The looters claimed they only took what belonged to them. But state governments and the donor of the items looted in warehouses across the country, Coalition Against COVID (CACOVID), insist they never hoarded the items pilfered during the ENDSARS protests, write YINKA ADNIRAN, ONIMISI ALAO, TOBA ADEDEJI, ADEKUNLE JIMOH, GBENGA OMOKHUNU and FAITH YAHAYA
THEY have been described as suspected hoodlums, but those who swooped on a warehouse in Akobo in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital city in the early hours of Friday, October 23 were not hoodlums. They are men, women, girls and boys well-known in that axis. Their target: The palliatives they said were meant for the people of the state. By the time they left, no fewer than 1,850 bags of rice were carted away.
In Bakin Kogi, Yola, the Adamawa State capital, warehouses were also attacked but not only were food items looted, but the roof of the warehouses was also stripped.
And in Ede, the Osun State capital, some residents stormed a warehouse to loot Pasta, noodles, garri, salt and sugar. The warehouse is located at Cocoa House, Ede.
Elsewhere across the country, such as Calabar, the Cross River State capital, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, Jos, the Plateau State capital and Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, similar actions were carried out by people who claimed they were looting what their state governments hid from them.
But, the state governments are disputing the claim.
Oyo: private warehouse was looted
The Oyo State government said it had nothing to do with the looted foodstuff. A businessman, Mr Alabi Adeoye, said he owns the warehouse. According to him, he was an agent of the private sector-driven Coalition Against Covid-19 (Ca-COVID) engaged to supply rice to Abia, Cross River, Plateau and Taraba states.
He added that the company was re-bagging and repacking the rice in line with the specifications of the coalition before distribution to the states, explaining that his company, which has been operating in Oyo State in the past five years, lost close to N50million to the attack.
Adeoye said: “Oyo State Government was not part of the states we were asked to supply by CACOVID.
“On the 30th of September, they (Ca-Covid) contacted us if we could handle the supply of rice for them. We have an interest in farming. We are farmers and we have a good network with every state. We told them we could handle it, which we were able to get the purchase order.
“After that, we instructed our team to manage it from Ibadan, simply because we believe we can also generate revenue in Ibadan and create more jobs. We have farms in Ibadan and it has been profitable for us. And we have been able to employ a good number of the indigenes to manage our farms for us. So, these are the reasons why they gave us the job.
“We have been operating in Ibadan for quite some time. We have two warehouses in Ibadan; there is one on Iwo Road and the other is at Lagelu, which we have been managing for like five years. We have never witnessed an invasion like this because we have been so good to the community. Recently, we tried to construct about 500metres of the road for them. So, I was surprised to see this kind of attack.
“But our facility was vandalized and food items worth millions of Naira were carted away. This is not a big concern to us, though we believe that these food items are meant for Nigerians we were unable to get them to the appropriate quarters. However, property that was vandalized was worth millions of naira.”
He thanked men of the ‘Operation Burst,’ whose intervention, he said, helped to stop the destruction of his company.
He also added that the effort also yielded a result as about 185 bags have been recovered so far from the suspected hoodlums who are residents and members of the community where the facility is located.
Addressing a news conference to correct the insinuation that the food items are palliatives for the residents, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters Chief Bayo Lawal said the state’s fifth round of palliative distribution was slowed down by the nationwide protests.
Lawal, who is also the chairman of the Food Security and Palliative Committee of the Oyo State COVID-19 Task Force, explained that the bags of rice looted at the private warehouse in Ibadan were not the property of Oyo State, adding that the state was not supplied rice as part of the palliatives from Ca-Covid and that it did not distribute rice as part of the palliatives distributed to the people so far.
He said the hoodlums mistook the private warehouse for government property.
Lawal said: “Investigations at the moment eventually revealed that there was nothing that concerns the Oyo State government in that warehouse.
“The warehouse belongs to a private individual who operates in Oyo State and was given a valid contract by the Coalition Against Covid-19 (Ca-Covid), a coalition of private organizations that have been helping states and the federal government to fight Covid-19, to supply them to a certain number of states.
“So, it was the rice that he procured on his own for repackaging that was mistaken to be Oyo State’s that hoodlums looted.”
Unlike the Oyo State scenario, the roofing sheets, bags of rice, sugar and noodles looted on October 25 and 26 belonged to the Adamawa State government. The looters’ singsong was that the government was keeping the palliatives for 2023 campaign.
Governor Ahmadu Fintiri said the palliatives were not hoarded, adding that they were still being received and distribution was not yet due when the EndSARS looting was perpetuated.
He said distribution was set for October 26, which was the second of the two-day mass looting.
The palliatives came from several sources, including the Federal Government and Coalition for COVID-19, and were to be distributed to people in the 226 wards of the state’s 21 local government areas.
Osun: items can only be distributed after a flag-off by the CACOVID
The Nation gathered that pasta FMN – 29, 992 cartons; pasta OLAM -10, 282 cartons; noodles- 80, 644 cartons; garri -40, 322 bags; salt- 40, 320 cartons; and sugar – 40, 227 cartons were looted.
The Osun State Food Relief Committee through the secretary, Alhaji Bayo Jimoh, explained that the palliative looted were from the Coalition Against COVID (CACOVID)
He noted that the items can only be distributed after a formal flag-off by the CACOVID Office, Abuja saying “we do not have the authority to distribute the food items without approval from Abuja. The Committee is still expecting the rice component of the donated items, which is 40, 322 bags of 10kg.”
“Osun was expecting 10kg of 40, 322 bags of rice when CACOVID palliative was looted. The palliative was meant to support state government and was brought into the state between September and October 2020. We the food relief committee only provided a warehouse and the state government allowed those palliatives to be stored in Ede Cocoa industry. We wrote a letter dated September 28, 2020, to CACOVID office in Abuja informing them that they are yet to deliver all the items of foodstuff they promised the state. That 40, 322 10kg bags of rice. They told us that they will come to the state to distribute the food items when they are done with the delivery. They have a sharing formula and it was that each household will take one bag of 10kg rice, 1 bag of 10kg garri, two cartons of spaghetti, two packs of sugar and two packs of salt but because the major item which was rice had not come the CACOVID did not come to Osun State to flag off.”
Kwara State Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq said the items looted at a store at the Kwara State Cargo Terminal came from CACOVID.
Items handed over to Kwara State by donors included 27,360 bags of semolina; 27,360 bags of sugar; 27,360 cartons of pasta; 27,360 bags of salt; 27,360 (10kg) bags of rice; and 54,720 cartons of noodles.
At the handing-over ceremony, CACOVID Representative and Zonal Head of Access Bank Muhammed Adelabu said the coalition came together to rally support for the governments in the fight against the pandemic, adding that the coalition has so far commissioned 38 isolation centres and donated over 100,000 test kits and various personal protective equipment across the 36 states of the country.
“Today, we have commenced the third phase of our intervention plan in the fight to combat and eradicate COVID-19 in Nigeria; the CACOVID National Food Relief Programme which will see the distribution of various food items to over 1.6m families i.e over 10 million Nigerians across the country.
“We are doing this to help the most vulnerable households that have been affected by the coronavirus.”
During the EndSARS protests, rampaging youths attacked the warehouse and looted away the food items from the store.
Security personnel were drafted to the scene of the event to persuade the attackers to see reason.
The governor visited the place and asked the security operatives to allow the angry youths to take what they wanted.
The state government denied alleged diversion of the palliatives, adding that it had distributed a larger chunk of the materials to many of the local government areas of the state.
The FCT Administration kept the palliatives at the Area 10 Art and Culture, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), camp in Kubwa, Gwagwalada Area Council and Tungamaji, an area which is also under Gwagwalada Area Council.
Looters started with the Area 10, Art and Culture warehouse where some palliative were kept but they were prevented from looting the palliative by security operatives, who could not prevent the looting of palliatives in other area across the FCT.
The FCT said the palliative items were not hoarded.
Why palliatives were not distributed, by CACOVID
Two members of the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) have explained the delay in the distribution of palliatives by state governments.
CACOVID members, Mr Osita Nwasinobi and Dr Sola Adeduntan, in two separate documents made available to the media on Monday in Abuja, called for calm among members of the public.
Nwasinobi, in a document he authored for CACOVID members, said the coalition had been working with the minister of the FCT and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), to procure and distribute food items to Nigerians.
He said they were working to distribute the food items for about two million, mostly vulnerable families across the 774 local government areas in the country, explaining that CACOVID members decided to procure the food directly from the manufacturers, to avoid a distortion of prices in the market.
Nwasinobi stressed: “The sheer scale of this nationwide food programme and the timing of the orders and deliveries, coincided with the lockdowns and reduced movement across the country.
“This compelled CACOVID to roll out distribution in a staggered manner, with states classified in three timed phases, to enable orderly delivery to the needy.
“The food package was designed such that each of the nearly two million vulnerable families received 10kg bag of rice, a five-kilogram bag of garri/maize flour/semolina, one carton of pasta, two cartons of noodles, five kilograms of sugar and one kilogram of salt.”
He added that due to the large size of the order and the production cycle required to meet the demand, there was a delay in delivering the food items and thus delays in distribution by state governments
“For instance, rice had to be milled, semolina and maize flour had to be processed, noodles and pasta had to be manufactured, and sugar had to be refined. As such, the first deliveries could not start until June.
“However, as at October 2020, a sizable portion of the items had been delivered but yet to be distributed by the governors,” Nwasinobi said.
He said while 28 states and the FCT had commenced distribution since early August, some could not as they were yet to receive complete deliveries of the items allotted to them and so state governments had been distributing the items at various paces.
In the interest of transparency and accountability, he pledged that CACOVID would, in due course, provide the full delivery schedule and flag-off dates by each state, stressing that KPMG Professional Services and NGF external auditors were also on the verge of completing the audit of all contributions from the donors, including a full list of all medical and food items procured with the CACOVID funds before the warehouses were attacked.
“It is very unfortunate that various states, including states that have concluded the distribution of their allocations, are seeing their warehouses and other premises being raided.”
Nwasinobi called for calm to allow states to proceed with their palliatives distribution peacefully, and for the public to disregard any unauthorized sources of information regarding the procurement and distribution of the palliatives.
Adeduntan, the Chief Executive Officer of First Bank PLC, in a letter addressed to “Sigma Chief, Old Chiefs and Loyalists” urged member to be wary of information on social media, saying that CACOVID had successfully provided health facilities, diagnostic kits and medications to all the states and the FCT.
The First Bank CEO said that CACCOVID also decided to provide food to 1.7 million mostly vulnerable families across the country but the challenge was how to purchase those items worth about N15 billion without driving inflation.
“We had to contract this out to various manufacturers and that took time for them to deliver the goods to us. It was only in September and early October that we handed the goods over to the various state governments and FCT.
“It is, therefore, a fallacy that the state governments or Dangote have hoarded those foodstuffs,” he explained.