It started at the Oba Palace in Lagos Island, and almost spontaneously, escalated to other parts of the country. The discovery of warehouses filled with CACOVID palliatives has spurred hoodlums into ultimate search for where governments are hiding foods.
Since Wednesday, Nigerians have been seen on tape looting food items from many warehouses across the country. From the south to the north, it has become a looting movement extended to private properties.
In a country where 40 percent of over 200 million of its people live below the poverty line, many believe that hunger is behind the push. It therefore results in the question: Why did politicians hoard palliatives meant to be distributed during the COVID-19 lockdown?
As more videos of uncovered palliative-filled warehouses emerge, the governments and people in position have tried to answer the question.
The Lagos State Government said the palliatives were meant for distribution to the indigent. The statement signed on Thursday by Abisola Olusanya Acting Commissioner, Agriculture Lagos State, said the provision was meant for the South West, and Lagos had repackaged its share of the consignment and was distributing it before the protests halted activities in the State.
“The distribution was on-going but had to be halted due to protests, before the invasion of the warehouse today,” the statement said.
A member of Lagos State House of Assembly, representing Ikorodu Constituency, Sanai Agunbiade aka SOB, whose property was invaded by irate youths who discovered and looted the CACOVID palliatives, said he intended to distribute them on his birthday.
“For my birthday on 25th October 2020, I have sent out, through my Media Team, notice of my intention to give support to 50 widows who have already been nominated by different groups in a programme christened Widows Mite for Widows and also distribute to some vulnerable and indigent individuals across the three local councils of my constituency, some palliative materials donated by the state and federal governments, as well as myself,” he said.
While many others are yet to give reasons why they are hoarding the palliatives, Nigerians believe it’s nothing short of wickedness for those in position of authority to keep the provisions while people were starving during the lockdown.
“The pressure we were all put through this COVID-19 period. We all had to carry so much burden. Many families couldn’t feed and these beasts in human clothing decided to hide palliative for the poor. What the freaking hell!” activist Aisha Yesufu wrote on Twitter, after sharing an SOS message she received from a starving family during the lockdown.
In March, the Nigerian government announced coronavirus lockdown for the country’s key cities – Lagos and Abuja. And as part of measures to keep the people at home, the government announced a plan to distribute food provisions, as many Nigerians, especially in Lagos, live on their daily earnings.
Eventually, the period of the lockdown was extended, and to other cities in the country. And what followed were complaints of starvation, that many were caught defying the restrictions going on their various businesses. “Hunger virus is more dangerous than coronavirus” became a popular mantra as people break the lockdown rules to look for food.
In Lagos, there were attempts by the government to share food items for the people; a number of houses and residents were taken in many of the local government areas. However, what was distributed greatly fell short of the needs.
The Human & Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) and other anti-corruption organizations that monitored the distribution of the palliatives said what was given to some estates was actually what was meant for an individual.
The CACOVID Donation
In late September, Private sector-led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID-19) supplied Lagos State with food items worth over N1.4 billion, as part of its plan to feed over 1.7 million households, especially the indigent and elderly, across 774 local governments in the country, to alleviate the effects of the pandemic.
It was up to states to distribute the food palliatives through Local Governments. Olusanya said then that 50,000 food supplies had been repackaged and would be distributed in a couple of days.
“Under the administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, we have taken the pains to get bags marked, to print on them the Lagos State logo, the CACOVID logo and to put these items in each pack, such that we have transparency across board,” she said.
The coalition said the food provision would cover 107,564 households in Lagos State. But the distribution was yet to happen before the #EndSARS protest began. Following the crisis that ensued, the warehouses holding the palliatives were discovered and plundered by hoodlums.
While there is outrage that governments in Nigeria are hoarding food in time of starvation, the time frame shows that the food palliatives were received months after the lockdown was lifted. And the State governments appear to be fulfilling the wish of CACOVID, which is streamlined toward the most vulnerable in the states.