Amid the ongoing protests in Nigeria over police brutality, mobs of citizens have overrun several government-owned warehouses and looted food meant to be distributed during this year’s coronavirus lockdowns. In the latest incident, a mob looted packages of rice, sugar, salt and noodles Monday from a facility in the Nigerian capital.On Saturday, security officials dispersed mobs at another storage facility under attack in Abuja.
Some protesters were demonstrating in front of a facility in Garki, Abuja, as military and police vans barricaded the entrance to the facility.
Earlier, mobs of people trying to attack the facility and make away with some food items were dispersed after security officials fired their guns into the air.
But many, like David Ojo, remained adamant and said they wouldn't leave until they got some food.
"We need our palliatives. It is our right. My neighbor almost died of hunger because of COVID-19," said Ojo. "He used to work as security guard at a government institution, but he was sacked. What do you want him to do? I gave him beans and rice, he almost died of hunger."
Storage facilities holding tons of relief materials have been burglarized and looted in nine states across Nigeria over the last few days.
A private sector coalition against the coronavirus, known as CA-COVID, had collected tens of millions of dollars' worth of aid for coronavirus victims and given it to the government.
But many state authorities have halted distribution of the aid since the easing of lockdowns.
Some Nigerians accuse authorities of hoarding items while millions of people experience hunger.
Abuja residents like Sunday Chukwu say they didn't receive any government assistance during lockdowns.
"They didn't share anything here," said Chukwu. "Maybe they shared for themselves. But they didn't share for everybody and these ones now they are hiding it so that people may leave it, they'll now gather them, they'll be selling it to the people."
The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated hunger for many of the country’s extremely poor, who number some 83 million, about 40 percent of the population, according to the country’s statistics bureau.
Vivian Bellonwu, the head of Social Action Nigeria, says the amount of food kept in storage is an indication of “systemic failure.”
"To think that certain persons could lock down this quantum of food and materials as we are seeing them in their premises, in their custody and watching while people wallow in poverty and difficulty, is really unthinkable," said Bellonwu. "I think that it is quite mean, I think it's highly insensitive and I think that this is a betrayal of trust of the people.”
The Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) on Monday said the looted items in warehouses in some states were being held for vulnerable people, not hoarded.
As security officials monitor facilities across Nigeria more closely, various state authorities are making plans to commence distribution.