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Peter Obi mourns victims of ‘custom rice’ stampede

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The presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 general elections, Peter Obi, expressed his condolences to the victims of the stampede that occurred during a rice auction organized by the Nigerian Customs Service. 

The auction aimed to provide 25kg bags of rice at a discounted price of N10,000 per bag to alleviate the impact of inflation in Nigeria.

During the auction, no fewer than seven people reportedly died in a stampede during the sales of the rice at the Customs Zonal Office at Harvey Road, Yaba, Lagos at the weekend.

In a statement shared on his Twitter account on Monday, Obi lamented the tragic incident in Lagos where several Nigerians lost their lives while attempting to purchase rice at the discounted rate. 

“Just yesterday, I read the saddening reports of how the search for cheap rice claimed the lives of some Nigerians in Lagos. According to the report, a massive crowd of hungry Nigerians had besieged the Zonal Office of the Nigerian Customs Service in Yaba, Lagos, to purchase the discounted 25kg bags of rice being offered by the Customs Service. In the course of the heavy stampede that ensued, some lives were lost. 

“It is heartbreaking to think that despite all the wealth of our nation, Nigerians are losing their lives in their desperate quest to buy cheaper food in the face of the growing hunger and starvation in the country. 

“This sad occurrence reflects the level of hardship, hunger, and starvation prevalent in the country, with millions of people not knowing where their next meal will come from. It is very disheartening that our national economy has been driven into perhaps the worst state in all of our national history,” he wrote.

He highlighted the overwhelming desperation of hungry Nigerians who flocked to the Zonal Office of the Nigerian Customs Service in Yaba, Lagos, resulting in a fatal stampede.

He pointed out the grim reality of widespread hardship, hunger, and starvation gripping the nation, with millions uncertain about their next meal. Obi underscored Nigeria’s alarming hunger index and soaring food inflation rate, emphasizing the dire circumstances facing the predominantly youthful population.

Furthermore, Obi criticized the leadership’s allocation of resources towards unnecessary expenditures while the populace grapples with acute hunger. He decried the prevalence of hunger protests across the nation and urged leaders to address the pressing needs of the people.

“The population of those who are, today, classified as multi-dimensionally poor has climbed astronomically to over 80% of our population. We have a hunger index considered very serious, with Nigeria ranking 109th out of 125 countries measured.

“Our food inflation rate is at an all-time high, at over 35 percent. Similarly, unemployment is galloping, and for a predominantly youthful population, this scenario is dire and frighteningly dangerous. For the first time in our peacetime history, stark undisguised hunger has become a national epidemic with hundreds of thousands of our people driven into open protests over food scarcity and unaffordability. The hunger protests have united our people across ethnicity, language, region, faith, and location.

“Most distressing is that in all our adversity, our leaders have resorted to spending stupendous amounts of resources on wasteful items like ordering expensive renovations of offices and residences that are already in luxurious conditions, he furthered.

The NCS had previously announced the commencement of the sale of seized rice to the public at N10,000 per 25kg bag. However, reports emerged of a stampede resulting in fatalities during the sales at the Customs Zonal Office in Yaba, Lagos.

The Comptroller General, Mr. Adewale Adeniyi, emphasized strict guidelines against resale of auctioned food items and prohibited customs officers from participating in the auction.

In response to the tragic incident, the Nigeria Customs Service initiated an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the stampede.

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