The Nigerian Customs Service on Monday placed a temporary suspension on the sales of seized food items across all the commands in the country over a stampede that claimed lives at NCS Old Zonal Headquarters in the Yaba area of Lagos State last Friday.

This is contained in a press statement signed by the agency’s spokesperson, Abdullahi Maiwa, on Monday.

The Customs had on February 20, 2024, said it would dispose of seized food items to cushion the hardship and cost of living in the country.

To start with, the Customs disposed of food items at its Yaba office last Friday in the presence of other security agencies like the men of the Nigeria Police Force.

Maiwada said. “The disposal of the food items got off to a smooth start at about 0800hrs.

“We enjoyed the cooperation of the large crowd that obliged us, giving preferences to the elderly, people living with disabilities, pregnant women, and other vulnerable Nigerians who showed up for the exercise.

“This was the case up until about 1700hrs, as attested to by the over 5,000 beneficiaries and members of the press.

“However, unforeseen challenges arose when we ran out of stock and announced the continuation of the exercise the following day, leading to a regrettable outcome.

“The crowd became desperate and charged through our barricades in search of rice bags inside emptied containers. In the stampede that ensued, some fatalities and injuries were regrettably recorded.”

The Customs extended its “heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives during the unfortunate incident”.

The Service said it was working with health authorities to establish contact and engage directly with the victims’ families on their next steps.

Following the incident, the Service initiated an internal investigation to understand the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate event.

“Considering the recent unfortunate event, we regrettably announce the suspension of this exercise until we establish what transpired on Friday, 23 February 2024.

“This should help us to properly articulate more robust and comprehensive action that will not defeat the noble intention,” the Service announced on Monday.