By Omololu Ogunmade, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Bassey Inyang in Calabar
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said he was shocked and saddened by the tragic news of the demise of several Nigerians at a football viewing centre in Calabar, Cross River State on Thursday night while watching the Manchester United versus Anderlecht return-leg, Europa League quarterfinal match
Also, former Vice President and chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) Atiku Abubakar, Senate President Bukola Saraki and former Senate President, David Mark have expressed sympathy over the tragedy.
This is as the Governor of Cross River State, Professor Ben Ayade, has ordered an inquest into the circumstances that led to the electrocution of the football fans at about 9.30pm on Thursday.
The President, according to a statement by his spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, commiserated with the government and people of Cross River State and football fans across the country over the unfortunate incident.
He also commended the state government for its prompt response to the tragedy by setting up a commission of inquiry into the incident as well as its offer of assistance to the families of the victims.
The statement added that the President offered his deepest condolences to the family and friends of mostly young victims whose sudden demise is a big blow not only to such families but also to the football-loving nation.
He prayed God Almighty to grant the souls of the departed eternal rest and comfort all that are affected by their irreparable loss.
Atiku in statement by his media office in Abuja on Friday, expressed his condolences to the families and friends of all those killed in the unfortunate incident.
“No one deserves to die in this way, particularly in the pursuit of their passion,” Atiku said.
The former Vice President while observing that viewing centres were springing up in every nook and cranny of the country to satisfy the demands of millions of football and other sports’ fans, adding that it was imperative that the relevant authorities ensured that the centres meet basic requirements of safety to the lives of the clients.
Mark, in a condolence message to the Governor Ayade, and signed by his Media Assistant, Paul Mumeh, described the death of the young persons while watching a football match as saddening. He described the incident as one tragedy too many.
“The death of over 30 soccer fans in one incident is a huge loss to the nation. It is more tragic because these were promising Nigerians who looked forward to a rewarding future.
“They represented the future dreams of our father land. They were the ready hands on which our future lies. But we are incapable of questioning the will of the Almighty. May God grant them eternal rest,” he said.
Mark advised public utility providers to take precautionary measures to avoid future occurrence.
Ayade ordered the inquiry on Friday after hospital authorities confirmed that only seven people died while 18 others suffered varying degree of injuries from the accident.
Though initial reports speculated that over 30 people died, some people in the area who witnessed the accident said they, variously, counted between seven and 10 dead bodies at the scene, close to an electricity transformer known commonly as “First Transformer,” at Akpandem Street, Nyaghassang community, Calabar Municipality.
A teenager who gave his name as Etim Edet, said “I always watch match there, but yesterday, I don’t know why I did not go there to watch. I was with my friend gisting when it happened. I saw seven people dead. Many people were wounded”, Edet said.
But a middle age man, Ubong Silas, a resident of the street, who said he was always uncomfortable with the viewing centre said he personally counted 10 dead bodies. “My brother, I always warn my children not to go there because the place is zinc, and I don’t like the way electric wire pass on it.
Unfortunately it has happened, not less than 10 people have died. I saw 10 with my eyes,” Silas told THISDAY.