Huge crowd loot palliatives in Benin

By Jethro Ibileke

Pandemonium broke out on Saturday morning at the premises of Edo Pharmaceutical Company, located along Medical Store Road, off New Lagos Road, Benin, as residence broke into the warehouse and looted COVID-19 palliatives suspected to have been stored by the state government.

A source who spoke with our correspondent on phone, said that residents of the area woke up to see military operatives surrounding the Warehouse.

Perhaps the ‘unusual presence’ of the military personnel triggered the consciousness of the residents, that something was going on.

There had been tension around Textile Mill Road area when it was rumored that some youths were planning to attack the state government’s warehouse located in the area.

Not even gunshots released by the military men could deter the mob.

Like bees, they swam through the road from all directions, they dared the barrel of guns and invaded the warehouse from all corners.

According to an eyewitness, the mob later pulled down parts of the fence to gain access into the compound.

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“As soon as the crowd, comprising mostly of youths, both male and female, was large enough, they ignored gun shots meant to scare them away by the soldiers.

“After shooting for about five minutes, perhaps acting on order from above, the military men stopped shooting, when they saw magnitude of the crowd,” the source said.

Items looted included bags of rice, beans, cartons of noodles, empty gas cylinders, cartons of sugar, bags of salt, cans of groundnut oil and mattresses.

As at the time of filing this report, it was gathered that two people were trampled upon by the surging crowd.

Unconfirmed report had it that the state governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki directed that the people should be allowed unhindered access into the warehouse, but should not demolish it.

Meanwhile, Edo State Government has said that the government’s warehouse contained palliative materials and medical supplies kept as a strategic reserve to mitigate eventualities in the state.

The government in a statement by the Special Adviser to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Media and Communication Strategy, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, said upon receipt of relief materials, there has been an ongoing process of distribution to the vulnerable and poor population for the past seven months, to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in the state.

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He explained that the vandalised warehouse stored some strategic medical assets, adding that items looted include vaccines, high-end equipment and other supplies.

Osagie noted that the government has distributed most of the palliative materials sent to the state and what was stored at the warehouse, which has now been looted, was strategic to mitigate eventualities.

According to him, “It is unfortunate that critical medical supplies, including vaccines meant for children, were vandalised, which is most condemnable.

“The other warehouses for food supplies in Edo State are empty as the relief materials that were earlier housed in them have all been distributed.

“In the analysis of the trend of coronavirus pandemic by scientists across the globe, studies have shown that there was going to be a second wave of the pandemic. This has been proven to be true in most parts of Europe, where there has since been a second round of shutdown, with its attendant economic implications.

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“With this and other possible eventualities, it is only wise for government to have a strategic reserve,” he said.

He added that it was important to note that in the past few weeks, the government has been able to fall back on this strategic reserve in response to the plight of people displaced by flooding in parts of Etsako Central, Etsako East and Esan South East local government areas.