According to reports in the national dailies, the Lagos State Police Command said it arrested more than 200 suspects for looting COVID-19 palliatives. Across the country, there have been similar arrests of those who carted away these palliatives.
After the #EndSARS protests were hijacked, people took laws into their hands to destroy public and private properties and to loot. But there is now the argument that the mass arrest and detention of these people across the country “threatens the federal government’s plan to decongest correctional facilities’ detention centres.” Some are also saying people who are “hungry” should help themselves to the palliatives, after all there are many of our politicians who are looting our collective patrimony and getting away with it. But, is that why people who have stolen should be freed? Is that justice? And if we allow that won’t it set a bad precedent?
Stealing is stealing, whether it’s by politicians or by ordinary people. Even the Good Book says in Proverbs 6: 30-31 “Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.”
It’s true that the country has left many impoverished, but that is hardly a plausible reason to now become a thief overnight. We saw people who drove their cars to steal COVID-19 palliatives. Are these ones also poor? Some uniformed men encouraged them to go and loot. Even the uninformed men themselves grabbed whatever they could lay their hands on.
A woman who had come with her son, after helping herself to the “loot”, forgot her son! A man had hired a taxi to go to pack his own “loot”, and after fully loading the taxi, the taxi man who had other ideas zoomed off with the booty, leaving the “thief” in shock.
There was also the okada man who parked his bike to go help himself with the palliatives. He came back carrying cartons of noodles, to discover to his shock that his okada had be stolen. In the confusion, he dropped what he was carrying on the road to go look for his okada. But after searching for a while he walked back with his hands on his head. But when he got to the spot where he packed his “loot” another “thief” had made away with them’; indeed, a “double wahala”.
I know some people who will never steal, no matter the situation they find themselves. As the past weeks have shown in this country, the line between a palliative “thief” and criminals who steal and destroy public and private properties is blurred.
Government should better the lot of the people, and Nigerians must remain responsible and law abiding. Anything to the contrary will cause anarchy and put everyone in danger.
Stealing remains a crime, no matter where you go. Stealing cannot be decriminalized because of moral issues. It means our value of life is about what we can steal. It also means we value what we have stolen more than our character.
––Dr. Cosmas Odoemena, Lagos