Every prolonged mass action always carries with it the risk of law and order breakdown. Criminals are always on the lookout for opportunities. The two week-long peaceful #EndSARS nationwide protests eventually dissolved into anarchy, burning and looting following the invasion of the Lekki Toll Gate and the killing of unarmed protesters on Tuesday October 20, 2020.
The following day, hoodlums virtually seized power in Lagos. Several federal and state government properties were targeted and burnt down. Massive looting ensued, and private businesses, particularly in the Lekki Circle Mall and the Bode Thomas business district were looted. The law enforcement agencies had completely abdicated their responsibilities and the criminals operated unhindered.
The strangest occurrence was the chance discovery of a large warehouse in Mazamaza Lagos, where COVID-19 palliatives, were stored. The looters descended on the supplies and emptied the warehouse within hours. Even those who were not criminals felt justified to take away the food items because they felt that corrupt government officials must have hidden them for personal gain.
This opened the eyes of the hungry and angry masses in other states such as Oyo, Edo, Kwara, Plateau, Enugu, Anambra, Delta, Abia, Cross River and others to locate and loot COVID-19 palliative warehouses. Now, the authorities know that there is hunger in the land!
Giving an insight into the delayed distribution, the Lagos State acting Commissioner for Agriculture, Abisola Olusanya, claimed that the items were received by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu from the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID (CACOVID) just on September 22, 2020.
Apparently, the supplies were being repackaged for onward distribution to groups such as transport unions, ethnic groups, religious associations, artisans, tradesmen, women, people living with disability and others.
It is unfortunate that what should have been a well-thought-out programme had to be disrupted amidst the chaos of the looting spree. It is difficult not to blame both the government and the CACOVID group for the acts of commission and omission which gave room for it.
The discovery of the COVID-19 warehouses about five months after the lock-downs sent signals of the possible hoarding of the supplies for selfish ends, at least in the minds of the public. The palliatives should have been promptly distributed to hungry Nigerians, and now the good gestures of the donors have been defeated.
It is this sloppy, incompetent and possibly corrupt handling of governance in Nigeria that fuelled the anger of the #EndSARS protesters. It is so unfortunate that nobody may pay a price for this gross miscarriage of governance. This must stop. We must rethink our governance culture and put the people at the centre of it.