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Tight security at NEMA stores as hoodlums loot FCT warehouses

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The police have beefed up security at the warehouses belonging to the National Emergency Management Agency nationwide following the looting of food warehouses in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, on Sunday, by suspected hoodlums.

This was as soldiers foiled an attempt to raid a factory warehouse at the Idu Industrial District, Jabi, Abuja, on Sunday morning, arresting five of the attackers.

Footage of the incident made available to The PUNCH showed the arrested suspects lying on the ground as armed soldiers stood over them.

The factory was involved in the production, processing, and packaging of various agro-commodities including grains, rice, pulses, and edible oil.

Several incidents of attacks and looting of warehouses and food trucks have been reported in many cities against the backdrop of the hardship and the cost of living crisis in the country,

Last week, some youths stole food items from trucks stuck in traffic along Kaduna Road in the Suleja area of Niger State.

The attackers reportedly overwhelmed the truck drivers and looted scores of bags of rice before they were dispersed by soldiers.

The Abuja incident occurred around 9.30am on Sunday shortly after some hoodlums attacked a warehouse belonging to the Agricultural and Rural Development Secretariat of the FCT Administration located in the Dei-Dei area of the capital city.

The FCT Police Public Relations Officer, Josephine Adeh, confirmed the looting of the Dei-Dei warehouse and said that the situation had been brought under control.

The Nigerian Army confirmed the foiled attack on a private warehouse at the Idu Industrial area of the FCT by hoodlums, adding that five suspects were arrested.

Speaking in an interview with one of our correspondents, the Director, Army Public Relations, Maj. Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, noted that the suspects were arrested with their loot.

He said the suspects would be handed over to the police after the services’ preliminary investigation.

Onyema said, “About five suspects were arrested with their loot and are currently undergoing preliminary investigation, after which they will be handed over to the police”

Narrating what happened at the Idu factory, a source said, “Some hoodlums attacked our company today (Sunday). It happened this morning between 9.30am and 10am. They came in large numbers of about 200 to 300 people with bikes and keke, carrying sticks and long knives.

Troops foil looting

“I was in the office and as they came, our security men, which comprise armed soldiers and policemen, as well as private guards took positions. So the guards tried to hold them down at the gate.

“But they started throwing stones and pressing to enter the warehouses from the gate. Our security did not allow them and some of them went behind the company and tried to jump through the fence, but the security personnel now spread themselves around and called for a backup.”

The worker who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the issue, explained that the situation was saved by the security reinforcement which responded within a short time.

He noted, “We thank God the backup came very fast because the security personnel got information about the situation early this morning.

“So, it is like they told their men to be on standby because immediately they called for backup, trucks of DSS (Department of State Services) officers and soldiers arrived and they were able to hold the hoodlums down.

“Some were chased away and some others were arrested. The video and pictures you saw showed those who were caught and arrested.”

On how the hoodlums got to know that there was a warehouse with food items in the vicinity, the source said, “The hoodlums looted the warehouse in 2020 during the COVID-19 period. During that attack, they vandalised everything in the warehouse, entered, and looted it completely because it had no security then.

“But now, it has its security. That time they took out hundreds of bags of rice from the warehouse. Now the factory deals with not just rice but a lot of agro-commodities including sesame seeds, pulses, edible oil, etc.

“We thank God that the security personnel were able to hold them down this morning. It was something else at the Idu Industrial area this morning. As they drove them away, I am very sure that they must have proceeded to another warehouse to loot because it was not like they were coming for us alone. As they moved, any warehouse they came across, there was a high possibility that they were going to loot it.”

Asked about the number of persons arrested by the soldiers, the source replied, “It should be around 20 of them because many of them fled when the backup from the DSS and the army arrived.”

FCTA confirms looting

The Agricultural and Rural Development Secretariat of the Federal Capital Territory Administration confirmed the looting of its warehouse in Dei-Dei.

The spokesperson for the ARD Secretariat, Zakari Aliyu, said the FCT Mandate Secretary, Agric Secretariat, Lawan Geidam, visited the warehouse, which was vandalised, adding that the looters also stole roof and windows.

He added that the FCT Minister of State, Dr Mariya Mahmoud and Geidam, would again visit the facility on Monday (today) where more detailed information would be given regarding the incident.

Aliyu stated, “We visited the scene of the incident this morning. We visited with the secretary and some other officials of the secretariat. So, by tomorrow (today), the secretary, I think with the Minister of State, will pay another visit to that place.

“I am sure that a lot of information that will be useful to you, you will get it. If you can just be patient, tomorrow you will get all the information you need. If you go there, there is nothing there. Do you know that they removed the roof, and the windows, apart from the food items?’’

Speaking on the incident in a statement on Sunday, the NEMA spokesman, Manzo Ezekiel, sympathised with the owners of the affected warehouse, while clarifying reports that the looted warehouse did not belong to NEMA.

The statement explained that the NEMA Director-General, Mustapha Ahmed, had ordered that there should be improved security at its zonal offices and warehouses nationwide, “to forestall any security breach at NEMA facilities.”

The statement read, “The attention of the National Emergency Management Agency has been drawn to media reports on Sunday alleging that the agency’s warehouse was looted by some hoodlums in Abuja.

“This is to clarify that the looted warehouse does not belong to NEMA. However, the agency sympathises with the owners of the looted facility.

‘Security at NEMA’

“To forestall any security breach at NEMA facilities, the Director-General, Mustapha Ahmed, has directed zonal directors and heads of operations to strengthen security in and around the agency’s offices and warehouses nationwide.”

Against the backdrop of the attack on the Abuja warehouses, the police commands in Bayelsa, Kaduna, Delta, Osun, Sokoto, Gombe, and other states have deployed personnel to protect warehouses, food stores, silos and other infrastructure.

The spokesperson for Bayelsa State police command, Musa Mohammed, confirmed that the command had deployed various security measures to prevent the looting of warehouses in the state.

 These, he said, include drone patrol and other electronic surveillance, adding that the command was collaborating with other security agencies to protect food warehouses.

Mohammed said, “Anti-mob dispersal drills are emplaced, drone patrol, CCTV and other electronic surveillance measures are on.

“Stability patrols are being coordinated with other security agencies. All these measures are targeted at protecting all warehouses and to ensure social harmony.”

The Kaduna State Police command assured that it had reinforced security around all NEMA warehouses in the state.

“Yes, we have beefed up security around NEMA warehouses; Not only NEMA property alone but the entire state to safeguard the lives and property of citizens of the state.

“The command is working tirelessly to maintain peace in the state. NEMA warehouses are secured,” the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mansir Hassan, said.

Speaking in the same vein, the Delta State police spokesman, Bright Edafe, said though the state had not recorded any cases of warehouse looting, the command had taken pre-emptive steps to prevent such an incident.

Security, he added, had been strengthened across the state.

Edafe stated, “We don’t have such a challenge here in Delta but the police had already beefed up the security in the state.

“Every area has its own peculiar challenges, so in Delta, we always beefed up security in case of eventuality in the state.”

In Osun State, the police said they had done all that needed to be done to fend off looters.

Commenting on the measures taken to ward off potential looters, the spokesperson for the state police command, Yemisi Opalola, said, “Osun State police command noted the (Abuja) incident and we are doing all we need to do to prevent the occurrence of such in our command here.

“Areas that needed more security are already receiving attention. Everyone should remain law-abiding and vigilant. We have done what we need to do to secure areas that need improved security.”

However, the police in Sokoto said they were ready to contain any criminal activity or breach of security in the state just as the command said it had deployed its operatives to protect emergency food stores in the state.

The spokesman for the command, Ahmed Rufai, stated, “If you can remember about two years during a protest, a similar thing happened in other states but we quickly mobilized our men to the facility here in the state to protect it.’’

“Similar steps will be taken this time around to prevent any form of breakdown of law and order in any of such facilities, including NEMA, SEMA, or any other agencies.

“’I believe with this development that happened in Abuja, the management of the command will definitely take action immediately,” he added.

The Gombe State Commissioner of State, Hayatu Usman, revealed that his personnel were stationed at the warehouses in the state.

“I can assure you that even before the NLC protest till now, we have been deploying our personnel alongside other security agencies to all the warehouses in the state. There is no difference, we still have our people there round-the-clock. I can assure you of that,” he noted.

The Director-General, Press Affairs, Gombe State, Ismaila Misilli, said the government is aware of the importance of food security and is, therefore, collaborating with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps to tackle farmer-herder clashes.

He said, “The visit of the governor to the Africa Development Bank is to improve the agriculture value chain. We are collaborating with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps through Agro Rangers to secure farms to ensure farmers go to the farms without issues.

“’The provision of fertilisers and other farming inputs is also targeted at enhancing food security as well. The Wawa-Zange grazing reserve is another effort towards enhancing food security.”

Like its counterparts in other states, the Ondo State police command said its men had been directed to monitor the food warehouses in the state.

The police spokesperson in the state, Funmilayo Odunlami, said the state Commissioner of Police, Abayomi Oladipo, has directed all the divisional police officers to keep warehouses in their jurisdictions under surveillance.

“We won’t have an incident of warehouse looting in this state. The CP has directed all the DPOs to ensure such does not happen in their respective divisions. The men and officers are already in the town to forestall any breakdown of law and order in that regard, “ the PPRO stated.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Kashim Shettima on Sunday urged Nigerians to apply discretion in protesting the current economic hardship country, asking them to do so “in a responsible and mature manner.”

Shettima, who said during the 29th pre-Ramadan lecture organised by the University of Lagos Muslim Alumni in Lagos, said the reforms embarked upon by the Bola Tinubu administration were not meant to inflict hardship on Nigerians.

The lecture is themed, “Economic Reforms for Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects for the Future.”

Represented by his Special Adviser on Political Matters, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, the Vice-President also warned Nigerians about “severe” economic challenges as they approach the holy month.

He appealed to citizens not to interpret the hardship as the government’s attempt to punish them.

“The leadership of President Tinubu recognizes that this Ramadan will come with severe challenges for most Nigerians.

“The road to where we are today was long and full of missed opportunities and tragic failures to build on our great potentials.

“The consequences of our past are the stark realities we face today, such as rising cost of living and pessimism over our prospect to turn round our economy in the direction of growth and inclusive development,” he said.

Shettima argued that the country did not “have the choice of continuing in the direction that brought us where we are today.”

He stressed, “We have to fix this country, and failure to do this is not an option. All the options we have are difficult and challenging, and they are, without a doubt, more telling on the poor. If there are easier and reliable alternatives to the policy choices we have adopted, we would have adopted them.

“Our administration does not plan to make lives of Nigerians more difficult. Nor do we intend to deceive fellow citizens that the change in direction and the expected outcome can be achieved without pain or sacrifices.

“We are also acutely aware that ours is a set of related Nigerian problems, and the solutions we seek must be genuinely informed by a Nigerian context, not the experiences of others or the preferences of special foreign interests which are removed from consequences of mis-steps or errors of judgment.”

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