… ICRC Warehouse Looted, Staff Injured
By Bukar Bolori
Seven women were on Thursday trampled to death in Monguno, Borno State during food distribution by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to pregnant and malnourished lactating mothers.
According to a staff of ICRC who spoke anonymously to ThisDay, their office was also looted and staff injured in a protest that followed the stampede.
The staff revealed that the ICRC which had earlier distributed food to pregnant and lactating mothers in Maiduguri and Dikwa over the course of the last two weeks, had planned distributing food stuffs and supplements to the women numbering about 2,000 in Monguno town.
He said trouble started when more than the expected numbers trooped to the venue of distribution on Thursday morning to take delivery of the food stuffs.
He said: “We had planned to give to a set of 400 women in five batches and the first batch of 400 have already collected the food items but trouble started during the second batch as all manner of people youth and even elderly male struggled to get the items.
“They were very unruly and all attempts to explain to them that the food were meant for pregnant and lactating women fell on deaf ears as they become violent pushing for food.
“It was in the process that we had a stampede and many of the women were trampled on with few dead and many other injured.”
He added that the ICRC had to immediately stop the distribution when things were getting out of hands.
He however lamented that the hungry people of the town used the opportunity to loot the warehouse of the organisation in the town under the guise of protesting.
He said: “Our warehouse in Monguno was totally looted and staff were beaten up with one sustaining serious injury.”
A resident of the town, Abba Masta told our correspondent that the starvation in the town was responsible for the action of the residents who are mostly internally displaced by the insurgents.
He said: “After several attacks by Boko Haram, many humanitarian agencies have fled the town and the aid was no more coming and many people are starving.
“To make matter worst the State government few days ago banned Acted, the only humanitarian agency that has been active in Monguno for alleged complicity in training in handling of firearms and their intervention stopped.”
He added that “so when people saw that food were being distributed, everyone wanted a share and were never ready for explanations.”
Masta lamented that the weak pregnant women were pushed and trampled on by the more aggressive men looking to snatch the food.
Another resident of the town, who spoke anonymously, said: “Corpses of seven women were taken to the hospital along with four others who are severely injured.”
Fatima Sator, ICRC spokeswoman in Nigeria, had told journalists that the Monguno s distribution was one of the agency’s routine distributions of nutrition for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
She did not give details on the number of casualties or the cause of the incident.
She just said: “We are concerned and shocked by the loss of the life.”
A staff of the ICRC in Maiduguri told our correspondent on condition of anonymity that the incident was a surprise as the organisation at various times distributed food items in different part of the state without any incident.
He said some of the distributions was as high as to 10,000 people.