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Anambra Adoration Tragedy: False alarm caused stampede – Archbishop

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-I saw death coming – eye witness.

imagesThe stampede, which claimed the lives of over 24 worshippers at the Holy Ghost Adoration Ministry, St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, Uke in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra State, may have been caused by a false fire alarm.

The Most Rev. Valerian Okeke, Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha said this while reacting to the incident on Sunday.

Speaking during his pastoral visit to St. Mary’s Catholic Parish Nnokwa, Archbishop Okeke said, “If the person or persons that raised the alarm did it for dubious political reasons, may God judge them, but if otherwise, only God knows the truth”.

Earlier in a Press Release, the Director of Social Communications, Onitsha Archdiocese, Rev. Fr. Pius Uko, said the stampede occurred on Saturday, Nov. 2 while people were going home.

“The crowd was so much that people wanting to leave all at the same time made it difficult for people to find enough space to move”, the Archdiocese said.

He stated that vigils usually hold at the centre on every first Friday of the month, adding that crowd at the centre was unprecedented on the first Friday of November 2013 probably because it was the Solemnity of All Saints and a holy day of obligation for Catholic faithful.

“Save for the unprecedented crowd, the vigil started and ended normally.  The stampede was reportedly caused by a false alarm raised by somebody in the crowd along one of the narrow roads out of the town.

“The outpouring of concerns and supports with regard to the incident has been tremendous.  The Archbishop of Onitsha, Most Rev. Valerian Okeke, is still deeply saddened by this ugly incident.  He has visited the dead in the morgue and the injured in the hospitals. He promises his closeness to them and all the faithful of the Holy Ghost Adoration Centre, Uke, and especially for the Spiritual Director of the Centre, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Obimma, who is hard hit by the ugly incident”, he stated.

The Release said that full investigations have been launched into the matter and that more efforts were being made to protect the lives of all worshippers at the centre.

An eye-witness, Mr. Aloysius Attah, Chairman of Civil Liberties Organization, who attended the adoration with his wife, painted a clearer picture of what happened:

“Before the formal closing of the programme around 5:20am, Fr. Obimma admonished the worshippers to ensure that they attend the All Souls Mass in their various parishes when they returned home. He also prayed for safe journey on all the participants. Before his final blessings, many had started leaving in droves, leading to another rush.

“When my wife suggested we join the queue immediately, I instinctively told her that we did not need to rush, telling her that, after all, even if we succeeded in pushing our way out of the crowd, we would still remain stuck on getting to the car since we would encounter another serious traffic there. And so we waited till around 6am before stepping out of the adoration podium.

“On trying to join the line of people filing out of the main access road out of the place, we encountered the worst gridlock ever seen in history. People were pushing and shoving. Some were battling to maintain composure even with their plastic chairs and wooden benches. Women battled for their own and for the safety of their children clutched in their hands and some tied on their backs.

“People were getting choked up and I sensed that there might be a stampede the next moment and signaled to my wife that we must get out of the queue without further delay. Trying to wriggle out of the tight scene was like a war front but I managed to use the ‘last’ strength in me to push and pulled my wife out of the scene and we stood aside to allow the ‘russians’ to continue their rush.

“Not up to five minutes after, my worst fears were confirmed. Few metres away from my presence, the pushing and shoving turned into great fall and stampede. That the road was sloppy and the ground wet compounded the whole situation. Many tripped over and fell, others rolled on the ground while many others stepped on people’s heads and bellies. The next thing was suffocation and exhaustion, injuries and bruises.

“While casualties were many, rescue operations were stalled by vehicular and human traffic. The stewards on duty had to jump fences to smuggle the affected people back to the podium for resuscitation and first aid”.

While APC gubernatorial candidate, Senator Chris Ngige and the party’s interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed blamed Obi for the tragedy, the Anambra State Governor and APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh, said Ngige is responsible and should be arrested.

The Anambra State Government, on Saturday, declared three days of mourning for those who died in the incident. In a broadcast in Awka,  Governor Obi also said that he would set up a panel of inquiry to unearth the immediate and remote causes of the tragedy.

However, Governor Obi exonerated himself from blame on the incident.  In a broadcast, Governor Obi stated what happened at the vigil.  According to him,   The host of the Ministry, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Obinma had personally delivered a written invitation to me, requesting that I attend the All Saints night prayers (November 1, 2013 being All Saints Day).

“In my characteristic manner, I honoured that invitation, arriving the venue at about 10:00 pm when the Mass started with no more than 10 persons including my elder sister, Rev. Sr. Martina Obi, the National Chairman of APGA, Chief Victor Umeh and others as well as less than half of my security details.

“It is worth-mentioning that when I was called upon by the Priest to speak as the governor of the state at about 12 midnight when the Mass ended, a group of people located in three different spots started chanting Ngige slogans and waving the brooms of All Progressives Congress and the pictures of Dr. Chris Ngige, the APC’s flag bearer in the November 16 Governorship election. It took up to 20 minutes for the priest to calm them down.

“I was surprised that some people would turn a prayer ground into a campaign venue. In my remarks, which lasted no more than five minutes, I promised to sponsor 20 indigent people from among the faithful on pilgrimage, provide access road to the premises and urged all present to pray for Anambra State and Nigeria. The Presiding priest and all present can testify to this, and it is on tape.  I left the Adoration premises at about 3:00am on Saturday with the persons who came with me and arrived at my Lodge at 3:30 am”.

 

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USAID begins Covid-19 testing in Imo rural areas

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USAID averts 25,000 unwanted pregnancies in Ebonyi, Kogi

…Umuagwo Varsity of Agric kicks-off October

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun Covid-19 testing in the 27 Local Government Areas of Imo State, “in a bid to reduce the impact of community spread of the virus in the rural areas of the state.

The Imo State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Chief Declan Mbadiwe Emelumba disclosed this in Owerri while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the Weekly Executive Council meeting presided over by Governor Hope Uzodimma on Wednesday.

Chief Emelumba said so far, the USAID officials have carried out reasonable number of testing in Njaba LGA and reported that all those tested came out negative and that the council prayed that the result from other Local Government Areas will be the same.

He announced that the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) has approved the take off of the Imo State University for Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Umuagwo in October this year.

According to him, the approval underscores the efforts which the Imo State Government ably led by Governor Hope Uzodinma has made towards the establishment of a second university for the state.

Recently, the NUC panel was in Imo State to carry out the necessary verification exercises on the state facilities, human and physical infrastructures.

Mr. Declan Emelumba, who was flanked by the Commissioner for Education, Prof. Bernard Ikegwuoha, Commissioner for Health Dr. Damaris Osunkwo and the Chief Press Secretary/Media Adviser to the Governor Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku, informed that the Executive Council is happy that something new is happening in the Education Sector of the State.

Emelumba said that the Imo State University of Science and Environmental Sciences, Umuagwo will take off by October when other universities would be resuming for a new academic session.

In the same vein, the Council has approved the immediate relocation of Faculty of Engineering Imo State University Owerri to its permanent site at Okigwe, stressing that Government has put all processes and facilities on ground to ensure the immediate take–off of the faculty.

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Imo Governor’s aide visits Oziza FM Staff, Ogechi Iwu in hospital

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Imo Governor’s aide visits Oziza FM  Staff, Ogechi Iwu in hospital

The Chief Press Secretary and Media Adviser to Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State, Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku has visited Mr. Ogechi Iwu, a journalist with Osiza FM.

The media man is hospitalized at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri over complications from diabetes that led to his right leg being amputated.

Mr. Nwachuku said the visit was to show solidarity on behalf of Governor Uzodimma to his professional colleague, assuring him of their prayers, particularly that of his principal, and the prayers of Mr. Iwu’s numerous friends and well wishers who are touched by his plight.

“I am here on behalf of my principal to associate with him in this time of health challenge and to encourage him not to see the sickness as a death sentence.”

Oge Iwu at fmc

L-R: Chief Akaraonye, Mr. Oguwike Nwachuku with Ogechi Iwu during the visit

Mr. Nwachuku urged Mr. Iwu to continue in the high spirit he saw him and trust God for his total recovery “because healing is a thing of mind and when a sick person is in high spirit the patient gets recovered quickly.”

The spokesman of the Governor promised to bring the plight of the journalist to the attention of his principal, and assured that the Governor will, in his usual manner of one with milk of human sympathy, show concern over Iwu’s plight.

Earlier, Mr. Iwu thanked the CPS/Media Adviser, the State Chairman of NUJ, Imo State, Chief Christopher Akaraonye and other journalists who were on the entourage, for coming to identify with him on his sick bed, and assured that God in his infinite mercy will quicken his recovery.

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Bishop Ugorji heads IMSU Governing Council

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Bishop Ugorji heads IMSU Governing Council

Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma has inaugurated a new Governing Council, for the Imo State University, IMSU, Owerri.

At the inauguration ceremony on Monday, August 31, the governor named Most Rev. Lucius Ugorji as the Chairman of the Governing Council and Pro-Chancellor of the University.

Other members of the Council include: Chief Leo Stan Ekeh, Chief Tony Ezenna, Prof. (Ven.) Chinedu Nebo, Sir. Louis Ezeigwe, Chief Engr. Ernest Nwapa, Dr. (Mrs.) Uwandu Uzoma, Ugoeze Victoria Adaku Ekezie, Prof. Adaobi Obasi (Vice Chancellor) and others.

Speaking at the inauguration, Governor Uzodimma said the choice of the members is to infuse fresh air into the university because “It is in dire need to bounce back to reckoning.”
He added that the choice of the members was because they have carved a niche for themselves in their chosen fields of endeavour and that they have earned solid reputation as men and women of substance in their individual trade, indices that qualified them for the appointment.

He challenged the members to bring their reputation to bear on the University, bearing in mind the task for good quality scholarship in Imo State University as well as service to humanity.

The Governor urged the members to deploy their individual accomplishments, excellence, expertise, passion for service as effectively as necessary to actualize the dream of his administration of having a highly reputable University comparable to the best Universities in the World.

He also requested the Council to “restore in words and deeds the motto of Imo State University, which is Excellence in Service”.

“Imo State University currently is a classical example of a failed University,” Governor Uzodimma said but strongly believed that “with a star studded Governing Council such as the one inaugurated there is no doubt that Imo is on the track to realize the dreams of her founding fathers.”

He further enjoined the Council members to quickly hit the ground running and come up with policies and programmes that will reassure Imo people that the University that made them proud 20 years back is on track as he assured them of Government partnership in this regard.

In an acceptance speech, on behalf of the Council, the Chairman, Most Rev. Ugorji who is the Catholic Bishop of Umuahia thanked the Governor for the absolute confidence reposed in them by giving them the assignment and acknowledged that though the task is daunting he has a strong belief that with the calibre of members of the Council and support of the management, staff and students the University will be returned to a centre of excellence which was the dream of the founding fathers.

He said that Imo State University deserves the best and that he and his members as inaugurated will work acidulously to ensure that the target of the governor in making Imo State University one of the best universities in Africa is realised.

He congratulated fellow members and promised that God’s willing, they will not fail the government and people of Imo State.

Present at the inauguration were the Deputy Governor, Prof. Placid Njoku, the Speaker Imo State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chiji Collins, the Secretary to the State Government, Chief Cosmas Iwu, and other members of the expanded State Executive Council.

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