Deji Elumoye in Abuja and Blessing Ibunge in Port Harcourt
President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed deep sadness over the incident of the deaths of 31 people in a stampede in the early hours of yesterday during the distribution of free food items by a church in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State.
THISDAY has gathered that a new generation church, Kings Assembly, has invited the public for its fourth edition of gift and food distribution, set for May 28, 2022.
The church organized awareness to give palliatives to the underprivileged in society before the unexpected happened.
Some of the guests were found to have arrived at the Polo Club, Port Harcourt, where the free items were distributed on Friday, while others arrived as early as 6am yesterday.
Although the program was scheduled for 9 a.m., THISDAY understood that the guests were already at the door three hours earlier.
The church is located in the GRA area of Port Harcourt, but the event was held at the Port Harcourt Polo Club, which is a larger facility, to accommodate the expected crowd.
It was found that the crowd of people were already at the gate at 6.30am, trying to force their way into the premises of the Polo Club.
It was further learned that as soon as some bouncers opened a small door, the crowd started jostling to enter the premises which led to the stampede leading to the death toll.
State Police Public Relations Officer DSP Grace Iringe-Koko, who confirmed the incident to THISDAY, said 31 people lost their lives in the stampede.
The police spokesman also revealed that some of the victims who survived the incident but were seriously injured were rushed to hospital for medical treatment.
“Thirty-one people died. It was a scramble because a church was trying to give palliatives.
“They were about to start the event around 9 a.m. or so. But some people went over there and broke into the place and got inside.
“So people started rushing in and there was a stampede.
“According to the information we have, the church was trying to donate items and food to help disadvantaged people.
“In the meantime, an investigation has been opened to determine the remote and immediate causes of the incident,” explained Iringe-Koko.
“Everywhere is calm now and those who were injured are currently in hospital responding to treatment.”
At the time of filing this report, the church had yet to respond to the incident.
But state police commissioner Mr Eboka on Friday ordered an investigation to unravel the immediate cause of his stampede.
Mr. Friday, while condemning the incident, ordered the deputy police commissioner in charge of the state criminal investigation department to investigate the incident.
He further called on religious and charitable organizations to ensure that they work with the police on managing security and crowd control in organizing their programs in the future.
CP sympathized with the bereaved families and prayed to God for comfort and courage to bear the loss.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed deep sadness over the incident.
In his reaction, the President, in a statement by his spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, urged organizers of religious, political and other events to plan well and carry them out in a disciplined manner to avoid deaths and injuries. similar calamitous injuries.
He directed that every effort be made to provide relief to those injured in this unfortunate incident, while Federal Government relief and relief agencies should maintain constant contact with the Rivers State Government to s to ensure that relief efforts are taken into account.
President Buhari expressed his and the nation’s condolences to the bereaved families and the government and people of Rivers State and prayed to the Almighty to rest the souls of the deceased.