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Compensate Victims’ Families Of Lagos Rice Distribution Stampede, Falana Tells Customs .

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Legal luminary, Femi Falana, has asked the authorities of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to compensate victims’ families of the stampede that occurred during its food distribution exercise in Lagos State last month.

NCS had on February 23, began distribution of seized food items in the state, with about 2,500 cartons and 963 bags of dried fish to be distributed.

The initiative is aimed at cushioning the effect the rising cost of food items in the country is having on Nigerians.

However, stampede occurred the next day, leading to the death of seven people at the agency’s office in Yaba.

One of the victims was Comfort Adebanjo, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ward E1 Surulere.

Following the traffic incident, NCS suspended the exercise.

But Falana in a statement on Sunday, said that it was “sad” that NCS has not yet deemed it fit to identify the victims’ families to commiserate with them.

He called on the agency to quickly identify the victims’ families and compensate them for their loss.

He said, “It is sad to note that the authorities of the Nigeria Customs Service have not deemed it fit to identify the bereaved families of the deceased and commiserate with them. As a matter the deceased persons have been blamed for their ‘impatience’.

“Since it is common knowledge that similar distribution of food items to poor people had recorded stampede in the recent past, the authorities of the Nigeria Customs Service must accept full responsibility for the blatant negligence that led to the avoidable death of the seven citizens.

“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.

“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.”

He warned that if NCS fails to take the advice, he would approach the Federal High Court to enforce the fundamental rights of the victims.

“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 noted.

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