Nigeria’s government on Tuesday urged people who looted coronavirus vaccine candidates stored in a federal warehouse in the national capital, Abuja, in recent days to return them.
Minister of State at Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health Adeleke Olorinmibe Mamora spoke at a press briefing organized by the presidential coronavirus taskforce in Abuja on Thursday. Mamora said some of the looted vaccine candidates “could still be useful if they are returned immediately without damage,” according to local newspaper This Day.
“I want to use this opportunity to appeal to our youths to stop crushing our medical supply stores. Most of these drugs are kept under controlled temperature and humidity conditions. Destruction of these conditions will render them ineffective and in some cases poisonous,” Mamora explained.
Nigeria Centre for Disease Control’s (NCDC) medical warehouse in Abuja is stocked with medical and laboratory equipment necessary to treat patients with coronavirus, the health minister said. The destruction of items looted from the warehouse “will impart negatively to the country’s response to the COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] pandemic,” Mamora warned.
This Day did not clarify which coronavirus vaccine candidate the NCDC referred to.
“The U.N.’s health agency, the World Health Organization [W.H.O.], has said Africa should receive at least 220 million doses [of a future coronavirus vaccine] through an international effort to develop and distribute a vaccine known as COVAX,” the Associated Press reported in late September. The W.H.O. confirmed in late August that Nigeria would join “the 92 economies that will be supported [by] the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).” The AMC’s goal is to bring the pandemic “under control via equitable access to COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] vaccines.”
Looters in Abuja targeted a separate coronavirus supply warehouse on Monday, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). The warehouse contained food intended for poor families affected by the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
“Residents of the federal capital looted a warehouse of Cacovid, a private fund to fight against Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] that finances a food bank,” according to the report. “On foot or by motorbike, hundreds of residents crossed the city loaded with boxes of food” in the wake of the looting.
“We are hungry, you must understand,” one of the looters explained to AFP.
“There is plenty of food in this country, but its people are suffering. The government is kidding us by leaving this food in warehouses,” he added. Nigeria has the highest number of people in the world living below the extreme poverty line.
Several Nigerian governors released a press statement addressing the food bank’s looting. They explained that the food aid had not yet been distributed because “we have chosen to keep strategic reserves in anticipation of a second wave of coronavirus.”
Outside of Abuja, several cities across the nation have reported massive looting in recent days, including Lagos, the economic capital; Jos in central Nigeria; and Port Harcourt in the country’s southwest.
The surge in looting follows weeks of anti-police protests across Nigeria. The demonstrations started as a call to disband a federal police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) following allegations of its abuse of power. Despite the government’s dissolution of the unit on October 11, the protests continued and have since devolved into rioting and looting across major cities.