Death toll now 15 after Nigeria election stampede: hospital


Port Harcourt (Nigeria) (AFP)

Fifteen people were killed in a stampede at an election campaign rally in southern Nigeria held by President Muhammadu Buhari, health officials said on Wednesday, in an updated toll.

Kem-Daniel Elebiga, spokesman for the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, said "a total of 15 bodies were brought in" on Tuesday.

Three were men and the others were women, he added.

Twelve injured people were brought in, nine of whom remain in hospital. "They are all responding well to treatment," he said.

Police in Rivers state, of which Port Harcourt is the capital, earlier gave a toll of four dead and four injured, while Buhari's office said "several" people lost their lives.

Conflicting death tolls are not unusual in Nigeria, although the authorities often issue lower numbers.

Local media said the stampede happened when panic broke out at the end of a rally, held in the city's Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium.

Crowds tried to force their way through a locked exit.

"Those from behind were pushing and putting pressure on those in front, leading to some persons falling on the ground and being trampled upon," said journalist Egufe Yafugborhi, of the Vanguard newspaper.

The deaths are the latest on the campaign trail: last Thursday, two people were reported to have died during a crush at a Buhari rally in the northeastern state of Taraba.

On January 21, several people were injured in the northeastern city of Maiduguri when a platform collapsed during a visit by Buhari.

In Rivers, police spokesman Nnamdi Omoni said: "The commissioner of police has ordered an investigation to determine the cause of the stampede with a view to preventing a recurrence.

"We are also evolving measures to improve on crowd control at such events."

Nigeria goes to the polls on Saturday to elect a new president and parliament, with Buhari looking for a second, four-year term.

Rivers, home to the oil and gas industry, is a key battleground between the ruling All Progressives Congress and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party.

Tensions typically mount between supporters of the two sides before, during and after elections. Already, there are claims of attempts to rig the vote.

Five APC members were shot and killed on Sunday during weekend clashes with PDP followers near the oil city of Warri, in Delta state.