sale of rice, probes fatal stampede – Spokesperson

Customs intercepts drugs, rice, contraband with over N869m DPV in Owerri

Following the unfortunate stampede that led to the loss of an unspecified number of lives and left many injured, the Nigeria Customs Service said on Monday that it has suspended the sale of discounted rice until it can establish what transpired on Friday, 23 February 2024.

In a statement issued on Monday evening 26 February 2024, Abdullahi Maiwada, national public relations officer, said the suspension will help the service to properly articulate more robust and comprehensive action that will not defeat the noble intention.

While extending Customs’ heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives during the unfortunate incident, he said, their thoughts and prayers are with the affected families during this challenging time.

He assured them of Customs’ unwavering support, adding that the Service is working with Hospital Authorities to establish contact and engage directly with the victims’ families on their next steps.

Maiwada said that the Service has also launched an internal investigation to understand the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate event.

Giving account of what transpired, Maiwada said Customs on the directive of Mr. President, announced the commencement of a noble intervention aimed at alleviating the hardships faced by Nigerians and improving access to essential food items through direct disposal of seized edible goods condemned in competent courts of law and certified fit for consumption by relevant government agencies.

He said a pilot exercise was conducted on Friday, 23 February 2024, at NCS Old Zonal Headquarters, Yaba in Lagos state.

“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 the 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,” he said.

According to him, “the disposal of the food items got off to a smooth start at about 08:00 hours. 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 17:00 hours, as attested to by the over 5000 beneficiaries.”

“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,” he explained.