Tragedy of poor crowd control culture continues Christmas palliative leads to deaths

Crowd at SHIFT 2019
mammoth crowd at SHIFT 2019

* Police launch probe

As tragedy of poor crowd control culture continues, the police in Rivers State have launched a probe into the death of as many as eight persons Tuesday, December, 15, 2020, morning in the Garden City at a centre purported to give Christmas palliatives to its contributors.

The tragedy seems to demonstrate how exposed Nigerians have become to all manner of schemes that look like ponzi since the MMM scandal that seems to have rather whetted the appetite of Nigerians to take risks.

Trouble began when a group which calls its firm Inksnation called out its registered members to come to one of its offices in Rumuodara on East West Road in Port Harcourt to collect Christmas palliatives.

The group had been registering persons with N2000 to collect palliatives worth N24,000. The scheme had caught fire in the Garden City as testimonies of women carting away huge items had spread like wildfire. Almost every house wife had registered in anticipation of the next distribution which they termed Christmas Palliative.

On the advertised date being December 15, 2020, as early as 5am, people began massing at the point. Eye witnesses said by 6am, the crowd became very huge with only one guard to manage them.

What looked like an error was when the guard opened the gate for a motorbike to enter. The crowd surged and broke into the compound.

At this point, persons began dropping like bags as the surge and push intensified. A pregnant woman and a six-month old baby were said to be some of the victims. Many persons were said to be injured.

The group claims to be an online blockchain digital assets charity firm. They call the office Inksmarket.

Sources said the firm advertised that people should come by 10am but by 5am, the place was filled up to create another scenario of mass death that Nigeria has become known for in recent times.

Port has witnessed mass deaths at functions including the death of 16 members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rally at the Liberation Stadium on Elekahia Road in 2011, the death of 35 persons at the same venue during the tragic Immigration Recruitment event under Abba Moro, and the death of many persons at an All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Amesiamaka Stadium at the Greater Port Harcourt City in the 2019 elections when President Muhammadu Buhari flagged off his presidential rally in the South-South.

One Inksnation member told our source that many persons showed up for the package and were in a hurry to access the building. She insisted it was not the fault of the company because they told members to come by 10 am but they came by 5am. She described how she pushed her way to the front of the crowd to gain access to the building.

An online viral video on the situation shows some of the victims with bruises, while others collapsed from being stepped on. Another eyewitness told our source that hundreds of registered members of the platform were struggling to gain access to the office, which resulted in the stampede.

Another source said the crowd grew impatient and began to push, which is normal with crowds in Nigeria where organizers hardly put in place any crowd control mechanisms. Some said many persons who were not members thronged the venue probably looking for opportunity to loot.

The police said they have launched a probe to ascertain the cause of the tragedy. The public relations officer of the state command, Nnamdi Omoni, in a statement, said so far two persons have been confirmed dead.

Omoni said: ”I can confirm the incident of this morning, at an Event centre, along the Rumuodara axis of the East/West Road, Obio/Akpor LGA, where palliatives were being distributed by INKSNATION, a Non-Governmental Organization to her registered members from Ikwerre, Emohua and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas, when suddenly there was a stampede leading to the death of two people, while some sustained various degrees of injuries and are currently receiving medical attention.

“The situation is under control. The Commissioner of Police, Joseph G Mukan, has instituted immediate probe into the unfortunate incident with a view to ascertaining the circumstances and bringing persons found culpable to justice.
Further developments will be communicated accordingly.”