The Catholic Archbishop of Onitsha Diocese, Most Rev. Valerian Okeke, has attributed the stampede at Holy Ghost Adoration Centre, Uke, Idemili South Local Council Area of Anambra State to “false alarm”.
Okeke said at a news conference on Sunday that the stampede was not caused by sabotage and that that the church was not suspecting any sabotage.
He said: “It is an unfortunate incident.”
Represented by Rev. Fr. Uche Ukor, the Director of Social Communications, Okeke also denied reports that the stampede was caused by a snake that came out from somewhere.
He said: “In the early hours of Saturday, November 2, there was a stampede moments after prayers at Holy Ghost Adoration Centre, Uke, in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State.
“The stampede, which occurred while people were going home, resulted in the loss of some lives.
“Some are still injured and receiving treatments in some hospitals.
“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 crowd was so much that people wanting to leave all at the same time made it very difficult for people to find enough space to move.
“Vigil was usually held at the centre on every first Friday of the month.
“The crowd at the centre was unprecedented on this first Friday of November probably because it was the Solemnity of All Saints a holy day of obligation for Catholic faithful.
“Save for the unprecedented crowd, the vigil started and ended normally.”
Okeke expressed sadness over the ugly incident.
He added: “My heart goes out to the families and friends of those who lost their lives in the incident.
“I promise my closeness to them and all the faithful of the Holy Ghost Adoration Centre, Uke, and especially the Spiritual Director, Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Obimma, who is hard hit by the ugly incident.”
Okeke said investigations were ongoing, adding that efforts would be made to protect the lives of all worshippers at the centre.
On whether the incident had a political connotation, Okeke said the church would not delve into politics or speak for any politician.
He, however, confirmed that Senator Chris Ngige never attended the programme.
The archbishop commended the volunteers and management and staff of the hospitals where the injured were receiving treatment.