Abuja/Port-Harcourt â€” President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday announced the indefinite postponement of presidential campaign activities in honour of the victims who died during the South-South zonal rally in Port Harcourt over the weekend.
This is just as the President and the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, also cancelled all official engagements scheduled for yesterday, Sunday, at the Presidential Villa, in honour of the victims.
In a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Ima Niboro, the President announced the cancellation of the flag off of presidential campaign in the states, which was scheduled to commence today (Monday) in Borno and Yobe states.
“Tomorrow’s (today’s) flag off was originally scheduled for Borno and Yobe states. This cancellation is to honour the victims of Saturday’s tragic stampede during the campaign in Port-Harcourt” Niboro said.
The statement also announced the cancellation of Tuesday’s campaign in honour of Prophet Muhammad’s birth day.
“There will be no campaign on Tuesday, in honour of Eid-el- Malud, the birth of Prophet Muhammad”
The First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, who commiserated with the families of the victims, yesterday, also cancelled the programme organised to distribute insecticide treated mosquito nets to states scheduled for the banquette hall of the Presidential Villa.
Many of the invited guests who were unaware of the latest development had thronged the open space of the banquette hall to collect the insecticide treated nets, but went away disappointed.
Many of them including wives of governors from various states had honoured the invitation to the event, even as women organisations also came in large numbers.
In a statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the First Lady, Dr. Isiaka Aligan, Dame Patience described the incident as “painful’ even as she prayed that God will grant families of the deceased courage to bear the irreparable loss.
It will be recalled that President Jonathan had earlier ordered full scale investigation into the unfortunate incident even as he commiserated with families of the victims.
Meanwhile, at least 25 persons are still on danger list, following the stampede at the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential campaign flag off for the South-South at the Liberation Stadium, Elekahia in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.
This was as the Rivers State government said it would offset the medical bills of all the casualties at the rally.
At least 20 persons died during the incident on Saturday, while many were wounded. But the Police said only 11 persons died.
On the tragedy, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) blamed the security agencies for the poor crowd control at the stadium, adding that the PDP-led government is insensitive to the plight of the people.
Among those who died included the PDP woman leader in Ubima community, Ikwerre local government area, the home town of Governor Chibuike Amaechi, whose sister was among those seriously injured at the rally, according to the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari.
Semenitari while briefing newsmen in government House yesterday confirmed that only 11 persons were killed in the tragic incident.
She said 36 persons were initially admitted at the Braithwaite Memorial Hospital (BMH), but that15 are presently, while 10 are at the Teme clinic, a trauma centre in Port Harcourt. She said she was yet to get the exact figures of those admitted at the Military Hospital, located on Port Harcourt/Aba road.
She said: “Total number of death as we speak this morning (Sunday) from the stampede is 11, 10 women and one man. Thirty six persons were registered in BMH; some of them have been discharged.
“Right now in BMH we still have 15 on admission. Ten persons are still at Teme Clinic. We are yet to get the figure at the military hospital. The Doctors are doing a good job to contain the situation.
“For us in Rivers state, this is a very sad moment and especially sad because the women always come out in their numbers to support government,” she stated, adding that the government of Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom states have already identified and picked up their casualties, while Delta coming at press time.
She said the state government will bear the cost of treatment of the victims.
“Governor Amaechi has requested for the full names of all the casualties in order for government to personally commiserate with the families and see the wounded.”
On what caused the stampede, she said it was not deliberate, but as a result of rush by the crowd to avoid being trampled upon, but noted that a woman was pushed down in the process and later trampled upon.
She said it was in an effort to rescue the woman who had fallen that made the mobile Police officers to shoot into the air to disperse the surging crowd that at the main entrance, but “that only worsened the situation, “Semenitari noted.
On the accident involving the Presidential convoy in which the Chief details of the Rivers state deputy Governor, Engineer Tele Ikuru was injured, she said the incident was still being investigated and at the appropriate time the details would be made known to the public.
Meanwhile, national youth leader of the ACN, Miriki Ebikibina has blamed the stampede to the overzealous attitude of the security operatives, especially the police.
Ebikibina wondered the Police would a shoot at a rally attended by people who have come to welcome the President, saying the police man who shot the gun should be investigated and punished.
He also blamed the state government for what he termed ‘poor arrangement and crowd control, just as he said the facility at the stadium should be upgraded to forestall a recurrence.