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Rice distribution stampede: Falana asks customs to compensate families of victims 

Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, has asked the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to compensate families of those who died during a stampede at its Yaba office in Lagos state.

Falana said NCS must take full responsibility for the “blatant negligence that led to the avoidable death” of the seven Nigerians.

On February 22, NCS commenced the distribution of food items seized from smugglers to ameliorate the economic hardship in the country.

Wale Adeniyi, comptroller-general of customs, said the rice to be distributed had been repackaged in 25kg to reach more Nigerians.

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Twenty-four hours after the exercise started, Nigerians stormed the NCS command in the Yaba area of Lagos to buy the 25kg bag of rice.

During the exercise, a stampede occurred, and seven people reportedly died and others were injured.

Owing to the incident, the agency suspended the distribution of the food items.

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Abdullahi Maiwada, NCS public relations officer, told TheCable that the stampede occurred “because Nigerians, who came for the exercise, did not obey simple instructions for the distribution of the items”.

Maiwada said the incident was not due to a “lack of coordination” on the part of the agency but the “attitude of Nigerians”.

The agency announced the suspension of the sales of the rice till further notice.

However, in a statement on Sunday, Falana said customs should lift the suspension on the distribution of the remaining bags of rice without any further delay.

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The senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) said the agency should decentralise the exercise to local government areas (LGAs) and local government development areas (LGDAs) across the country.

“Since it is common knowledge that similar distribution of food items to poor people had recorded stampedes in the recent past, the authorities of the Nigeria Customs Service must accept full responsibility for the blatant negligence that led to the avoidable death of the seven citizens,” the statement reads.

“Since a bag of rice was selling for N77,000 at the material time, it ought to have occurred to the Nigeria Customs Service that its zonal headquarters in Yaba would not be able to contain the crowd that had been invited to purchase a 25kg bag of rice at N10,000.

“Therefore, the authorities of the Nigeria Customs Service should take urgent steps to identify the bereaved families of the seven deceased citizens with a view to paying them adequate monetary compensation.

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“However, if our advice is ignored by the authorities, we shall not hesitate to approach the Federal High Court to enforce the fundamental right of each of the deceased persons to life as guaranteed by section 33 of the Nigerian Constitution and article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.”

Rice distribution stampede: Falana asks customs to compensate families of victims

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