The ugly aftermath of the nationwide looting and destruction, from the #EndSARS protests gone awry, is hitting the country. One is the cry from the Rice Millers Association of Nigeria (RIMAN), that not a few of its members nationwide had been the worse for it.
“RIMAN is shocked and sad at the level of havoc that was carried out on these rice mills,” a statement by Peter Dama, the RIMAN national president said. “The resultant impact on these rice mills will create some deficits in our members’ contribution to national food security and rice value chain, as the affected rice mills will be shut down for a while at this critical period with huge debts to pay.”
Mentioning two of the hit mills as Shamad Rice Mill, Yolanda and Glams Foods, Lagos, the RIMAN president further lamented: “Regrettably, during these attacks, tonnes of milled rice, paddy, furniture, machines, equipment and operational vehicles were destroyed and looted, while some parts of buildings were set ablaze.”
This RIMAN angst again stresses the futility of mindless violence in any protest. Why an anti-police brutalisation protest should equate mobs brutalising businesses: torching, vandalising and looting private and legitimate plants and premises, is the height of thumping illogic.
What makes the RIMAN case all the more serious, if not severe, is the food question. All businesses torched and destroyed need deep sympathy and urgent help. But the RIMAN case is especially weighty.
Yes, it is private business. But RIMAN losses, from plant destruction and looting of rice, could lead to food crisis and insecurity, with all its dire socio-economic consequences. That moves the problem from pure business to public policy. This is especially so with the Buhari Presidency, that has made food security, from local cultivation, a fundamental pillar of its public policy.
Which is why the Federal Government, and even state governments where those battered mills are domiciled, should do everything in their power to support RIMAN, and help its bruised members re-commence their legitimate businesses, as early as they possibly could. Aside from food security, the fate of many households — of these mill workers — depend on those urgent and crucial aids.
That is why it is heart-warming that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State has already signed an executive order to rebuild his state, one of the epicentres of the unfortunate mass looting and arson. Such policies should translate to early succour for RIMAN and other affected businesses.
Still, aside from government interventions, the RIMAN case beams the spotlight on the imperative of insurance in any business plan. Whereas government intervention could come from sympathy, a good insurance cover is business duty — a right to be claimed, so long as the business premises, its machines and other assets, are insured; and requisite premium paid without fail.
We hope all affected RIMAN members are well insured. Insurance, and the premiums that oil it, are often the problem. Many businesses, for sundry reasons, treat insurance as secondary nuisance, and premiums as meddlesome investment. That sort of business culture must be jettisoned. Insurance ought to be core to any investment. Businesses are risks epitomised. Though it comes with a bit more investment, insurance is the basic antidote to risk.
Somehow, however, a “Nigerian factor” has made insurance a bit low on the trust and confidence scale. Some investors regard insurance as secondary (which is wrong and tragic). But that insurance cold shoulder is not helped by the reality that not a few also regard many insurance firms as irredeemable corporate cheats.
This could well be over-stated and blown out of proportion by those whose minds are rigidly set against insurance. Still, any grain of distrust lowers the insurance trust and confidence levels. That should change. So, for the sake of their own bottom line and general healthier economy, the insurance industry should do more work on this score.
If adequately insured, RIMAN members would find insurance their first port of succour. They should therefore cull that in, while awaiting any government help which, no thanks to bureaucracy, could be rather slow in coming.
Still, the exit message should be the futility of blind violence. If the hungry in blind rage torch their very food machine, how will their anger not condemn them to eternal hunger? In a civilised polity, there is absolutely no place for violence in protests. That is the prime message from the RIMAN crisis.