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Customs deny causing the deaths of rice buyers

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The Nigeria Customs Service called the stampede at its Yaba, Lagos, office during the sale of 25kg of rice to Lagos residents regrettable, resulting in the deaths of seven people.

Our correspondent learned that people were trampled to death as a large crowd gathered at the service’s Yaba headquarters on Friday to buy sacks of confiscated grains amidst the country’s poor economic conditions.

Chronicle NG reports that Comfort Adebanjo, an All Progressives Congress member, and six others were killed while attempting to acquire grains marketed for N10,000 at the Yaba Customs office.

Oluwafemi Fadahunsi, the APC’s coordinator for FKL Ward E1 in Lagos State, and Adebari Adewale, the secretary, verified that Adebanjo was one of the seven people killed in the stampede.

In the obituary released on Saturday, the party wrote, “It is with heavy hearts and regret that we announce the painful death of one of our members in FKL Ward E1, Mrs. Adebanjo Comfort Funmilayo, of house number 104, Ibidun Street by Akinhanmi Street, Ojuelegba.

“She was among the seven victims who died in the course of buying customs rice at Yaba.

“May God grant all the members of her family and all the residents of Ward E1 the fortitude to bear the irreplaceable loss.”

Speaking with our correspondent on Sunday, Customs spokeswoman Abdullahi Maiwada blamed the development on the impatience of those who were at the venue of the sell of the commodity.

“At a point, they decided to be impatient. When we saw the crowd, we even suspended the collection of forms and said, ‘Let’s give them free’.

“We did that; we exhausted everything. After exhausting everything and telling them that everything had finished and that they could go and that we didn’t have any more, they persisted. Some of them broke the fence at that place.

“We had to put up some barricades to cover the area. Some of them went and entered the container. At one point, we used our ambulance and took them to the hospital,” he said.

He added, “I don’t really have the statistics of the lives we have lost, but we made every effort for everyone to be orderly and to rescue them. We took them to the hospital. What do you want us to do?”

He stated that the Customs used Yaba since it had previously demolished the site, adding, “We used Yaba because we didn’t want to endanger our facilities.”

Speaking on whether the deaths resulted from pushing, he answered, “I can’t say. Some of them went and entered the engine container. Did we cause the deaths of anybody?

“We didn’t. We made efforts to rescue them because we took them to the hospital. We have learned our lessons. We have to go and strategize on how we’re going to continue and sustain this initiative.”

“It is very unfortunate; it is something that we wish did not happen, and we are very pathetic about it. We are with them in this trying situation,” he told the victims’ families.

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