Posted by News Express | 4 November 2013 | 5,380 times
A rights group, the International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety), has given an independent account of what really happened over the weekend when some 25 worshippers were trampled to death during the Uke Adoration Ground of St Dominic Catholic Church, Uke in Idemmili North LGA of Anambra State.
The incident has seen the two leading political parties in the state, APGA and APC, trading blames even as the church authorities have given their own version of events.
In its account signed by its Board Chairman Emeka Umeagbalasi and Head, Publicity Desk, Comrade Justus Ijeoma, Intersociety also made recommendations to avoid a repeat of the tragedy. They include the banning of the involvement of political parties at the popular programme. The group also offered its condolences to the families of the bereaved. Below is the text of the Intersociety report, a copy of which was made available to News Express:
“The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law deeply offers condolences to the families of over a dozen innocent citizens that reportedly died in hospital as a result of the Friday night (01/11/2013) stampede at the exit gate of the Uke Adoration Ground of St Dominic Catholic Church, Uke in Idemmili North LGA of Anambra State. The Adoration Ministry Ground belongs to Reverend Father Emmanuel Obimma, popularly called “Ebube Nmuonso” of the Onitsha Catholic Archdiocese.
“The Catholic Adoration Ministry at Uke became popular of late and started attracting very large crowd of devotees who go in search of spiritual and physical solutions to social challenges facing their lives. It is a replica of the popular Holy Ghost Adoration Ministry in Enugu run by Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka of the Enugu Catholic Archdiocese. Among devotees and visitors are politicians of various political parties who use such holy periods to canvass for support and votes. The governorship candidates of APC, Labour and APGA have visited the scene recently and made several promises including tarring the entrance road, tackling the gully menace near the Holy Ground and provision of vehicles to convey devotees from far distances during Adoration days and hours.
“While Dr. Chris Ngige and his APC reportedly fulfilled their recent promise of grading the entrance road to the Adoration Ground, the camp of Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah and his Labour Party reportedly took charge of providing some vehicles to convey devotees from far distances to the Holy Ministry. The camp of Governor Peter Obi and his party have reportedly promised to tar the entrance road and tackle the gully menace threatening the Adoration Ground before the end of the governor’s tenure by first quarter of 2014. Cash donations and other material promises have also been reportedly offered or made to the Ministry by some politicians.
“According to eyewitnesses including some of our members who usually attend the Adoration Prayer sessions and who particularly attended the stampeded session, the fatal stampede was caused by panicky retreat of a mass of devotees at the exit gate of the Ministry at about 5:05 a.m. in the morning of Saturday, November 2nd, 2013. A crowded movement off the gate resulted in the falling of a frying pan, belonging to a woman hawker, which emptied its hot oil into the fire. The flames resulted in people running and scampering for safety during which the stampede ensued.
“The independent accounts further informed that up to one hundred devotees fainted and were brought back to the Adoration Ground for first aid treatment. Those in critical state were taken to three hospitals in Onitsha and environs for medical attention, from where over a dozen were reportedly confirmed dead. Governor Peter Obi and his encourage attended the Uke Prayer session at about 10:30 p.m. on 1st of November, 2013 and left at about 3:30 a.m. 02/11/2013. The tragedy occurred at about 5:05 a.m. at the end of the prayer session.
“It is our advice to the authorities of the Adoration Ministry led by Reverend Father Emmanuel Obimma to ban the official attendance and recognition of politicians and their political parties. Such politicians may be allowed to attend in their private capacities. Ban should also be placed on their mass of supporters, who at times turn mischievous. Donation of vehicles by politicians to convey devotees to the Adoration Ground should also be banned. Politicians including those in charge of affairs in the Government of Anambra State may be invited officially in the day time to participate in the official activities of the Ministry including fundraising.
“It is shocking and sad to note that some politicians have formed habits of sending and stationing their hatchet men on the Adoration Ground to disrupt their opponents’ successful participation in the Prayers’ session either by voice or physical disruptions. The authorities of the Adoration Ground should reorganise the entire security and exit and entry procedures in the premises of the Ministry. The mammoth crowd that graced the stampeded prayer session is dotted with suspicion of “menacing rented crowd” possibly imported by some politicians to create such homicidal atmosphere.
“Though the fatal stampede has been linked to “frying oil flames”, but other intervening forces such as political sabotage may not be ruled out. The desperation of some criminal politicians to capture and loot Anambra State premised on the all-important November 16, 2013 governorship poll is evidently pronounced. We, again, offer condolences to the families of those that died as well as the authorities of the Uke Adoration Ministry led by fiery Reverend Father Emmanuel Obimma and the entire Onitsha Archdiocese of the Catholic Church.
“May the souls of the departed rest in vineyard of the Almighty God and May they hunt those who are bent on rigging Anambra governorship poll again.
“It is our advice to the authorities of the Adoration Ministry led by Reverend Father Emmanuel Obimma to ban the official attendance and recognition of politicians and their political parties.”
•Photo shows Gov. Peter Obi (1st right), with the State Commissioner of Police, Bala Nassarawa (1st left), briefing the two DIGs of Police that visited the Adoration scene, P. I. Leha (2nd left) and Kachi Udoji (2nd right).
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