Monday, February 14, 2011

Video - Eleven Killed in Goodluck Jonathan Presidential Campaign Tragedy

It was a black weekend in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, yesterday, when President Goodluck Jonathan launched his south-south zonal campaign rally, in which no fewer than 11 persons, most of them women, were feared killed in a stampede at the Liberation Stadium.

Reacting immediately to the tragedy, President Jonathan condoled the families of those, who lost their lives and victims who were injured, stating that he received the news with shock and sadness.

Speaking through his spokesman, Mr. Ima Niboro, the president directed a full scale investigation into the cause of the incident, describing it as sad, unfortunate and regrettable.

At the 20,000-seater stadium, a mammoth crowd had turned out for the rally and was so large that those outside the main bowl of the stadium were estimated to have exceeded those inside.

The campaign speeches and fanfare progressed without incident, but it was at the end of the rally that things started to go awry as the crowd surged in unison to exit both from the main bowl and outside, leading to a blockade of the exits.

In an attempt to control the crowd, soldiers deployed to the venue shot sporadically into the air, which caused pandemonium and a

desperate stampede that led to many people being trampled to death.

A commissioner in the state, who witnessed the incident, confirmed that the death toll was over ten while several people were injured.

But Mr. Blessing Wikina, acting Chief Press Secretary to Governor Chibuike Amaechi, said that the tragedy was regrettable, but refused to give the number of casualties.

"What happened today is unfortunate and regrettable. The governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, has directed the State Emergency Medical Services to attend to the injured.

"That means even those on leave are being recalled to join in attending to the injured. The tragedy could have been averted if the security men charged with crowd control had created more exits from the stadium," he said.

Asked what the number of casualties was, Wikina replied: "The state government cannot ascertain the full number of fatalities as medical personnel were still combing for casualties.

"The Commissioner for Health, Dr. Sampson Parker, is still at the stadium coordinating and collating the figures and at the end, he would give the figures."

In its official statement on the incident, the police spokesperson in Rivers State, Dr. Rita Abbey, said, "At about14.50 hours at the

Liberation Stadium during the presidential campaign flag off for the south-south zone, lots of jubilant supporters were exiting the main gate after their governors had been given the PDP flag.

"Those coming in were pushing and those exiting were pushing their way out. In the ensuing stampede, so many people fell down. The police mounted troops, mobile police and other security agents, which moved victims."

She confirmed that of the 11 people who died, ten were women and one male, while 29 injured were receiving treatment.

She stated that some of those who sustained injuries had been taken to the police clinic with ambulances, some to Teme Hospital and others to the Braithwaite Memorial Hospital for treatment. She added that the identity of casualties and number of victims were unknown, but preliminary inquiries were still ongoing.

The Inspector General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, she disclosed, has in accordance with a presidential directive, set up a panel that will be headed by an Assistant Inspector General of Police to investigate the cause of the incident at the stadium from Monday in Port Harcourt.

Earlier in the day, another incident occurred when the president and Vice President Namadi Sambo left the airport to pay homage to the Eze Apara Rebisi, Eze Sunday Woluchem at his palace off Olu Obasanjo Road.

Suddenly, a Toyota Prado SUV with registration number AS 176 KMK, which was on Aba Road, suddenly started overtaking other vehicles.

In the process, it nearly collided with a white Toyota Hiace bus, which in the attempt to avoid a collision, veered off the road and hita trailer that was parked for the convoy to pass.

The driver of the bus and a lady passenger in front, were reported to have died instantly. Two soldiers said to be in another vehicle that also crashed into the scene also died.

The injured were rushed to a military hospital less than 300 meters away from the scene of the accident, which occurred almost in front of the head office of the Niger Delta Development Commission, while another ambulance rushed the remains of the dead to the mortuary.

A driver, who was involved in the road accident, but pleaded anonymity, said the accident was furthe r worsened by the slippery surface, which rendered brakes ineffective due to the early morning shower but blamed the recklessness of the driver of the SUV, who he said was overtaking when all the vehicles were moving at speeds of almost 160 kilometres per hour.

Relaying the president's condolence on the tragic occurrence in Port Harcourt, Niboro stated: "The president mourns with the families of the deceased, and prays the Almighty to grant repose to their souls."

He said President Jonathan noted with a heavy heart, that these are persons who came to celebrate his success at the primaries of the PDP and wish him well in the coming elections.

"I am sad and heavily weighed down by this incident. It is sad, unfortunate and regrettable. I mourn with those who mourn tonight. May God grant us all the fortitude to bear this irreparable loss," Jonathan said through his spokesman.

Owing to the tragedy in Port Harcourt, the president postponed the inauguration of the new Goodluck/Sambo campaign council. The event was initially billed for 8 pm last night in Abuja.

According to Niboro, the cancellation was necessitated by the tragic incident that occurred during the flag-off of the presidential

campaign in Port Harcourt. The postponement of the event is meant to honour the victims of the stadium incident.

The campaign council is to be chaired by Ambassador Dalhatu Tafida, former foreign affairs minister, Ojo Maduekwe is the designated deputy chairman, while former IGP, Mike Okiro, is supposed to chair the security council.


This Day

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