A crowd of residents has stormed the warehouse of the Cross River State government where COVID-19 palliatives donated by the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) were stored.
The incident occurred on Friday in Calabar, the state capital amid reports of similar incidents in other states.
A group of youths had embarked on a peaceful protest against the excesses of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) in Cross River.
They took their protest to the Governor’s office in Calabar where they called for a reform of the police, amid the #EndSARS demonstration which held in other states.
After making their demands known, the protesters were said to be on their way from the governor’s office before a crowd of angry residents took over.
In their numbers, the irate residents stormed the warehouse and made away with food items worth millions of naira.
From there, they went further to loot valuables from shopping malls and vandalised some banks and a police station, as well as the state government’s newspaper house, among others.
Condemning the incident, the state governor, Professor Ben Ayade, called on residents to desist from the destruction of properties.
He explained that the state took delivery of the food items on October 12 from CACOVID and were awaiting distribution to various Local Government Areas (LGAs) across the state.
Governor Ayade added that considering the distance of about seven hours from Calabar to most LGAs, the government was concluding plans to distribute them before the incident happened.
He called on residents, especially the youths to protect the state’s properties rather than allow criminally-minded persons to destroy them.
Fellow Cross Riverians, I want to address you on the burning issues as it concerns our young people.
The #ENDSARS protest has taken a different dimension in the state.
We the people of Cross River State are known to be peace-loving, we are known to be a people who love our neighbors, we are a very caring, very nice, and highly civilised people.
The #ENDSARS protest is a protest and a fight that all of us have identified with and we stand by you at this moment.
It offers a great opportunity for us in leadership to recognize the anguish, the pain, the agony and frustration you feel, and like I said in my earlier address, I stand with you in this difficult time.
But great Cross Riverians, if we destroy our own assets as a state with one of the lowest allocations in the country, we will not have the ability to rebuild.
The factories including the garment factory, the Industrial park, the Calachika; all the factories we have built, the idea is to create jobs because we recognize the fact that roads and superhighways cannot create jobs.
It can only create money for the contractors and so we decided to go agro-industrial so that we can create jobs for our teeming youth. Job creation is a topmost priority in our agenda to be able to address the issues before us today.
Even though the immediate cause is police brutality, the remote causes include issues of unemployment and lack of access. I believe that we have taken note of your concerns and we will address them.
Briefly, on the issue of palliatives being kept in warehouses, every state will have palliatives in their warehouse.
Let me thank and acknowledge CACOVID for the massive supply of all these palliatives. Note that as you empty your stock, they restock.
This keeps coming for Cross River State. Our last receipt was on October 12th, just last week. We were also told clearly that they (CACOVID) wanted to do a press briefing when they are handing over the palliatives.
So, there was a directive that this last stock Cross River got should not be shared until they come. The weigh bill is available, and it has been released for all to see. It shows that the stock arrived on the 12th of October 2020.
Unfortunately, by then this tension had started building up and we were already waiting on them to come. I also want to recall that we do the distribution of palliatives in Cross River State in a sequence.
We started with traditional rulers and churches, then we moved to local government by the local government via senatorial districts.
We had done distributions in the northern senatorial district and in the central senatorial district. The next batch of distribution was to be for the southern senatorial district.
So, the stock in question is for distribution in the southern senatorial district. As can be seen in a lot of videos on social media and Cross River Broadcasting Corporation, each time we distribute, we target widows, we target the aged, we target people who do not have money, people who cannot work. We target those who can fish no more, those who can no longer fish because they are aged and do not have loved ones.
If you watch the videos of our distribution, it is systematic. It is through churches and churches target the vulnerable and so as a young man who is 18, 20, 25, remember that the food you are picking belongs to our aged parents, a widow somewhere. There is hunger in the land, and I know this very well.
That is why our emphasis had been on mass employment, recruitment, salary payment, pension payment, and creating jobs, and focusing more on appointments. Today, we have over 6,000 political appointees. I do not need that much number of appointees.
So, it is for food on the table. It may not have reached you but somebody somewhere may have been reached.
We have just approved employment for another 20000 people and have made it very clear this should not be for politicians. I believe that in the course of time you will see the sincerity of my intentions.
Without factories, without industries, even if you have a Ph.D. you will have no job and so if we destroy the few industries we have built, how would we be able to create the jobs?
Cross River State as we all know is in a very challenging financial situation and because of this circumstance, I placed emphasis on humanity.
That is why I established the Ministry of Social Welfare and Humanitarian Services. That ministry is responsible for the warehouse.
So COCAVID committee receives, stores, and the Commissioner goes to the warehouse and picks from there to distribute. If you know our state very well you will know that you can travel seven hours and you are still in the same state.
So, distribution and coming back to pick more is a very big challenge and so it is expected that indeed you must have stock to service every local government area. So, I would like the state and all young men and women to be very patient.
I have been in touch with the service commanders and have asked that the warehouses be thrown open without security molesting our young people who will get there.
That instruction I gave in the name of God that I serve, and I am sure my press secretary has also issued a statement in that regard.
Let us note that the most vulnerable, our weakest in the society, the aged, the widows, the poor who are without loved ones are the owners of the food you are taking.
But we believe that you (young) also deserve food and that is why we have made a commitment that we will continue to expand government. I know what I go through.
If you sit in my office as governor of a state with one of the least allocations yet with the biggest land mass of about 23000 sqkm , you will realise how very big a challenge it is to run the state.
You have made your points very loud and clear. Cross River understands the situation and we stand with you and we ask that you obey and abide by the regulations and rules of the curfew in place.
It will be called off very soon to enable us get back to work. I always do my best to avoid any form of dislocating your social life and your businesses. We understand that some people came through the waters in chartered boats into the state.
Cross Riverians, this is not us; this is not our nature. So, I call on Cross Riverians both young and old to rise up and defend our state. If it burns to ruins, we have no other state to call our own.
Therefore, it is time to rise and defend our state. It is not good to throw away the child with the bathwater. Please protect your motherland, protect your state so that as young people, you will have the opportunity to become leaders tomorrow.
Let us not destroy this beautiful state which is the tourism capital of Nigeria. If we have these kinds of incidents, it will disrupt our carnival, it will disrupt our culture, it will disrupt the impression that we are the most peaceful state.
Let us therefore, come together and hand hold each other to protect us and protect our state from external Infiltration because I know the real young Cross Riverians, who indeed have been leading these protests have also issued statements to say they do not want it to degenerate to violence. So, I know that what happened today (Friday) is definitely something a bit external.
Cross Riverians, this is not the time to pass blames, this is not the time to exact vengeance. Every politician must have his political opponents who think differently but at this time, let the fear of God prevail because Nigeria is at a very challenging moment. Let us overcome this situation across the country and have reasons to celebrate the ability to survive it.
The cases of other countries who have been through this path is very well known to us particularly here in Africa. It will be very dangerous for us to continue on this path.
You have made your points and as they say where I come from, when a thing gets too long it becomes a snake. I plead that government be given the opportunity to repair the damage and reverse the history of pain and frustration that you have been through.
I thank every single Cross Riverian and I believe that by tomorrow we will come out and together, clean our streets, and thank God for what has happened, and pray that it ends well.
But we all must rise up and defend the state, defend our assets, defend our capital, defend our various local government areas because anybody who mistakes this and turns this into a political issue will never know where it will end.
You don’t know which of your loved ones will be affected. I have issued clear instructions that as much as possible I would like to see that Cross River State returns to normalcy quickly. it is my wish and hope that this situation ends today and should never happen again in our history.
Please we have learned our lessons, give us the opportunity to make amends. No human is perfect. Whatever your concerns are, please let the spirit of Cross River take over. I plead with you using the blood of Jesus that please let us forgive each other and come together as a state. Let us be united at this hour and fish out the people who infiltrated our state.
I know that as Cross Riverians, violence is not in our DNA. God willing tomorrow we will all come together and say hallelujah that God has made it possible that we now have peace.
Thank you and God bless.