In A Time of Rage and National Outrage, Corporates Respond with Grace

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By Onuwa Lucky Joseph

It’s been one heck of a loaded couple of weeks in Nigeria. What started with the peaceful #ENDSARS protests has degenerated into nationwide looting and vandalisation; first of properties and interests deemed connected to Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Lagos, and then fanning out to looting of warehouses where Covid 19 supplies were stored and then on to looting and large scale destruction of supermarkets, malls, stores and other private owned businesses and properties in many states of the federation.

An even grimmer development is the killing of policemen and ruination of police stations leading to looting of the armoury and uniforms of police officers. Not to mention, the jail break some of which have been attributed to government itself while others have been clearly the handiwork of hoodlums who see in the chaos an opportunity to spring their colleagues from jail.

There had been palpable anger at government mishandling of the protests, especially after it became apparent that soldiers shot point blank at defenseless protesters who had believed that by holding up the Nigerian flag, they would be safe from any such attempt by security operatives.

It’s still buck passing session as to who actually ordered the shooting. The Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said it was orders from “forces beyond our direct control”. Tinubu said, after he visited Mr. Sanwo-Olu at the Lagos State House in Marina, Lagos, that he came to pointedly ask the governor if he was the one who gave the order; which would be preposterous as Nigerian soldiers are not known to take orders from governors. Some had insinuated that it was the larger-than-life Tinubu that orchestrated the shooting in view of the resultant loss of revenue arising from the protesters ‘hijack’ of the Lekki Toll Gate, an operation managed ostensibly by a company owned by the Jagaban.

Well, the import of this article is not the back and forth between govt officials and the Federal Government which made no mention of the incident when President Buhari gave his much anticipated speech on the 22nd of October. His spokesman, Garba Shehu, eventually came out to say the government was working at unraveling how and where the order for the shooting emanated and how many casualties there were and how government was going to manage the compensation, including for security agents who also lost their lives to the mayhem.

One of the positive fallouts from this national has been the readiness of corporate organisations to be part of the rebuilding process for all of our communities that experienced colossal damage at different levels. One of the most touching was SPAR, the huge retail chain owned by the Artee Group, whose Lekki outlet was looted and vandalized by hoodlums. Its response to this unfortunate situation is one that others would do well to emulate. Rather than hand wringing and endless lamentation, SPAR issued a wholesome message that spoke to its need for community revival: “Our Lekki store has been vandalized and looted. But we acknowledge that this is only a setback compared to the larger issues we are all facing as a nation, and our thoughts and prayers remain with Nigerians everywhere, and for a peaceful resolution to various issues at hand.

“Rebuilding a supermarket is hard”, the message continued, “(but) rebuilding a nation is even harder. We stand with you, Nigeria. Stay focused, be the solution.”

That message was extremely well received by Nigerians, some of whom quickly signaled their readiness to be part of the clean-up and rebuilding process for SPAR.

In the same vein, Coca Cola, while regretting ‘the events of the past days” that have “scarred us all”, averred that its heart goes out to the families of the fallen and injured. The company then said that it “along with our bottling partners, Nigeria Bottling Company Ltd., is committed to making a difference in our communities”. To underscore this, the company said it was making a donation of N20million to its NGO partner, Whitefield Foundation, “to help defray the medical bills of victims in hospitals”.

On its own part, Access Bank says it has “set aside a minimum of N50Billion, through interest free loans and grants to support communities, micro, small and medium-sized businesses and our youth”.

It’s endearing, the reassuring strap line by both companies: “We’re in this together”.

We’ll give you updates as more companies get on the train despite their own individual travails.

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