The Rivers State Police Command yesterday confirmed the death of 31 people while several others were injured during a stampede at an annual programme organised by a new generation church in Port Harcourt.
The acting police public relations officer, Grace Iringe-Koko, who disclosed this while speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday via telephone, said investigation had commenced on the cause of the incident.
The stampede occurred when hundreds of people attempted to force themselves into the Port Harcourt Polo Club venue of the programme christened ‘Shop for Free’, through the one of the pedestrian gates of the facility.
LEADERSHIP Sunday gathered that the leadership of the church had opted for the Polo Club in order to accommodate the expected large crowd since an open invitation was extended to the public. The church had also announced the distribution of free food items during the program in commemoration of its fourth anniversary.
Bodies of the deceased have been deposited at the morgue of the Military Specialist Hospital, Port Harcourt.
Reacting, President Muhammadu Buhari said he was extremely saddened by the reported deaths.
The president in a statement by his media aide, Garba Shehu, admonished organisers of religious, political and other big events to plan well and carry them out in a disciplined manner to avert similar calamitous deaths and injuries.
He directed that all efforts should be made to provide relief to those injured in the unfortunate incident and that disaster and relief agencies of the federal government should maintain constant contact with the Rivers State government to ensure that good care is taken of the relief efforts.
President Buhari expressed condolences to the bereaved families and government and people of Rivers State and prayed to the Almighty to repose the souls of the deceased.