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Food crisis: OPS warns of shutdown as hoodlums loot more trucks

todayMarch 5, 2024 4

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The organised private sector has expressed concern about the spate of looting of trucks conveying food and raw materials by suspected hoodlums, warning that it can lead to a shutdown of industries across the country.

Members of the OPS, gave the warning on Monday in separate interviews with The PUNCH just as miscreants attacked trucks conveying building materials and spaghetti in Ogun and Kaduna states.

Also on Monday, the Federal Government said it would start the distribution of free grains to states this week.

Several trucks and warehouses, mostly owned by manufacturers and other members of the OPS,  have come under attacks from hoodlums as the food inflation and the cost of living crisis worsened across the country.

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

On Sunday, hoodlums attacked a warehouse belonging to the Agricultural and Rural Development Secretariat of the Federal Capital Territory Administration located in the Dei-Dei area of the capital city where they looted rice, grains, and other relief items.

An attempt by another group to loot a private warehouse in the Idu Industrial Estate, Jabi, Abuja, was rebuffed by soldiers guarding the facility.

Speaking with The PUNCH, The President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gabriel  Idahosa, said the current economic hardship was ushering in anarchy.

According to him, the attacks can worsen the problems of companies and lead to their shutdown.

 Idahosa said, “The chickens are coming home to roost. The government has asked the people to be patient, but the stomach cannot be patient even if the head wants to be patient. In a state of anomy, it will lead to a state of anarchy.

Anarchy looms

“There is no distinction between public and private in a state of anarchy. When the government allows chaos to happen, chaos does not know whether it is government or private property. When it rains, it doesn’t rain only on government or private property.

“The looters are not concerned whether it is government or private property. They just want food, anything that looks like food, they will go after it. This is why concerned observers have asked the government to look for concrete measures to reduce the state of hunger in the land.’’

The LCCI president further said a concerted effort is required to stop the criminality.

“We have gone beyond the phase of speculation; we are now in the phase of reality. In the last two or three days, these kinds of events have been escalating. It will require concerted efforts to stop the trend,’’ he advised.

Speaking further, Idahosa, noted that many of the major manufacturing firms in the country recorded significant losses in the 2023 financial year and might choose to shut down their businesses and lay off workers in light of the looting of their wares.

He added, “All of them are reporting losses in billions. The smaller companies are also having their own losses. It just doesn’t make it to the front pages of the newspapers.

‘’Last week, we went to meet the CEO (chief executive officer) of one of the largest food and beverage companies in Nigeria and he said that some of his colleagues, who are foreigners, said they were totally confused that they did not know what to do; that they were frustrated. He was just sharing their frustration with us.

“With the present situation, we are not just looking at price hikes alone. They may decide to close down the business and fire all the people.”

 On his part, the Chairman of Kwara/Kogi Manufacturers Association of Nigeria,  Alhaji AbdulRahman Bioku, in an interview with The PUNCH attributed the looting of food items and other goods to the situation in the country.

Bioku who is the Chief Executive of Bioraj Group of companies, said “People are hungry and angry. Manufacturers have laid off many workers because their companies have closed down. The few workers on the job are on half salary.

‘Looters are criminals’

But the Executive Secretary of Abeokuta Chambers of Commerce, Alhaji AbdulRhaman Maku,  condemned people looting trucks carrying food items belonging to companies. He urged the police to treat such people as criminals.

 Maku urged the state governors who promised to distribute one form of food palliatives or the other to quickly do so.

He said reports of people looting trucks carrying foodstuffs were condemnable, adding that the actions were criminal and  that the police should deal decisively with the suspects.

“We are all together in whatever is happening and no one should be hiding under this situation to destroy the businesses of others. It is totally unacceptable and the law enforcement agencies should waste no time to treat such people as criminals

“It will also be good for state governments that have promised one form of food palliatives or the other to make good their promises so that the unnecessary delay won’t give room to needless suspicion where people will take every warehouse as a place where the palliatives are kept and then go and loot the place or be eyeing any trucks that are carrying food items”.

Advising the Federal Government, the Publicity Secretary of the Anambra Chamber of Commerce, Chief Dennis Iberim, said, “They (the government) should look at policies that are currently impoverishing the people and review them in such a way that they would positively impact on the people. Many manufacturers have closed shop due to the high cost of production occasioned by power challenges.’’

On his part, the Head of Corporate Affairs of the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria,  Moshood Lawal said the Director-General, and Chief Executive Officer of SMEDAN, Charles Odii, recently met with the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun to address the security of small and medium enterprises’ properties.

Also, the Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Muda Yusuf, expressed worry that the recent trend would significantly damage investors’ confidence.

Yusuf, who described the indiscriminate looting of private businesses as a function of a society that had descended into anarchy, called on the government to quickly address the issue before it gains currency on a national scale.

He said, “This kind of situation weakens investors’ confidence. This is degenerating into anarchy. Yes, there are challenges, but if criminal activity is seen as a normal response, then that is a major problem.

“We need to take some drastic steps to address these social issues, especially this high cost of living, whatever low-hanging fruits we can find will definitely help.’’

As the OPS advised the government, The PUNCH on Monday learnt that hoodlums attacked a truck conveying raw materials from the Dangote Cement Plant in Ibese along the Ofada-Owode area of Ogun State, at about 6pm on Sunday.

 A police source said the hoodlums, who were armed with guns and machetes, allegedly attacked the truck which was en route to Obajana in Kogi State.

 It was further learnt that the three occupants of the truck with registration number LSR 670 AS, including the driver, sustained varying degrees of injuries as a result of the attack.

 Confirming the incident on Monday, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Omolola Odutola, said the police in Owode Division had begun an investigation into the incident.

 She said, “Today (Sunday) at about 6:00 pm, Tijani Sunday, attached to the Eleweran in Abeokuta on checkpoint duty at Nestle company in Sagamu, reported that the three victims, including a motor boy, a driver, and one other driver of a Dangote truck with registration number LSR 670 AS, were attacked by some hoodlums.

“The truck was fully loaded with raw materials en route to Kogi State. The hoodlums were believed to be fully armed with guns and machetes.

“After the attack, they made away with the truck along with all the consignments that were inside. The three victims were rushed to Live Well Hospital Ajaka in Sagamu for medical attention.

 “A team of policemen was sent to the scene, where they discovered that the place is within the Owode Egba divisional police headquarters. The divisional police officer has been contacted for an investigation.”

All efforts made to contact the Dangote Group for its reaction proved abortive, as calls to the mobile phone number of its spokesperson, Mr Tony Chiejina, were not responded to on Monday night. Also, he had yet to respond to a text message sent to his mobile phone as of the time this report was filed at 10.20pm on Monday.

Also,  the Kaduna State police command on Monday confirmed the looting of a food truck in Zaria on Saturday.

 It said no arrest had been made in connection with the incident.

The food truck was hijacked and looted by suspected hoodlums at Dogarawa in the Zaria area of Kaduna State.

The driver had parked at Dogarawa, on the Zaria-Kano expressway, to observe his prayers when the vehicle was looted.

In a video circulated on social media, a group of people were seen carting away cartons of spaghetti from the truck.

A team of police officers was later deployed to the scene of the incident.

Speaking to The PUNCH on Monday, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mansir Hassan, explained that the command had deployed its operatives to protect road users in the area.

He said the force was committed to ensuring the safety of lives and property of citizens.

“There was no arrest yet but we have deployed our men to safeguard the lives and property of the vehicle and other motorists plying the road,” he said

Meanwhile, the Minister of State of the FCT, Dr Mariya Mahmoud has said that the looting of the FCT agric secretariat on Sunday was not motivated by hunger.

Speaking during an assessment of the looted warehouse on Monday, she said the FCT administration would reinforce security across all government-owned warehouses in the nation’s capital.

This was contained in a statement by the Special Adviser Media to the FCT Minister of State, Austin Elemue, on Monday.

Written by: EaglesFM

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