A stampede killed more than 30 people in southern Nigeria on Saturday during a crowded church charity function where food was being distributed. After the disaster in Port Harcourt, in southern Rivers State, when people tried to push their way into the event, shoes and slippers were spread on the ground, according to police and witnesses.
At the Port Harcourt Polo Club, a local Kings Assembly church organization was providing food and gifts for the poor when a “mammoth” throng grew out of control, according to Rivers State police. “Unfortunately, the gathering grew boisterous and unmanageable, and all attempts by the organizers to restore sanity were futile,” police said in a statement. “A total of 31 people died as a result of the stampede.”
Outside the city’s military hospital, images uploaded on social media and authenticated by AFP showed relatives crying and ministering to injured individuals, many of whom were youngsters. People seeking to get through the door were driven back, according to witnesses, who described frantic shoving and trampling. “They were telling people, ‘Go back, go back, go back,'” Chisom Nwachukwu, a witness, said. “Some people were marching on those folks who were pushing backwards.”
A criminal inquiry was launched, according to police. Godwin Tepikor, the southern region coordinator for the National Emergency Management Agency, told AFP that church members were seated inside when the crowd rushed in. “A large crowd from the outside rushed inside the club through a narrow gate, causing a stampede,” he explained. The church’s representatives could not be reached for comment right away.
In recent years, Nigeria has had multiple food distribution stampede disasters, including a food distribution program run by an aid agency in north Borno State that resulted in the deaths of seven women last year. People’s Democratic Party leaders were meeting in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, early in the morning to choose their presidential candidate for 2023. Rivers State governor Ezenwo Nyesom Wike was one of the candidates.
Nigeria’s primary oil center is in Port Harcourt, the continent’s most populous country and largest petroleum producer. According to a recent World Bank report, four out of every ten Nigerians live in poverty, despite the country’s oil wealth. As a result of the conflict in Ukraine, wheat and gas supplies have been disrupted, which has caused food and fuel prices to rise across the continent. Aid groups are warning that this could lead to more people going hungry in Africa.