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Monday, April 22, 2024

Why we suspended rice sale -Customs

The Nigeria Customs Service, on Monday, announced the suspension of the sale of rice following a stampede that reportedly killed seven persons at the NCS Old Zonal Headquarters in the Yaba area of Lagos State on Friday.

The Chief Superintendent of Customs and National Public Relations Officer for Comptroller General of Customs, Abdullahi Maiwada, disclosed the suspension of the exercise in a statement on Monday.

Nigeria Customs had said it was selling seized rice at N10,000 per 25kg to alleviate the people’s suffering as a result of the current high cost of living and other economic hardships.

On Friday, a pregnant woman and six others reportedly died in a stampede after some suspected hoodlums attempted to force their way into the Yaba Customs office compound.

Some Lagos residents who thronged the NCS office in Yaba expressed disappointment on Monday, following the suspension of the initiative.

At the Customs office at Yaba on Monday, a mass of people, including the elderly, queued up in front of the gate to buy the rice.

It was also observed that despite spirited efforts by officers to assure the people that the service was out of stock, the crowd continued to grow.

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Also, in a statement on Monday evening, the NCS said the suspension became necessary considering “the recent unfortunate event.”

“We regrettably announce the suspension of this exercise until we establish what transpired on Friday, February 23, 2024,” the NCS spokesman said.

He explained that: “The disposal of the food items got off to a smooth start at about 0800hrs. We enjoyed the cooperation of the large crowd that obliged us, giving preferences to the elderly, people living with disabilities, pregnant women, and other vulnerable Nigerians who showed up for the exercise.

“This was the case up until about 1700hrs, as attested to by the over 5,000 beneficiaries and members of the press. However, unforeseen challenges arose when we ran out of stock and announced the continuation of the exercise the following day, leading to a regrettable outcome.

“The crowd became desperate and charged through our barricades in search of rice bags inside emptied containers. In the stampede that ensued, some fatalities and injuries were regrettably recorded.”

The Customs extended its “heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives during the unfortunate incident.”

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The service said it was working with health authorities to establish contact and engage directly with the victims’ families on their next steps.

Gracie Brown
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