Hardship: Reverse your economic policies – Okwu, Shehu, others to Tinubu govt

Following the biting hunger occasioned by the prevailing hardship in the country, concerned Nigerians have called on the federal government to swallow its pride and reverse some of its economic policies.

The advice is coming amid looting of warehouses as a survival strategy.

In the early hours of Sunday, scores of hungry, angry Nigerians stormed the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Agric Department Strategic food store located at Tasha, in Abuja, and looted food items.

According to the residents, the irate youths invaded the warehouse located around the Tasha area of the community and looted bags of maize and other grains.

The attack of the storage facility was reminiscent of what happened during the End SARS protest against police brutality, and the COVID-19 lockdown, when several warehouses belonging to the government across the country were invaded and looted by angry, hungry Nigerians.

The current economic hardship in Nigeria, may have forced history to repeat itself.

During both incidents, Nigerian security forces struggled to contain increasing cases of looting on the government-run warehouses across the country, following widespread youth-led protests against police brutality and continued lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The storage facilities that held tones of relief materials, including food meant for distribution during the lockdowns enforced to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, were invaded and looted by Nigerians, when they could no longer endure the fangs of hunger.

Today, a similar development is clearly unfolding before Nigerians.

In July 2023, no fewer than two people were killed when soldiers tried to restore order as groups of young men stormed food stores in Yola, the Adamawa State capital.

An official casualty toll was not released but police confirmed they arrested 110 people in the state capital, Yola, following the raids, which quickly spread from the government food warehouses to private businesses in the market on Sunday July 30, 2023.

The state government initiated a round-the-clock curfew. A day later, the curfew was relaxed to allow people to move around in the hours of daylight.

Meanwhile, the FCT Police Command said it has arrested 15 suspects in the Abuja looting.

This development has been attracting reaction from a cross section of Nigerians with some fearing it could push the citizens into a revolution.

To avert the looming disaster, some stakeholders say it is time for the President Bola Tinubu government to own up to its mistakes and reverse its not-well considered policies.

One of those who are thinking in this direction is a former national chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Maxi Okwu.

Okwu, while agreeing that everybody in Nigeria, except those in the corridors of power or public office at some levels, are passing through stressful and challenging times, said the government should admit its errors.

“They are in serious distress. Even the business class, except the very big ones, is also taking a big hit based on the economic situation of the country right now, which has spiraled out of control.

“It appears that the government at the federal level is totally bereft of ideas. They are clueless as to how to proffer solutions to the problem.

“Yes, they have empaneled a high-powered economic team, involving all sorts of people, including governors, but is that the answer? That is not the answer; they must tackle the cause of the illness and not the malaise. The reason is that the last government of Muhammadu Buhari crippled the economy and left us with a dead economy.

“The Anambra State Governor, Prof Chukwuman Soludo, said so and I agree with him. Something must be done to begin mid-term and long-term solutions.

“Some of the policies that the present government put in place as soon as it came to power, need to be reversed, even if temporarily. I am talking about the floating of Naira, and the issue of fuel subsidy. Such policies must be temporarily adjusted to take care of the immediate challenges.”

He noted that the situation ought to have degenerated into a full-blown revolution but for the patience of Nigerians.

“It is only in Nigeria that things will be like this and there is no popular revolution. I am not talking about any military misadventure; I am talking about a popular uprising.

“Nigerians are a people, who will take everything in their strides,” he said.

He further warned that if something was not done very urgently to address the situation, it could degenerate to a worse situation.

“So, these looting and stealing are just a small reaction by people who are desperate. In fact, the government should thank its stars that it is just this small looting that is going on.

“By now in a vibrant democracy, the people would have hit the streets, and the government would have been in big trouble. But let’s pray for the best. Some of us have given up entirely. We are now on autopilot and watching what is going on,” he submitted.

A former lawmaker in Katsina State, Yusuf Shehu, equally attributed the incident to the current economic situation in the country, which he said had become alarming to the point that people cannot bear the hardship anymore, particularly as it concerns prices of food items.

He warned about the consequences of the continued situation, while calling on the government to do something to address the situation.

“People are hungry; poverty is gradually becoming the order of the day. If the situation continues like this, things will go out of hand.

“People are hungry. There is no money; there is no work; and so, people are waiting for any little chance to capitalize on and cause mayhem.

“People are stealing food items from anywhere and there is no way they will find a food store and not vandalize it, even if it belongs to the government. The government should find ways as urgent as possible to minimize the people’s suffering,” he said.

He also did not support the looting but stressed that when people are pushed to the wall, the only reaction is for them to fight back.

“It is wrong because people should be law abiding. But the government should also live up to its responsibilities. People should not be pushed to the wall because when that happens, they will be left with no choice but to fight back,” he stated.

For Romanus Okoye, a lawyer, he would want to look at what the law says about looting and when looting actually became a crime.

“Of course, looting is, first and foremost, a form of stealing. As such, depending on how it is perpetrated, the looter may be arrested for petty theft, larceny, grand theft, burglary, or another similar crime. Some states also have laws that pertain specifically to looting, often with stiffer penalties,” he stated.

He also journeyed back to what the United Nations said about looting, saying, “The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 explicitly prohibits the looting of civilian property during wartime.

“Theoretically, to prevent such looting, unclaimed property is moved to the custody of the Custodian of Enemy Property, to be handled until returned to its owners.”

Having looked at what the law says about looting, he noted that when one has a very angry people as Nigerians are now, only God knows what will happen next.

He blamed the leaders for living large, while the masses wallowed in abject penury.

He said: “Those in government display affluence as if nothing is happening, while the masses wallow in abject misery, poverty and hunger.

“The leaders must show examples by the way they live. Things are extremely out of reach of the people. The government must quickly do something to bring down the prices of goods so that people can buy food and eat to survive.”

Also contributing, a public affairs analyst, Ikechukwu Anthony decried a situation where the second most important necessity of man on earth, food, has gone beyond the reach of a greater number of Nigerians.

He warned that what happened in Abuja is just the beginning of the worst things to happen if the government did not do something quickly to halt the hunger in the land.

He said: “What happened in Abuja is just a tip of the iceberg if the government does not do something urgently to provide food for Nigerians.

“Look, Nigerians are hungry and there is no money anywhere to buy food because the price keeps rising on a daily basis.

“I want to tell you that revolution is taking place. The food in those warehouses will soon finish and when that happens, nobody can predict the people’s next move. But I can tell you; it will be dangerous.

“When people can’t find food in the warehouses and the trucks have stopped running because they are being attacked, they will turn their anger and frustration against any motorist on Nigeria road and people will stop going to work.

“You can see the gradual descent to anarchy and total breakdown of law and order, which in a simple term is revolution.

“So, I will advise the government to take what has happened seriously and urgently find a way of making food available and within the reach of ordinary Nigerians.”

He advised the government to retool its policies as quickly as possible.


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