AFRICA | Thirty-odd killed at Church stampede in Nigeria

AFRICA | Thirty-odd killed at Church stampede in Nigeria

ABUJA, Nigeria — It was billed as a church programme that offerred hope to those in need. However many were not so lucky. Thirty one persons died and several injured, following a  stampede Saturday which took place at the  church charity event in southern Nigeria.


The stampede occurred at the event organized by the Kings Assembly Pentecostal church in Rivers state and involved people who came to the church’s annual “Shop for Free” charity program, according to Grace Iringe-Koko, a police spokeswoman.

Hundreds of people who had turned up to receive food at the event early on Saturday broke through a gate, causing the stampede, Grace Iringe-Koko, police spokesperson for Rivers state, of which Port Harcourt is the capital, said.

Many of the people queued from Friday to gain access to the Port Harcourt Polo Club – the venue of the annual “Shop for Free” charity programme organised by the Kings Assembly pentecostal church.

“People were there earlier and some got impatient and started rushing, which led to stampeding. The police are on the ground monitoring the situation while the investigation is ongoing,” Iringe-Koko told Reuters.

Saturday’s charity program was supposed to begin at 9 a.m. but dozens arrived as early as 5 a.m. to secure their place in line, Iringe-Koko said. Somehow the locked gate was broken open, creating a stampede, she said.

The police spokesperson said seven others were injured but are “responding to treatment” in the wake of the stampede at the event that organisers said was aimed to “offer hope” to the needy. One witness said the dead included a pregnant woman and many children.

Al Jazeera’s Fidelis Mbah reporting from the Nigerian capital, Abuja said the death toll could rise.

“Witnesses say the number could be higher than the official figure given by police. A similar incident also happened in December 2020 after a business organisation tried to give out donations to poor people in Port Harcourt,” Mbah said.

“About eight people were killed in that incident. The government has called for an investigation to find out whether adequate security measures were put in place to ensure such incidents do not happen again,” he added.

Godwin Tepikor from Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency said first responders were able to evacuate the bodies of those trampled to death and bring them to the morgue. Security forces cordoned off the area.

Dozens of residents later thronged the scene, mourning the dead and offering any assistance they could to emergency workers. Doctors and emergency workers treated some of the injured as they lay in the open field. Videos from the scene showed the clothing, shoes and other items meant for the beneficiaries.

One witness who only identified himself as Daniel said “there were so many children” among the dead. Five of the dead children were from one mother, he told the AP, adding that a pregnant woman also lost her life.

Some church members were attacked and injured by relatives of the victims after the stampede, according to witness Christopher Eze. The church declined to comment on the situation.

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