Customs suspends food distribution 

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The Nigeria Customs Service has suspended the food disposal exercise embarked upon as part of measures to help tackle the economic challenges faced by Nigerians.

This is contained in a statement by Customs National Public Relations Officer, Abdullahi Maiwada in Abuja.

He said the suspension followed the stampede that ensued during the distribution of the food items, which led to some fatalities and injuries.

“As a service deeply committed to the welfare and safety of Nigerians, we recognise the need for heightened sensitivity and preventive measures in all our operations.

“Considering the recent unfortunate event, we regrettably announce the suspension of this exercise until we establish what transpired on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024.

“This should help us to properly articulate more robust and comprehensive action that will not defeat the noble intention.

“We appreciate the understanding and cooperation of all Nigerians as we work towards addressing the challenges facing our nation’s food security,”he said.

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The spokesperson said the disposal of the seized edible goods condemned in competent courts of law and certified fit for consumption, was conducted following meticulous planning.

He said the planning was aimed at addressing all potential risks that may emerge during the exercise.

He further said in order to ensure due process and control measures, the Nigeria Police and military personnel were deployed to ensure crowd control.

According to him, a fully equipped medical team was on ground in anticipation of potential risks during an exercise of that magnitude.

Maiwada said the presence of security personnel was part of the service’s proactive approach to ensure the safety and well-being of all participants.

“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.

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“This was the case up until about 1700hrs, as attested to by the over 5000 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 and in the stampede that ensued, some fatalities and injuries were regrettably recorded,”he said.

The spokeperson expressed the service’s condolences to the families of those who lost their lives during the incident.

He said their thoughts and prayers were with the affected families, while assuring them of unwavering support.

According to him, the service is working with hospital authorities to establish contact and engage directly with the victims’ families on their next steps.

He said an internal investigation had been initiated to understand the circumstances surrounding the incident.

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