28-Year-Old Lady Who Went to Get Rice at Lagos Customs Office Found Dead in Nearby Morgue

Debby Tutu (real name withheld), a 28-year-old mother of a toddler, was one of the thousands of Lagos residents who trooped to the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) office in Yaba on Friday to get bags of rice....READ FULL ARTICLE

As part of the efforts to cushion the impact of the hike in food prices battling the country, the customs office in Lagos State announced on Thursday that it would begin the distribution of confiscated bags of rice to residents on Friday.

The NCS stated that residents could visit the office with their national identification numbers (NINs) to get 25 kg of rice at a discounted price of N10,000.

THE QUEST TO GET RICE TURNED TRAGIC

Tutu’s bid to benefit from the distribution took a tragic turn as she wound up dead instead, leaving a three-year-old son, a husband, parents and siblings behind.

Her sister, who prefers to be identified as Blessing, told FIJ that Tutu had asked her to come to the distribution centre as well so she could get a bag of rice. But when she got there on Friday evening, her sister was nowhere to be found.

“She called me around 1 pm on Friday. She said she heard that they were selling rice at a rate of N10,000. Later, I called her to get an update. But it seems her phone was hanging, as she could not pick up the call. When she eventually did, she said I should come since there were still many people there,” Blessing told FIJ.

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“I went to the bank, and from there, I went to Yaba. I didn’t even know the location. I had to ask for directions. But when I got there around past 5 pm, I did not see my sister. I tried to call my sister, but it was a colleague who picked up the call. Apparently, she had dropped her phone with the colleague. They went together. Her colleague was outside sitting down. It was my sister who went inside.”

IN SEARCH OF A MISSING SISTER

According to Blessing, there were scores of residents at the office who had also come to get their share of the bags of rice. She said soldiers had to fire tear gas at some of them.

“When I got there, there were so many people. Some were even on the floor. Some had fainted. I was trying to get to my sister. The government said that we should come and take rice. But they, the customs officers and soldiers, used tear gas on us.

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“We waited and waited. 6 pm met us there. We were still there until 7 pm. I kept asking about my sister’s whereabouts. They said we should check the hospital at Harvey Road Health Centre. We went there after 7 pm, and when we described my sister, they said she was not one of those who were brought there.

“We went back to the customs office, and they said we should go to one hospital at WAEC. When we arrived there, they said they had brought in three women and a man. We went to her shop; we even went to LUTH. We were going from one hospital to another.

They kept telling us they did not bring people from the customs office. But on Saturday morning, we found out that she was one of the people who died as a result of the stampede on Friday.”

That Friday, when Blessing and others returned to the customs office after different attempts to find Tutu proved abortive, they were instructed to return to the two hospitals they had initially visited.

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“We saw this emergency vehicle there, and we asked them to tell us where they put the bodies of those who died. They told us to check the hospitals at Harvey Road and WAEC. There is a mortuary at WAEC. When we got there, we showed them her picture. That was when they told us she was one of the deceased people.

“She left one son. Her baby boy is just three years old. The customs officers did not visit us. They are not even showing any form of concern. When her husband went there on Saturday morning, they said they were not on duty.

They said they were on night duty. They did not even show any concern. She is just 28. She would have clocked 29 this year,” a distraught Blessing told FIJ.

There have been other claims of several deaths and injuries sustained at the scene by Nigerians on X. When FIJ’s reporter visited the customs office in Yaba on Saturday, he found that the distribution of rice had been suspended indefinitely. However, the NCS has yet to give a concrete reason for the suspension....READ FULL ARTICLE

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