Lagos resident reported dead in a stamped at Nigerian Customs Office while trying to buy 'cheap rice'

Saturday, February 24, 2024 The Nigeria Customs Service says it is investigating reports people were trampled to death during a sale of bags of confiscated rice amid growing anger over skyrocketing prices of food in Africa’s most populous country.

“There was a chaotic situation caused by the impatience of people to follow the laid down procedures and rules that were set up for the exercise,” spokesperson for the service, Abdullahi Maiwada told sources on Saturday. “I can neither confirm or deny any deaths but we are investigating,” he added.

Long queues have formed outside the Lagos customs office since the commencement of the sale as thousands of locals struggle to grab a bag of the 25-kilogram rice selling at a discounted price of 10,000 naira ($6.80).

Some eyewitnesses said they saw people “trampled to death” on Friday.

“A man just died in my hospital, he was stamped on after falling at the custom office trying to get rice. He was on the queue with his wife when he fell down and couldn’t get up on time which resulted to people stamping on him. So sad. Survived by very young children,” said one Nigerian doctor on X.

Last week, anti-government protests broke out in parts of the West African nation as the country battles one of its worst cost-of-living crisis that has seen inflation accelerate to nearly 30% - the highest in 30 years.

The local currency has also significantly depreciated, losing over half its value to the US dollar following its second devaluation in less than a year.

More than 80 million Nigerians live on less than $2 a day, representing “the world’s second-largest poor population after India”, according to the World Bank.

The customs service said the distribution of the seized bags of rice was part of the government’s plan “to tackle the pressing issue of food insecurity.”

The cost of rice, a staple food in Nigeria, has surged in recent months. It is now priced at over N70,000 ($47.60) per 50kg bag, compared to a range of 45,000 to 50,000 naira previously.

The customs service says it has been confiscating contraband rice from smugglers following restrictions on foreign rice imports by the Nigerian government.

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