Nigeria Customs is Liable for the Death of Seven Distressed Buyers of rice: HURIWA Alleges

Nigeria Customs is Liable for the Death of Seven Distressed Buyers of rice: HURIWA Alleges

Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy Group: – Human Rights Writers Association Of Nigeria (HURIWA) has asked the hierarchy of the Nigeria Customs Service to accept responsibility over the circumstances that led to the unfortunate death of some of the distressed buyers of bags of rice at the weekend.

HURIWA which described as ‘being clever- by -half,’ but all together fallacious, the attempt by the Nigeria customs to exonerate itself of any responsibility for the catastrophic circumstances leading to fatalities, also is calling on the Nigeria Customs to blame itself for failing to work out and implement seamless methodology for the disposal of the seized bags of rice to members of the public.

In a media statement, HURIWA through the National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, stated that it is unbecoming of public office holders in the contemporary times, to decline to accept responsibility for their apparent dereliction of duties or failures to carry out their mandates in line with best global practices.

“We expect that the Nigeria Customs service should apologise for the shoddy process that characterised their public sales of rice to Lagos’s poor residents. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that were the customs efficient in putting the mechanisms in place for this exercise, these fatalities are totally avoidable.”

“What the NCS should do now is to take responsibility, pay heavy compensation to the families of those who died responding to NCS’s invitation to buy rice at giveaway prices. Anything outside of payments of N50 million compensation to each of the families of the seven persons that died should mean that a litigation be filed in the court of law to compel the Nigeria Customs Service to be criminally liable for their action or inactions.

The Nigeria Customs Service had described as unfortunate the stampede at its office in Yaba, Lagos, during the sale of 25kg bags of rice to Lagos residents that led to the death of some seven persons

HURIWA learnt that people were trampled to death as a mass of people thronged the venue of the sale of the bags of confiscated rice at the Yaba office of the service on Friday amid the harsh economic conditions in the country.

Media reports say that a member of the All Progressives Congress, Comfort Adebanjo, and six others lost their lives in the bid to purchase the rice which sold for N10,000 at the Yaba Customs office.

The coordinator of FKL Ward E1, Lagos State of the APC, Oluwafemi Fadahunsi, and Secretary, Adebari Adewale, confirmed that Adebanjo was one of the seven persons who died during the stampede.

In the obituary released on Saturday, the party wrote, “It is with heavy hearts and regret we announce the painful death of one of our members in FKL Ward E1, Mrs Adebanjo Comfort Funmilayo, of house number 104, Ibidun Street by Akinhanmi Street, Ojuelegba.

“She was among the seven victims who died in the course of buying Customs rice at Yaba

“May God grant all the members of her family and all the residents of Ward E1 the fortitude to bear the irreplaceable loss.”

HURIWA recalled that the spokesperson for the Customs, Abdullahi Maiwada, reportedly blamed the development on impatience on the part of the people who came for the event.

His words: “At a point, they decided to be impatient. When we saw the crowd, we even suspended the collection of forms and said, ‘Let’s give them free’. We did that, we exhausted everything. After exhausting everything and we told them everything had finished, and that they could go, that we didn’t have any more, they persisted. Some of them broke the fence of that place. We had to put some barricades to cover the area. Some of them went and entered the container. At a point, we used our ambulance, and took them to hospital,” he said

He added, “I don’t really have the statistics of the lives we have lost, but we made every effort for everyone to be orderly and to rescue them. We took them to the hospital. What do you want us to do?

He said the Customs made use of Yaba because it had formerly demolished the place, saying, “The reason we used Yaba was because we didn’t want to endanger our facilities.”

When asked if the deaths resulted from pushing, he answered, “I can’t say. Some of them went and entered the engine container. Did we cause the death of anybody? We didn’t. We made efforts to rescue them because we took them to hospital. We have learnt our lessons. We have to go and restrategise on how we’re going to continue and sustain this initiative.”

HURIWA however has asked the authority of the Nigerian Customs Service to own up to their poor arrangements that unfortunately led to the demise of these 7 Nigerians who went to the premises designated by the Nigeria Customs Service for the sales of bags of rice at discounted price to absolutely poor Nigerians. “The NCS should do the needful and pay compensation rather than engage in semantic gymnastics to attempt to shift the blame to the unfortunate poor Nigerians that responded to the open invitations by the Customs to appear in their premises to buy bags of rice from the Customs.”

Press statement dated on 26th February 2024.

By Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko;


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *