Economic Hardship: Conflicting Reports Mar Customs Sale Of Food Items In Lagos; Tnubu Sets Up A Tripartite  Economic Advisory Committee  To  Find Solutions To Nigeria’s Economic Woes                               

By Stephen Ubanna

 Going by the arrangement that was said to have been  put on ground by Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, MFR, Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, and his Management team to Auction thousands of seized bags of foreign rice,  50 Kg each, that had been rebaggegd into 25Kg. each, at N10,00 each, including  cartons of  tomatoes, vegetable oil, Maggi, Macaroni, Spaghetti and local dried fish to Nigerians on the orders of President Bola Ahmed  Tinubu, who incidentally was a former governor of Lagos state   to cushion the economic hardship in the country, the  Authorities  never expected any trouble in the first leg of the exercise.  

The massive turn out of Nigerians leading to stampede at the Customs Zonal office, Harvey road, Yaba, the nation’s Financial and Commercial Capital city  where the exercise was kick started on Friday, February, 23, 2024,bear  eloquent testimony to the situation of things in the country: hunger.

An witness account confirmed  that security agencies personnel stationed at strategic locations  at Yaba,  the venue of the sales of the Court condemned  food items could not contain the crowd forcing the Customs personnel  to shot up to scare the buyers who were said to have lied flat on the ground to avoid being caught by stray bullet.

Wale Adeniyi: CG, Customs

There have been conflicting reports that seven to 10 people had died  while attempting  to purchase  the Court condemned food items that had been put  on sale  by the Adeniyi led NCS,  as part of steps taken by the government to alleviate  ‘’the impact of  economic hardship in the country  and stop the protests that have erupted in several  parts of the country  including  Lagos  and other major towns and cities across the country in the recent time.

The death of the Nigerians  who may have left their home very early on the said Friday, February 23, 2024, to beat the Lagos traffic in order to take advantage of the Customs auction sales to buy the 25 Kg  bag of rice and the incessant protests across the country  may have given room, to Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra  state and Presidential Candidate of the Opposition Labour Party, LP, in the February 25, 2023, Presidential election to speak out,  that  ‘’hunger protest  have united the people against ethnicity, language , region , faith  and location’’.

He had alluded to the fact that  a massive  crowd that had  besieged  the local office  of the NCS,  in Yaba, Lagos  to purchase  the auctioned 25Kg  each of foreign  and other food items   in which  some lives were lost due the stampede  that ensued was a sign that  something is wrong  with the country’ s economy that requires urgent solution .

25 Kg bags of rice Auctioned By Customs At the Lagos Zonal Office That led to the death of over seven desperate buyers

  An aggrieved Obi had lamented that Nigerians are losing their lives in their desperate quest to buy food items at a cheaper price from Customs in the face of the growing hunger and starvation in the country which requires government intervention.

Perhaps to avoid further loss of lives arising from the sales of the food items at the Customs Lagos Zonal office, may have informed why the Customs Authorities has suspended the exercise, till further notice. Abdullahi Maiwada, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and the service spokesperson who had pushed out a Statement on Monday, February 26, 2024, at the instance of the Comptroller General had said that the suspension of the exercise will remain in force   ‘until they are able to establish what actually transpired during the disposal of the food items on the said black Friday.

  He had said that ‘’the exercise got off  to a smooth start’’  when the Yaba   gate of the  Lagos Zonal Customs office was flung open for accredited interested buyers to come in under the strict supervision of security personnel which was  corroborated by some Okada and tricycle riders and taxi drivers  at the scene  including  Journalists  covering  the event.

H CSC  Maiwada,  stated ‘’that preferences  were given  to the elderly men and women, people living with disabilities , pregnant women  and other vulnerable Nigerians  who had showed up  to purchase a the food items that had been put out for sales amid tight security to avoid breakdown of Law and order.  However, he noted as at late afternoon, that Friday, no fewer than 5,000 people have attended to   but lamented that the crowd became desperate and charged through the Customs barricades in search of rice bags inside emptied Containers.  

The Customs spokesperson had confirmed that ‘’in the stampede that ensued in the process, some casualties and injuries were regrettably recorded’’ but could not give the total figure of the number of victims. To ascertain how the death had  occurred at the Yaba venue of the sales of auctioned food items,  Maiwada, has  gladdened the hearts of Nigerians when he disclosed that ‘’the service had  initiated  an internal investigation to understand  the circumstances  surrounding  the unfortunate incident’’ described  by many as a bad advertisement  to the Tinubu’s Administration.

Given CG Adeniyi’s care for human life  may have informed why  ‘’the service  was currently working  with the Health Authorities  to establish contact  and engage directly  with the  victims’ families  on their next line of action’’. 

Although, the Customs Authorities had suspended the auction sales of the condemned food items in the Customs Lagos Zonal office, for now, the Customs spokesperson had said that all hopes are not yet gone in restarting the exercise in Lagos and other Customs Formations across the country.

 He may have given Nigerians a cause   not to worry  about as he had said that the outcome of the ongoing investigation  about the recent incident at the Customs, Zonal  office at Yaba, Lagos,, will go a long way ‘’in helping the service ‘’to properly  articulate  a more robust  and comprehensive  action  plan that  will not  defeat the laudable  efforts of the government’’.

Prof. Soludo: governor of Anambra state makes Tinubu’s Economic Advisory Committee List

At a recent meeting with Governors Dapo Abiodun, Ogun state, Prof and. Chukwuma Soludo,  Anambra state , who incidentally was a former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, including  Aliko Dangote, President, Dangote Group , Tony Elumelu, Chairman , United Bank for Africa, UBA,Abdulsamad Rabiu, founder, BUA Group and  Jubril Adewale Tinubu, Oando, all business moguls and Segun Ajayi-Kadir, President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN,  the Nigerian President had said that ‘’all options  would be explored  ‘’to resolve  the nation’s  socio- economic challenges’’.

President Tinubu who has given words to revive the nation’s collapsing economy was said to have told Governors Abbiodun, Prof. Soludo and the business moguls   of his intention of setting up an Economic Advisory Committee comprising of both public and renowned Organised private sector operators to address the challenges facing the country’s economy.  

True to his words, the Nigeria President had set up the all-important Advisory Economic Committee comprising of the two governors from the state level and reknowned multi-billionaire business men such as Dangote,  Rabiu, Elumelu, Femi Otedola, Amina Maina,  Boye Olusanya, and Ajayi-Kadir, President , MAN.

 Other members of the Committee includes Bismarck Rewane, Samala Zubairu, Innocent Chukwuma,   WaleTinubu, and Olayemi Michael Cardoso, incumbent governor of CBN.

The former Lagos state governor  who was said to have  had expressed the importance of the  Economic Advisory Committee had urged the members to use their business expertise used  in growing  their business to compete with multinational Companies to put it into practice ’’in bringing back life to the country’s battered economy’’ as well as ‘’addressing the needs of Nigerians’’.  

The focus of the Committee’s discussions at its first meeting at the State House, Abuja, FCT, which was said’’ to have centered primarily on the economy, food security and job creation’’, gives an insight to what Nigerians should expect  in their economic recommendations to the government.  

While the country’s economic hardship is getting tougher on a daily basis, Prof Soludo, governor of Anambra state, who had emphasized the importance of the Presidential Advisory Committee’s role in making economic recommendations had assured Nigerians that they will not fail in their new assignment to bring the country’s economy out of the wood.

Meanwhile, the Federal government,  has unveiled  plans  to reopen  the country’s borders with Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon,  to encourage the importation  of cement  and other  commodities  if the manufacturers  refuse  to reduce their prices.

 Arc.Ahmed Dangiwa,  minister of Housing and Development,  who may have  spoken the mind of President  Tinubu, had said that the cement manufacturers have no reason  not to reduce the price of their product  in the country to make it affordable because ‘’ the key input raw materials  for cement  production like limestone, clay , silica sand  and gypsum  are sourced  within the country’s borderlines’’, and therefore should not be based on the North American country of the United States  dollar –rated.

The Housing  and Development minister  had made it clear to those that cares to listen  hat  the border with the neighbouring West African countries of Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon,  was closed  by former President Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration   to stop the importation  of cement  to help  local manufacturers , noting that  ‘’if the present  government  decides  to reopen  closed Land borders   back  for mass importation  of cement and other commodities, prices  of cement and other locally manufactured  items  would crash  and the local manufacturers would be ‘’gravely affected’’, urging them to support the government  renewed drive to revive the economy.

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