Nigeria customs confirms deaths in stampede for rice in Lagos

The Nigeria Customs Service has stopped the sale of seized bags of rice to needy residents amid growing hunger in the country, after confirming people were trampled to death during a deadly crowd surge at its Lagos office .

“The people became frantic and charged through our blockades looking for rice sacks inside discharged holders. In the rush that followed, a few fatalities and wounds were deplorably recorded,” Maiwada added, reporting “the suspension of this activity until we lay out what unfolded.”

In a statement late Monday, the service confirmed multiple eyewitness reports that people died and others were injured in the Friday crush, but did not specify the number of victims.

“Unforeseen challenges arose when we ran out of stock and announced the continuation of the exercise the following day, leading to a regrettable outcome,” spokesperson for the service, Abdullahi Maiwada, said in the statement.

Thousands thronged the Lagos customs office – each struggling to grab a bag of the 25-kilogram (55-pound) rice selling at a discounted price of 10,000 naira ($6.80) as the price of food continues to skyrocket in Africa’s most populous country.

The cost of rice, a staple food in the West African country, has surged in recent months and is now priced at more than N70,000 naira ($47.60) per 50-kilogram bag, compared to a range of 45,000 to 50,000 naira previously.

Nigeria is battling one of its worst cost-of-living crises that has seen inflation rise to nearly 30% – the highest in 30 years.

Its local currency has also plummeted, losing more than half its value to the US dollar, further compounding the woes of the country’s imports-driven economy.

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