Nigeria Customs Service suspends direct disposal of food items to the public

Photograph showing how peaceful and orderly the exercise started in the early hours of the day

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Nigeria Customs Service suspends direct disposal of food items to the public

Photographs showing how peaceful and orderly the exercise started in the early hours of the day

There are indications that the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, has put on hold the initiative on direct disposal of food items to the public.

The Customs National Public Relations Officer, CSC ABDULLAHI MAIWADA, made this known through a press statement signed by the Service.

The statement reads : “It will be recalled that the Nigeria Customs Service on the directive of President Bola Ahmed, announced the commencement of a noble intervention aimed at alleviating the hardships faced by Nigerians.  The exercise was initiated to improve 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.

“In that capacity, a pilot exercise was conducted on Friday, February 23, 2024, at NCS Old Zonal Headquarters, Yaba, 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 ground in anticipation of potential risks during an exercise of that magnitude. Their presence was part of our proactive approach to ensure the safety and well-being of all participants”.

The statement continues : “The disposal of food items got off to a smooth start at about 0800hrs. We enjoyed the cooperation of a 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.

“That was the case until about 1700hrs, as attested to by 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.”

The statement added : “The 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.

“As a Service deeply committed to the welfare and safety of Nigerians, we recognise 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.

“We appreciate the understanding and cooperation of all Nigerians, as we work towards addressing the challenges facing our nation’s food security.”

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