The usual weekly adoration crusade organized by Rev. Fr Emmanuel Obinma of the Holy Ghost Adoration Ministry, for prayers, healing and spiritual retreat at Uke in Anambra State turned tragic in the early hours of Saturday.
Governor Peter Obi, who was accompanied to the crusade by 10 other dignatries, including Sir Victor Umeh, Willie Obiano, among others, would have been caught in the stampede that followed.
However, they left at 3:30 a.m, shortly before the close of the crusade at about 5:08 a.m.
As at 3 p.m, about 25 persons were feared dead.
An eye witness said that trouble started shortly after the event, when group of people behaving like paid agents started shouting �fire’ fire, fire,” leading to a stampede as people scampered for safety.
It is believed among the crusaders that the commotion was deliberately organized by some people who learnt Governor Obi would visit the place.
However, the Governor had already left the venue quietly.
The casualty figure was high as the crusaders tripled to over 100,000 because the day was All Saints’ Day and the first day of the Month, when so many people usually take advantage to pray for the new month.
Obi, who cancelled all his engagements Saturday, including campign flag-off at Nsugbe, Live Radio programme at Silver Bird, Flag-off of road projects, inspection of the on- going shopping Mall at Onitsha and the on-going Stadium at Awka, was the first person to visit the Adoration Ground with security agencies.
The two police DIGs visiting the state, P. I. Leha and Kachi Udoji were accompanied by the State Commissioner for Police, Bala Nassarawa.
They commended Obi’s quick response and described the canceling of all the events as a great sign of responsiveness and care for the people.
Though the spiritual director of the centre was not around, as he was said to have gone to brief Archbishop Valerian Okeke about the incident, Obi was received by the coordinator of the centre, Bro Achebe Nnadi.
He said it was most confusing that a group of people should start shouting fire when there was none.
The Governor visited the Crown Hospital, Nkpor to see the wounded, most of who had left.
He directed that the names of all the wounded be compiled for him.
Though he refused to disclose the reason, it is believed that the state would take care of their Hospital bill.
Speaking to journalists, the Chief Medical Director of the Hospital, Dr. Edwin Emegoakor said he was shocked by the response of the Governor.
He said that the Governor called him on phone few minutes after the wounded were brought to the hospital.
He said no death was recorded and that most of those that were brought to the hospital were revived, adding that only three remained and were in stable condition.
From Crown Hospital, the Governor moved to the Immaculate Heart Hospital, Nkpor.
Obi also visited St Charles Borromeo Hospital, and later said he was heart-broken by the event.
He disclosed that he went home after the crusade satisfied on the rewarding spiritual encounter, only to get the shocking news of human-induced stampede.
He consoled all those affected one way or the other and said that those responsible would be punished.
Although he visited the Archbishop of Onitsha over the matter, what they discussed was not disclosed
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