Customs Halts Rice Sales After Fatal Stampede

In Lagos, tragic events unfolded at the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Old Zonal Headquarters, leading to the suspension of food sales.

The NCS announced this decision on Monday after a stampede resulted in the deaths of seven individuals. The incident occurred last Friday at the Yaba area of Lagos State.

Abdullahi Maiwada, the Chief Superintendent of Customs and National Public Relations Officer for Comptroller General of Customs, conveyed the suspension in a statement. He said, “We regrettably announce the suspension of this exercise until we establish what transpired on Friday, February 23, 2024.”

Beyond Boders recalls that the NCS had initiated the sale of seized food items at affordable prices to help ease the economic strain on the populace, offering rice at N10,000 per 25kg.

Maiwada explained, “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.”

Reports revealed that during the stampede, which erupted when suspected hoodlums tried to force their way into the Customs office compound, a pregnant woman and six others lost their lives. In response to the tragic outcome, the NCS decided to halt the food sales initiative.

Despite the suspension, disappointed Lagos residents continued to gather outside the Yaba Customs office in hopes of purchasing rice. The scene was filled with queues, including elderly individuals, eager to buy the essential commodity.

Toyin Oke-Owo, one of the prospective buyers, expressed her desperation, saying, “I have been here since 8 am. They said there would be no rice again. I have not eaten anything since this morning. Help us to tell the President that we are hungry.”

Another woman, Adesola Odefunso, echoed similar sentiments, urging authorities to distribute the available rice to those who had been waiting since early morning.

In a subsequent statement, the NCS expressed regret over the incident and extended condolences to the bereaved families. The service emphasized its commitment to investigating the circumstances leading to the stampede and pledged to work with health authorities to support the affected families.

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