Nigeria: At least 31 dead in stampede during church food distribution


At least 31 people, including a pregnant woman and children, were killed in a stampede in southern Nigeria on Saturday during a church-sponsored food distribution.

Shoes and sandals lay on the ground after the disaster in the town of Port Harcourt, Rivers state, police and witnesses said.

“Unfortunately, the crowd grew restless and out of control and all efforts by organizers to restore calm failed, hence the stampede,” police said in a statement. "A total of 31 people lost their lives in the stampede."

According to information from the Associated Press taken up by Christian today, a pregnant woman and children were among the victims.

Images posted on social media and verified by AFP show families crying and caring for the injured, including many children, outside the city's military hospital.

The police announced the opening of a criminal investigation to determine the exact circumstances of the tragedy.

"A huge crowd from outside poured into the (polo) club through a narrow gate, which caused the stampede," local National Emergency Management Agency official Godwin told AFP. Tepikor. “The wounded and the dead were evacuated to the hospital and the morgue”.

The event was organized by the King's Assembly Church to provide food and various supplies to the needy at a polo club ground in the oil town.

In one press release published by the Church, the King's Assembly said it was "deeply saddened" by the incident.

“The purpose of this non-denominational event is to share with the less privileged the gifts offered by our members, friends and partners. Unfortunately, lives were lost and several people suffered injuries to varying degrees,” the statement read.

The Church claims to be “a security-conscious organization” and explains that “the participation, the accumulation and the circumstances that accompanied it this year were absolutely unforeseen”. "The crowd converged overnight long before event security teams formed," the statement said.

"We are reviewing our public safety protocol and advancing crowd management procedures to ensure the continued safety of our events," said Chimeka Elem, Director of Administration in conclusion.

In recent years, Nigeria has experienced several tragedies during stampedes linked to food distributions, notably in 2021 during an operation organized by a humanitarian agency in the state of Borno, in the north of the country, where seven women were died after being trampled on by the crowd.

Saturday morning's stampede came as leaders of the main opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) gathered in the capital, Abuja, to choose their candidate for the 2023 presidency from among several officials, including the governor of Rivers State, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike.

Port Harcourt is the main oil hub of Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa and the continent's leading producer of black gold.

Despite these hydrocarbon riches, four out of ten Nigerians live below the poverty line, according to a recent World Bank report.

A situation aggravated by the Ukrainian crisis which has caused the cost of foodstuffs and fuel to soar, affecting supplies of wheat and gas.

Camille Westphal Perrier (with AFP)

Image credit: / Alucardion

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Summary of news from March 28, 2023

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