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Victims of Stampede: A Case of Incompetence or Disregard for Life

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) announced on February 20 its decision to distribute contraband foodstuff items seized by officers of the service. They were forfeited to the federal government by Order of Court to citizens at affordable rates.

Three days later, as thousands of citizens convened at the Customs Zonal Office at Yaba, Lagos state, for the proposed distribution, there was an unfortunate incident of the stampede that claimed the lives of not fewer than five people. The stampede was said to have occurred due to poor crowd management by the customs, as hundreds of people tried to force themselves into the venue to buy rice at the zonal office at Harvey Road, Yaba, reported by BUSINESS DAY.

In every sane society, the right to life is considered a fundamental Human right that must be protected at all costs by the government. Protecting lives and properties is a crucial responsibility of any sovereign state. This duty entails that the government and its agencies must act carefully and execute policies that will not endanger human lives.

Accordingly, Section 33 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)  provides that every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, saved in the execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which they have been found guilty in Nigeria.

The Supreme Court, in a plethora of cases, upheld the above provision of the constitution. It is sacrosanct that the sanctity of life is maintained, and anyone who infringes on this right must be held accountable.  NCS certainly ought to be held accountable for the lives lost on the day of the fatal incident. The victims’ families are entitled to compensation for the loss of their loved ones.

NCS owes every Nigerian who visited their office to purchase food items a duty of care, and that duty was highly neglected. The loss of lives could have been avoided if there had been proper management and organization on the part of the Customs Service.    

Victims of stampede in Lagos certainly have a right to maintain an action for a violation of their fundamental right to life through their families in accordance with the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules of 2009.



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