February 25, 2024

ANALYSIS: Should Government Prosecutes COVID-19 Palliative Looters?


One of the major angst by Nigerians against their leaders is the wanton looting of the nation’s commonwealth. From the presidency, to the National Assembly, state Assemblies and even local government chairmen, the general impression about politicians in Nigeria is that their sole aim of going into public office is to amass wealth at the detriment of the suffering masses.

However, many Nigerians have demonstrated that given the same opportunity to go into public office, they will do worse than these politicians they castigate when they invaded public and private properties to loot in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protests across the country. The first victim of the unrestricted looting was Oba Rilwan Akiolu, the Oba of Lagos. Despite the presence of soldiers, hoodlums ransacked the palace of the monarch, stripped everything bare and went away with his staff of office. The monarch was also ferried to safety by soldiers when the hoodlums even attempted to burn down the palace.

Other politicians who have suffered similar fate were serving and former federal lawmakers from Cross River State, included Senators Victor Ndoma-Egba, and Gershom Bassey. Senator Teslim Folarin, lawmaker representing Oyo Central senatorial district equally suffered huge losses when a large crowd of people broke into his Ibadan residence and looted it completely.

The residence of Sanai Agunbiade, the majority leader of the Lagos State House of Assembly was not spared as it was stripped bared while the hoodlums made away with his vital documents. Agunbiade was said to have stored COVID-19 palliatives in his house which according to him, he wanted to distribute on his birthday.

The looting spree continued when hoodlums invaded a warehouse where COVID-19 palliative was stored at Mazamaza community in Lagos State in Oriade Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of the state.

Viral video footages circulating on social media showed the looters, entering the warehouse and looting the COVID-19 palliative.

Virtually all states of the federation, including the the nation’s seat of power, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja has had a fair share of the plundering by the looters. Though they were initially referred to as hoodlums, many of those who invaded the warehouses have said they are not thieves but hardworking people who are hungry and are ‘just looking for what to eat”.

They also claimed that it will be unfair for the government to refer to them as hoodlums since they were only taking what rightfully belong to them, as the palliatives were purchased with donation by well-meaning Nigerians.

One of those who invaded the warehouses, David Ojo said “We need our palliatives. It is our right. My neighbor almost died of hunger because of COVID-19. He used to work as security guard at a government institution, but he was sacked. What do you want him to do? I gave him beans and rice, he almost died of hunger.”

Another Nigerian, Sunday Chukwu say they didn’t receive any government assistance during lockdowns.

“They didn’t share anything here. Maybe they shared for themselves. But they didn’t share for everybody and these ones now they are hiding it so that people may leave it, they’ll now gather them, they’ll be selling it to the people.”

Reacting to the development, Vivian Bellonwu, the head of Social Action Nigeria, said the amount of food kept in storage is an indication of “systemic failure.”

To think that certain persons could lock down this quantum of food and materials as we are seeing them in their premises, in their custody and watching while people wallow in poverty and difficulty, is really unthinkable. I think that it is quite mean, I think it’s highly insensitive and I think that this is a betrayal of trust of the people.”

Chairman of the defunct Reformed All Progressives Congress (R-APC), Buba Galadima on his part said the hoarding of COVID-19 palliatives is more of reality than fiction.

He recounted how some agents of a particular state, which he did not name, came to his office to look for buyers for the items. According to him, the same state armed thugs to hit Abuja to disrupt peaceful EndSARS protests.

He said that the state’s only condition for sale of the items was that the buyer must not be an indigene of the state.

I know of a state that all the palliatives taken from Federal Government in that state was kept in stores and they came to my office. They were looking for buyers of those commodities.

Many state governments have begun massive arrests of the looters and have threatened to prosecute them but some Nigerians have faulted this move saying only hoodlums who invaded private homes and public offices to steal should be made to face the wrath of the law.

The Lagos State Government has disclosed that it will be prosecuting 229 suspects who allegedly took advantage of the #EndSARS protests to vandalize and loot public and private properties in different parts of the State.

This disclosure was made by Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Moyosore Onigbanjo, SAN, in a statement issued to the general public via social media.

Onigbanjo, disclosed that the government will be prosecuting these suspects with prima facie cases, who allegedly took advantage of the #EndSARS protests to destroy and loot public and private properties in different parts of the State.

According to him “229 suspects were arrested by the Police for various criminal offences ranging from arson, murder, stealing, malicious damage of property and assault before and after the Statewide curfew imposed by the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu to restore law and order in Lagos,” the Commissioner stated.

The Kaduna State Government also said it will trace, arrest and prosecute those who looted COVID-19 items in Kaduna on Saturday. The state’s acting governor, Hadiza Balarabe, said in a state-wide broadcast said that security agencies had already arrested some of those involved.

“There can be no other word but theft for describing the looting of food items donated by CACOVID. We have met community leaders and made it clear that what happened yesterday will not be tolerated. There can be no excuses for the crimes we have witnessed.

Monday Ubani, a former Second Vice President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) has offered free legal services to Nigerians arrested for taking Covid-19 palliatives from warehouses in various States across the country, stressing that the political elites who hoarded the palliatives should be arraigned instead.

Ubani maintained that the people who should be docked were the politicians who hoarded what should be given to the poor and hungry Nigerians. He pointed out that it was a criminal conversion, and as those controlling the instrument of State had turned to call those taking what should rightly belong to them as criminals.

“I mentioned it in my Facebook page that those people I will give free legal services are the poor and hungry Nigerians, who have gone to the warehouses of the COVID-19 palliatives to take what rightfully belonged to them, which the governors have hoarded. You can see the kind of conflicting information that they were giving.”

“Some said that they are waiting for second wave of the disease, others said that they were waiting to repackage the items. I will give them free legal services. Remember that a person is not a criminal until it has been proven so, I must tell you that those people are not criminals.”

“The politicians who hoarded the palliatives are the ones that should be docked. My free legal services do not cover those who broke into private and public properties, but only those who broke into warehouses of COVID-19 palliatives.”

Ubani while responding to the outcry over looting of palliatives across the country stated in his Facebook page that he was ready to offer legal services at no cost to such residents who went on the looting spree as a result of hunger, urging them to reach out to him.


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