SCARCITIES create desperation. The authorities are ignoring this fact as they mangle the future of Nigeria with policies that do not serve even the present. Millions of our people cannot access the basics for living.
They strive, they toil, yet at the vital moments, governments and their organisations are to play a role, efforts dissolve into nothingness and in most circumstances, deaths follow. The most current mode of death is stampedes.
After the Nigeria immigration Service, NIS, recruitment exercise that claimed 19 lives, we are still paying minimal attention to crowd management. Worse still, we are not thinking of ways of handing such exercises without thousands of people being assembled and subjected to dehumanising conditions.
Those who die become history.
At the University of Benin, scores of prospective students were injured during a stampede that resulted from poor managing of an admission screening exercise. Thousands of students were being herded into the venue through narrow gates that aptly captured the suffering the authorities had lined up for them.
Hours of waiting without clear directives about the screening, indications that university staff were helping their relations into the hall, and the uncertainties that scarcities breed, resulted in the basic instinct of the crowd to force its way into the hall.
Security personnel had an easy option when the setting became rowdy. They shut the gates. Those behind squashed others on the gates. Moments after, hundreds had been floored; they became foot mats for others. It was a miracle that only a life was lost.
Could the exercise not have been done in smaller batches in the university’s various facilities? Could computer-based systems not have been used to determine those who qualified for admission? What is so important about the physical examination of candidates? Why must thousands be assembled at facilities that are inadequate for their numbers? How do security personnel, untrained in crowd control, become the ones daunted with these tasks?
As with the NIS case, we may hear remedies like awarding the injured automatic admissions, admitting three people from the family of the dead to the university. Nobody appears perturbed by the signals that these stampedes are giving. Nobody thinks that something is wrong about our organisations when they cannot execute simple tasks that technologies manage with seamless ease elsewhere.
The growing scarcity of resources like jobs, admission places in higher institutions, especially universities, medical facilities, drinking water, food, infrastructure (antiquated or poorly maintained where available) are consequences of poor governments’ investment of our resources over the years.
Stampedes and scrambles – with more deadly consequences – would become more common unless governments address matters that would create more opportunities, open more gates, instead of shutting them.