A section of Nigerian citizens have been looting state warehouses across the country stocked with COVID-19 relief supplies which they say should have gone to the poor and hungry.

The National Governors Forum (NGF) has however denied accusations of food hoarding or plans to sell the supplies. The body that brings together the heads of Nigeria’s 36 states said some of the looted items were a “strategic reserve ahead of a projected second wave of COVID-19.”

There was widespread outrage when images of so-called “palliatives”, some rotting months after COVID-19 lockdowns ended emerged. Coupled with spiraling food prices, rampant unemployment and anti-police brutality protests that turned violent, further eroded trust and confidence in the government.

Some citizens justified their actions of stealing cartons of noodles, bags of sugar, rice, flour, grains and beans by noting that the items worth millions of dollars was rotting away in warehouses whilst they suffer.

Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Sadiya Umar Farouk’s office said distributing palliatives was the responsibility of state governors, not the federal government.

With Nigerians spending 60% of income on food, according to analysts SBM Intelligence, and trust in government low, some support the looters.

 “That is not stealing,” Opeyemi Elegbede, a payment recovery officer for food vendors in Lagos, said. “They went for their rights.”

Senior SBM analyst Glory Etim said few believe official explanations.

“If these things were not distributed at that time, it means there were other motives behind it,” she said. “It’s this motive that they’ve been trying to explain, and it doesn’t really make sense.”

Nigeria has had 63,790 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,154 deaths.

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