THEWILL EDITORIAL: The Mindless Looting, CACOVID And The Politics Of Palliatives’ Distribution

SAN FRANCISCO, October 28, (THEWILL) – “Any nation that cannot feed its hungry population, or worst still decides to use food as tools of political control, cannot be worth its name.” – Anonymous.

There can be no justification for the mindless looting of private and public property across the country as the act is simply criminal. The carnage and arson witnessed in the past few days, especially with the state of anarchy the country was turned into in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest, are also shameful and highly condemnable.

The resort by some unruly Nigerians, to self-help, by targeting warehouses of the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) for mass looting, is nothing more than stealing. No sane person would justify such mob actions across the country based on hunger and poverty. It only shows not only the state of mind of those participating in the massive looting but the lowest ebb to which the Nigerian society has degenerated.

It is sad and most unfortunate that Nigeria, with the ongoing show of shame, has become, once again, the laughing stock not only in the comity of nations but the international community as a whole. The implication of the ongoing charade and apparent display of sheer madness by the looters and arsonists is that the country has become a failed state of a sort.

However, what is currently playing out across the country is what you get with leadership failure, corruption in high places and absolute absence of trust for the ruling class. More annoying is the realisation of the fact that, despite all the talk of the country being self-sustaining in food production as well as the claim that Nigeria is the highest rice producer in Africa, the largest black nation on earth has not been able to sufficiently feed itself.

Worse still, the failed leadership particularly at the state level in this case, as has just been busted with the discoveries of food palliatives in thousands of tonnes in different locations across the country, except for Delta, Borno, Nasarawa, Benue, Jigawa, Niger, Yobe and Plateau states, have been using food as weapon of political control over a hungry and extremely poor population. Yet, these are governments that claim to be working tirelessly to bring Nigerians out of poverty. What a contradiction!

Residents break into a warehouse in Ekiti state, loot COVID-19 palliatives

One thing that became very glaring from the ongoing rage is that the country is not only the real poverty capital of the world but also one of the most dangerous places to live on earth. There can’t be no denying those facts as the unruly Nigerians and the criminal elements among us, who were let loose, have clearly proven. What a shame!

According to the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) which made a request based on the Freedom of Information (FOI), the Federal Government said that it spent N30, 540,563,571.09 in four months to fight COVID-19, out of the N36.3 billion public funds and donations received.

This humungous amount is aside the huge contributions by the private sector – led CACOVID even as SERAP also noted that 115 ordinary Nigerians donated between N1 and N100 to support the government in the fight against Covid-19.

It is however disappointing that the poorest of the poor and most disadvantaged sectors of the population whom the CACOVID palliatives were meant for by the kind-hearted individuals and corporate organisations are being made to feel that it was a big favour from the government.

THEWILL recalls that CACOVID had flagged off the distribution of a whopping N23 billion food palliatives across the country to go round about 1.7 families, including some 10 million people spread across the 774 local governments in the country and the federal capital territory (FCT).

Residents break into a warehouse in Plateau state, loot COVID-19 palliatives

CACOVID administrator and CEO of Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF), Zouera Youssoufou, explained that the food distribution was the next phase in the line of action as she disclosed that CACOVID had already divided the country into the six geo-political zones and the distribution was being flagged-off simultaneously in Adamawa, Yobe, Ekiti, Ogun, Delta, Edo, Kano, Sokoto, Kaduna, Plateau, and Nasarawa states.

While we have no reason to doubt the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), which came up, Monday, to confirm that most of the looted warehouses with food items are indeed for CACOVID awaiting distribution to the vulnerable in states that have not flagged off their distribution, we are still not convinced about their modus-operandi in the distribution.

It is sad to note that the distribution of the palliatives in states that had started distribution was subjected to political manipulations in most cases as political office holders and government cronies went ahead to hoard these food items while some even gave the impression that the items were bought with their personal money despite the fact that the palliatives had CACOVID logo on them.

A federal lawmaker in Lagos was even quoted as saying that he was planning to distribute the looted food items found in his house on his birthday while another member of House of Representatives in Edo State was actually petitioned by CACOVID for claiming during the distribution ceremony that the food items were his personal contribution to ameliorating the sufferings of his constituents.

While we condemn the looting of the palliatives across the country in strong terms, we equally consider it as an act of wickedness for state governments to be using the food palliatives as a political weapon, more so, the unnecessary ceremony the distribution is being subjected to by the various state governments and their agencies.

THEWILL had earlier condemned the lack of transparency and accountability in the distribution of the Federal Government palliatives during the lockdown which the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, claimed cost the country billions of Naira without much evidence to show for the efforts.

We want to believe that the resort to self-help by the unruly Nigerians as shown in the present circumstances across the country was just a demonstration of the loss of confidence in the political class and the government. They however went beyond the borders of protest by pilfering and looting just anything in sight as the raging madness continues.

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While we commend the police for rising up to the challenge in some states despite the risk to their lives because of the underlining currents, we want to advise the military to act with extreme caution and demonstrate full professionalism in dealing with this national emergency.

THEWILL also commends President Muhammadu Buhari for making the move to douse the rising tension by despatching the Ministers and other top government officials back to their constituencies to calm frayed nerves and explain the policies of the Federal Government in addressing the various demands to their people at the grassroots.

We however wonder how many of these political office holders would have the gut, boldness and confidence to return to their people at this point in time as most of them have, for long, detached themselves from the realities, agonies and pains of the people who voted them into power.

THEWILL can’t therefore agree less with the late Prof. Chinua Achebe on the trouble with Nigeria. According to the late author and novelist, “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmark of true leadership.”