7 FEARED DEAD IN IMMIGRATION RECRUITMENT EXCERCISE STAMPEDE IN ABUJA
At least seven people were killed and dozens injured in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital after thousands of panicked job-seekers stampeded during a government recruitment drive in the national stadium on Saturday.
Survivors told AFP that thousands had gathered to apply for jobs with the immigration department in the Abuja stadium. One witness said the stampede broke out as applicants surged towards a central stage. They said only one entrance to the 60,000-capacity stadium was open. It wasn’t clear how many people were inside at the time of the crush.
“The immigration service was having a recruitment exercise at the stadium … there was a stampede and they brought the victims to the national hospital,” said hospital spokesman Tayo Haastrup.
No official casualty list was given, but an AFP journalist on the scene counted seven dead and dozens injured. Many injured people could not be admitted to hospital due to lack of capacity.Those with stable injuries “will be sent to other hospitals so that we can deal with the numerous injured that continue to arrive,” said Haastrup.
Meanwhile the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the applicants, estimated at 67,000, mostly stood in and outside the stadium in anticipation of the commencement of the examination.
NAN correspondents, who were at the venue, report that the overwhelming crowd prevented the immigration officials from carrying out the screening that was supposed to have started at 7 a.m.
An official of the immigration service, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that in the FCT, no fewer than 67, 000 applicants would participate in the exercise. She said that the screening could not commence at about 11 a.m. because the applicants were just too many to be organised for the exercise.
She added that although the crowd was overwhelming, the NIS officials made efforts to conduct the exercise in an orderly manner. “If there is no order, nothing can be achieved,’’ the official added.
An applicant, Abubakar Idris, told NAN that he was in the stadium before 6 a.m. but the gates were locked. Idris said the gates were later opened around 10:30 a.m.
“I came in around 6 o’clock this morning; most of us came early enough in preparation for the exams, now there is nothing going on as you can see for yourself. “It is obvious that the examination officials are overwhelmed by the crowd; they have postponed the exams till 4 p.m. and we will wait,’’ Idris said.
Another respondent, Mrs Yinka Akanbi, said that the officials left only a small gate open, which led to a stampede as applicants rushed into the examination venue.She said that she got injured in the process as she tried to gain entrance into the venue.
“As you can see, I got injured as I was trying to get into the stadium, a lot of people climbed my body, all my body is in pains, I had to remove my uniform because it was too dirty. “A lot of people collapsed and were unconscious for a while, as the stampede took place,’’ Akanbi said.
She, however, called for a more organised means of conducting recruitment, as this trend was becoming worrisome. Responding, the Comptroller-General of the Immigration Service, Mr David Parradang, told NAN in a telephone interview that efforts were on to ensure that the exercise was a success nationwide.
“I am receiving reports from various centres around the country but cannot give a definite report now on how the exercise is going until it is over,’’ Parradang said. He said that 700,000 applied for the 5,000 vacancies in the service.
However, traders made brisk business at the venue as a sachet of packaged water (pure water) was sold at N50 as against the normal N10 price.
NAN reports that the exercise obstructed traffic flow in the city and commuters had difficulty accessing the city.