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A rally to push President Muhammadu Buhari’s bid for a second term ended yesterday on a tragic note in Rivers State – 14 persons died in a stampede.
Many were injured and rushed to the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), which is close to the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, venue of the rally.
President Buhari, who got to the stadium at 2:32 p.m., rounded off his speech at 3:16 p.m., but most APC members and supporters had started leaving the main bowl before the national anthem was sung to end the event.
It was learnt that when the crowd was leaving the stadium through the gate marked: “Pedestrians Only”, policemen opened only one side of the big gate, which was not enough for the surging sea of heads.
At 4:50 p.m., three aged women and a middle-aged man were seen lying dead. A man, who was revived after fainting, blamed it all on ‘overzealous’ policemen who, according to him, did not leave the two sides of the gate open.
Two UPTH ambulances moved injured persons and the bodies to the Federal Teaching Hospital, the Nation reports.
A spokesman for UPTH, Kem Daniel-Elebiga confirmed that 14 persons were brought to the hospital dead. Three were being attended to at the casualty unit, more were being rushed in, he said.
Police spokesman Nnamdi Omoni, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), said Police Commissioner Usman Belel had ordered an investigation into the stampede. Anybody found culpable is to be arrested and prosecuted.
“The Area Commander, who led the police team, informed me that he saw four bodies and four injured persons, who were moved to UPTH in two ambulances belonging to the hospital (UPTH). For now, I am not aware of higher casualty figure, but the thorough investigation ordered by Rivers State Commissioner of Police will reveal further details,” DSP Omoni said.
But the UPTH spokesman insisted that 14 persons were brought in dead to the hospital.