Falana-led Coalition Wants Palliatives’ Hoarders Arrested, Prosecuted

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Femi-Falana

*SERAP urges ICPC to probe alleged hoarding

Emmanuel Addeh and Udora Orizu in Abuja

The Alliance on Surviving Covid-19 And Beyond (ASCAB), a coalition of over 80 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and organised labour, led by Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), yesterday demanded the arrest and prosecution of public officials found hoarding COVID-19 palliatives.

The group maintained that the apologies tendered by some state governments on the matter were unacceptable to the Nigerian people, saying that the revelations of the hoarding of the palliatives items were painful.

Also, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to promptly, thoroughly, investigate the circumstances surrounding the alleged hoarding of COVID-19 palliatives in warehouses in several states, which ought to have been distributed to the most vulnerable people during the lockdown, and to publish the outcome of any such investigation.

ASCAB noted that while it does not support any form of looting no matter who is doing it, it is now clear that the food items were being stockpiled illegally by some officials of government, hoping that they will never be discovered.

In a statement signed by Falana, who’s the Interim National Chairman of ASCAB, the group urged Nigerians who are aware of locations where palliatives are still being warehoused to intimate it with such information to allow the organisation mount pressure on the ‘offending’ state governments.

It said: “Though ASCAB does not support looting regardless of the status of the perpetrators, rich or poor, the real looters are the public officers who have been implicated in secretly warehousing Covid-19 palliatives, hoping and praying that they would never be discovered.

“While not supporting looting under any guise, those hungry citizens, who besieged the locations where the COVID-19 palliative items were secretly kept and who were arrested should be released, without any further delay. The unemployed, hungry and angry persons who helped themselves with those items have merely taken what rightly belongs to them.

“Citizens and public officers who know where Covid-19 palliatives are being kept secretly should make the information available to ASCAB to enable ASCAB to mount pressure on public authorities to distribute same fairly and democratically to the needy.

“All those public officers in whose possession Covid-19 palliatives are found should be arrested and prosecuted.

“Governments should desist from referring, derogatorily, to the uneducated, unemployed and homeless persons as ‘hoodlums’, as if they are not entitled to socio-economic rights.

“These categories of persons are a product of criminal neglect of their welfare rights by successive governments. What is required of governments is to develop appropriate policies to address their welfare and developmental needs,” the group stated.

It argued that neglecting them while placing public wealth at the disposal and support of business owners is not in the interest of sustainable societal development.

The body further condemned what it described as the reprehensible, abominable, unacceptable and heinous killing in cold blood of yet unascertained number of unarmed protesters, mowed down at the Lekki tollgate on October 20, 2020 by a detachment of the Nigerian Army.

“ASCAB holds the federal government fully responsible for the killing of the unarmed peaceful protesters to the extent that only the president has the constitutional power to invite the armed forces in aid of civil authorities in the event of an insurrection. The peaceful protest acknowledged to be peaceful cannot be equated to an insurrection,” it stated.

It added that the denial of involvement of soldiers in the ‘murderous attack’ of the unarmed protesters coupled with the mismanagement of information surrounding the attack led to a renewed wave of peaceful protests.

ASCAB appealed to citizens not to repay ‘state terrorism’ by which the lives of unarmed peaceful protesters have been terminated with individual terrorism, but collectively seek avenues and opportunities to resume collective peaceful mass actions to advance their interests.

Meanwhile, SERAP has asked the ICPC to promptly, thoroughly, investigate the circumstances surrounding the alleged hoarding of COVID-19 palliatives in warehouses in several states, which ought to have been distributed to the most vulnerable people during the lockdown, and to publish the outcome of any such investigation.

SERAP in the petition sent to the Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, asked the agency to ensure the prompt and effective prosecution of anyone suspected to be responsible, if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence of hoarding and diversion of the palliatives.

In the petition dated October 24, 2020 and signed by its deputy director, Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said it would seem that Nigerian authorities asked people to stay at home as a protective lockdown measure but then failed to discharge a legal responsibility to timely, effectively, and transparently distribute COVID-19 palliatives to ease the hardship faced by the poorest and most vulnerable people.

The petition, which was also copied to

Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay, read in part: ‘’Some people have reportedly discovered and taken away COVID-19 palliatives stored in warehouses in several states including Cross River, Edo, Ekiti, Kwara, Kaduna, Lagos, Osun, Plateau and Taraba states, with some of the people reportedly saying: ‘the food is ours but they are keeping it for themselves.

‘’Promptly attending to these recommendations would show your agency’s willingness to proactively exert your mandates, as this would act as a deterrent against breaches of Nigeria’s constitution, anti-corruption legislation and international standards, as well as ensure the transparent and accountable distribution of COVID-19 palliatives and other reliefs.

‘’SERAP notes that billions of naira have been budgeted and donated to respond to COVID-19 and help ease the resulting impact and hardship on the poorest and most vulnerable people. Nigeria has also received millions of dollars in international aid and announced programmes to help citizens through the lockdown, including direct distribution of food to millions of vulnerable households”.