The religious organization, which has more than 32,000 followers on Facebook, has, as part of its “outreach programme,” organized a fourth annual event to distribute free food and other “valuables,” according to a local media outlet. The church is headquartered in the Ring Road area of Port Harcourt, but the charity event was to be held in the port city’s Polo Club, a larger facility that was supposed to be able to accommodate crowds.
As local police spokeswoman Grace Iringi Koko summed up, “Some people showed up early, some got impatient and started pushing, which led to a rush.” The exact dynamics is still unclear. One witness reported that the church, after a “night vigil,” announced to its followers that distribution would begin at 9 a.m., but some arrived as early as 6:30 a.m.
According to a version relaunched by local media, towards the eight club members who had to do activities, they opened a small gate that allowed the crowd to rush to the best places and unleash the deadly crowd. According to another media account, it was the organizers who opened the gate early.
Nigeria has already been hit with tragedies caused by crowds distributing food: Just last year, in an operation by a humanitarian agency in Borno state, in the north of the country, seven women were run over to death by mobs. According to United Nations data, more than half of Nigerians live in conditions of extreme poverty and in 2018 Nigeria overtook India to become the country with the highest number of extreme poor: 91 million people living on less than two dollars a day.
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