Falana Asks FG To Compensate Victims Killed During Customs’ Rice Distribution Stampede

Human rights lawyer cum activist, Femi Falana (SAN), has urged the authorities of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to promptly provide compensation to the families of the seven victims who tragically lost their lives in a stampede during the sale of low-cost rice at the Service’s office in Lagos in February.

The seven Nigerians lost their lives on February 23 during a chaotic situation while attempting to purchase rice seized from smugglers. The rice was made available at a subsidized price of N10,000 for a 25kg bag following an order by President Bola Tinubu, at the Customs’ Zonal Office on Harvey Road, Yaba.

Following the tragic incident, which led to the immediate suspension of the food disposal initiative by the Customs, Falana has criticized the Customs for its failure to compensate the families of the victims even after two weeks have passed.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the activist expressed regret that the NCS authorities have not taken responsibility or reached out to the families of the victims to offer condolences. Falana emphasized the importance of the Customs acknowledging their responsibility and providing support to the affected families during this difficult time.

“Since a bag of rice was selling for N77,000 at the material time, it ought to have occurred to the Nigeria Customs Service that its zonal headquarters in Yaba would not be able to contain the crowd that had been invited to purchase a 25kg bag of rice at N10,000,” the SAN said.

“Therefore, the authorities of the Nigeria Customs Service should take urgent steps to identify the bereaved families of the seven deceased citizens with a view to paying them adequate monetary compensation.

“However, if our advice is ignored by the authorities, we shall not hesitate to approach the Federal High Court to enforce the fundamental right of each of the deceased persons to life as guaranteed by Section 33 of the Nigerian Constitution and Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights,” Falana said.

He also called on the Customs to lift the suspension of the sale of the remaining bags of rice without any further delay.

“To avoid another stampede, the distribution should be carried out through the appropriate local government councils and local government development areas in Lagos State and other states of the federation,” he advised.