…Says ‘I’ve forgiven them but…’
By Dirisu Yakubu, Abuja
Penultimate Saturday, the Calabar residence of Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba was vandalized by rampaging youths, following the nationwide protests against police brutality hijacked by hoodlums across many cities.
For a truth, Ndoma-Egba wasn’t the only high profile Nigerian to have lost valuable properties to legion of criminals who walked the land almost unchallenged, searching for the COVID-19 palliatives in both public and private places. Yet, the visuals of a burning house, Sport Utility Vehicle, stolen mattresses and more, tell of the extent of loss suffered by the ex-lawmaker who represented Cross River Central Senatorial District from 2003 to 2015.
In an exclusive chat with Saturday Vanguard, the lawyer cum politician said his loss not quantifiable considering the values of the things either taken away or burnt by the criminal elements who paid his Asari Eso Calabar layout residence an unscheduled visit last week. We reached the Senator.
“Everything was lost. Every fitting including toilet seats and water tanks were removed. My collection of out-of-print books, historical photographs and documents, clothing, etc, were lost. I lost furniture; name it; only the floor was spared. All the cars were razed. It will interest you to know that I built the house from 1991 to 2009,” the ex-federal lawmaker, currently out of the country, spoke in an emotionally-laden voice.
Still battling to come to terms with the event of that fateful Saturday, the All Progressives Congress, APC chieftain said it is almost impossible to put a monetary value to the tragedy that befell him, noting however that he has forgiven the invaders nonetheless.
“It is difficult to put any value but you can imagine a house that was started in 1991 and finished in 2009. I really don’t know why my house was attacked, I can’t explain but my attitude is this: I have forgiven whoever it is but that is without prejudice to whatever the law enforcement agencies will come up with. I have forgiven them. I understand the anger of the season, I understand the frustration of the youth and if this is a sacrifice I have to make for their lives to be better or for the society to be better, I will gladly make it.
“I heard that about 60 locations were vandalized that day. In my neighbourhood, Senator Gershom Bassey who is the incumbent senator representing Cross River South was also a victim,” he added, his voice barely audible this time in the three minute television conversation.
Looting Spree: Shame of a Nation
As the protesters retreated for safety in the wake of the violent attack on them by suspected hijackers of the agitations, some Nigerians, particularly the youths began to invade warehouses in search of palliatives earlier dished out to governors to cushion the pain visited on the vast majority by the coronavirus pandemic. What started in Osogbo, the Osun state capital soon spread to Benin City, Bukuru (Jos), Yola and many other major towns and cities, including Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory and Lagos.
The sheer size of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC Orientation Camp in Kubwa, Abuja, must have given the rampaging youths the belief that palliatives were in stock there few days after their attempt to invade the Cyprain Ekwensi House, National Council of Arts and Culture, Area 10 in the Garki district of Abuja was aborted by security forces. Rather than leave empty handed, they made away with mattresses, perhaps as a tribute to their satanic visit.
They however smiled a day later when at the Idu Industrial Area of the FCT, they walked into a warehouse stocked with rice, noodles, flour, corn, vegetable oil to mention a few.
Speaking in a 30-second video, one of the “harvesters” proudly tells his tale of luck this way: “This is my own property from the President but they stocked and hoarded them. Those who do not know of this, it is not their fault. This is our own. It is our belongings that have been given back to us. I got two tricycles loads of items and I will come back. Anyone who is still at home should come out now.” In the tricycles popularly called keke, the young man packed foodstuff ranging from bags of rice, salt, sugar, corn, noodles and more.
Although, FCT Minister ordered the thieves to return the stolen items, there is a chance many of those looted items are gone for good.
Task before governments, leaders
For the Convener, Women Arise, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, the events of the past few weeks are a wake-up call for government across all levels to rise to the responsibility of governance.
“The last three weeks have been of hope of an awakened generation demanding good governance converged as #EndSARS mixed with sorrow, tears and blood.
“We mourn our departed, known or unknown, named or unnamed. We commiserate with their families and pray God to give them the fortitude to bear their loss and our loss as a nation.
“Whatever the outcome of Lagos State Judicial Commission of Enquiry, Soro Soke has spoken clearly and loudly and our nation cannot be the same again. Let every member of the committee carry out their duty with conscience and knowledge that we will all one day sit before the Ultimate Judge.
“I salute the doggedness of our young leaders on and off the street. I appeal to them to also listen to the voice of comrades and partners in preceding generation who laid the foundation of the battle they are building on.
“The government must live up to their responsibility to nip in the bud growing restlessness and anarchy manifesting in looting of palliatives and personal properties.
“The wanton destruction of life and property must seize forthwith. Nigerians must go on with their lives knowing that government is fulfilling their primary purpose security and welfare of the people.
“We pray that a new day will dawn in Nigeria and a new specie of nation builders as leaders and citizens will arise that will do things right and do the right things. The day will neither belong to the kleptocrats in governance nor looters on the prowl but citizens of all tribes, tongue and languages uniting to make our nation great again,” she said.
Nothing wrong in citizens helping themselves to palliatives – Inibehe
For human rights activist and constitutional lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, citizens making their way to warehouses for palliatives hidden by politicians should not be condemned considering the hunger in the land. In a chat with this medium, Mr. Effiong said the excuses given for hoarding the palliatives meant for the poor in the first place, were frivolous.
His words: “I condemn the looting of properties. It is unacceptable. It is condemnable. There is no justification for depriving people of their source of livelihood. The anger is misdirected. It is a pity that things have deteriorated to this shameful level.
“However, I’m indifferent to citizens taking palliatives that were hidden by corrupt politicians. Since the palliatives were originally meant to be shared to poor and hungry citizens, there is no need for pointless sermons.
“There is hunger in the land. The government should not criminalize poverty by stigmatizing citizens for taking food meant for them. The excuses given for not sharing these palliatives are largely untenable and frivolous.” So long!