Here are 5 tech options the Nigeria Customs Service can use to distribute food palliatives safely

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In a tragic turn of events, the Nigeria Customs Service has temporarily suspended its nationwide food distribution initiative, launched in Lagos, following a fatal stampede. The incident unfolded after the point of National Identification Number (NIN) checks, raising questions about the effectiveness of this measure in ensuring order.

Abdullahi Maiwada, the Service’s National Public Relations Officer, explained that the distribution aimed to alleviate hardships by providing seized edible goods approved for consumption. Despite meticulous planning, the situation took a dire turn when the crowd, having depleted available stock, became desperate for more, leading to a stampede and unfortunate fatalities.

In his words, “The exercise was conducted following meticulous planning to address all potential risks that may emerge during the exercise. As part of our process and control measures, we had Nigeria Police and military personnel to ensure crowd control.

We also fully equipped a medical team on ground in anticipation of potential risks during an exercise of that magnitude. Their presence was part of our proactive approach to ensuring the safety and well-being of all participants.”

It is also important to note that the Customs Service had incorporated NIN checks as part of the process to maintain order and ensure that no one person benefitted more than once. However, the implementation of the NIN verification failed to prevent the chaos that ensued post-stock depletion.

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The comptroller expressed regret over the incident and announced an internal investigation to uncover the circumstances surrounding the stampede. In light of the tragic outcome, the Customs Service therefore suspended the distribution exercise until a thorough understanding of the events is established. This incident highlights the challenges in using NIN checks as a means to guarantee order, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive review of the distribution process.

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Nigeria Customs could explore alternatives for order and safety in distribution initiative

  1. Large-scale distribution initiatives, such as the recent effort by the Nigeria Customs Service, necessitate a thorough examination of alternative measures to enhance order and safety. One potential avenue involves the integration of technological solutions. Implementing online registration systems, QR code-based verifications, or mobile applications for pre-event coordination can streamline the process and minimize on-site disturbances and accidents.
  2. Effective crowd management strategies play a crucial role in preventing stampedes and maintaining structure during large-scale events. Trained personnel, including security forces and crowd control experts, are essential. Additionally, designated entry and exit points, well-defined queues, and clear signage contribute significantly to organized crowd movement, ensuring the safety of participants.
  3. Dividing the distribution process into specific time slots or phases is another viable alternative. This approach, known as time-slot distribution, helps distribute the crowd influx more evenly, reducing congestion and facilitating a more controlled environment. Furthermore, pre-event communication and education campaigns are crucial in setting expectations and preparing participants for a smoother experience, minimizing confusion and disorder.
  4. Consideration should also be given to the concept of localized distribution centers. Opting for multiple, smaller distribution points across different locations disperses the crowd and prevents overwhelming numbers at a single venue. This decentralized approach promotes accessibility and reduces the concentration of people in one area, contributing to a more balanced distribution process.
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Nigeria Customs officers

5. Pre-packaging essential items before distribution is another pragmatic alternative. This approach minimizes on-site challenges by providing participants with pre-assembled kits. It reduces the time spent at the distribution point, thereby lessening the potential for disorder. Additionally, technology-assisted monitoring, such as the use of surveillance technologies like CCTV cameras and drones, facilitates real-time observation of crowd dynamics. This allows organizers to identify potential issues early on and respond proactively to prevent escalation.

Read More: Nigerians without NIN will not benefit from seized food distribution

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