The call for a free distribution of food and miscellaneous items by a local Pentecostal church has sparked a crush that has caused at least 31 victims and dozens of injured in Port Harcourt, in the south of the most populous African country. Several children and a pregnant woman are reportedly among the victims.
The “King’s Assembly”, one of the many new generation churches that leverage the widespread spirituality of Nigerians, attracted the crowd to the massacre. The religious organization with over 32,000 followers on Facebook, as part of an “awareness program”, had organized a fourth annual event in which to distribute free food and other “valuables”, as reported by a local media.
The Church’s headquarters are located in the Port Harcourt ring road area, but the charity event was to be held at the port city “Polo Club,” a larger facility that was supposed to be able to accommodate crowds.
As local police spokeswoman Grace Iringe-Koko summed up, “some people showed up early, some got impatient and started pushing, which led to the rush.”
The exact dynamics were still unclear in the evening. A witness reported that the Church, after “a night vigil”, announced to its followers that the distribution would begin at nine in the morning but some arrived as early as 6.30. According to a version relaunched by a local media, towards the 8 members of the club who had to do activities they opened a small gate that allowed the crowd to rush towards the best places and unleash the deadly crowd. According to another media version, the organizers would have opened the gate early.
Nigeria has already had tragedies caused by crowds for food distribution: just last year, in an operation conducted by a humanitarian agency in the state of Borno, in the north of the country, seven women were trampled to death by crowds.
According to United Nations data, more than half of Nigerians live in extreme poverty and in 2018 Nigeria overtook India to become the country with the largest number of extreme poor: 91 million people living on less than $ 2 a year. day.