Calabar Tragedy: We Tried To Stop Our Husbands From Going To The Viewing Centre

As Nigerians continue to mourn the shocking demise of the football fans who were electrocuted at a viewing centre at Nyaghassang Community, Calabar Municipality of Cross River State on Thursday night while watching the return leg match between Manchester United and Anderlecht in the UEFA Europa league, two women saturday lamented that they did everything to prevent their husbands from going to the viewing centre on the ill-fated day.

One of the women, Mrs. Elizabeth Alex Samuel, a mother of a year-old child, who is now a widow as a result of the incident said, if her late husband, Mr. Samuel, had taken to her constant advice, and warning, perhaps he wouldn’t have died at the viewing centre that fateful night.

The woman, who was in a sober mood when she narrated her ordeal, said after the incident happened, her husband was among those evacuated to the hospital, but she learnt the following day that he was among those who died.

Narrating her ordeal, Mrs. Samuel who was carrying her child said, “Every day I warned him not to watch football in that viewing centre. That night, he went to watch football. The next thing I heard shouting and they said people have died. I was waiting I did not see him. I heard they had rushed him to the hospital. I was crying throughout. It was yesterday (Friday) they came and told me that my husband was dead”.

On a similar note, another woman who gave her name as Mary Okon said her husband, Mr. Emmanuel Okon, lost his life to the incident. Mary said she tried to stop her late husband from going to the viewing centre that night because she wanted him to eat, and stay at home with the family.

She said her late husband, who was a Manchester United fan, left to watch the match despite her asking him to stay back, and eat the food she was preparing.

“I was boiling rice for him and then he decided to go and watch the match. I told him to stay back and eat but he said I should come and meet him when it was ready. When the incident happened I went there to look for him and when I found him he was not moving. There were bodies lying on the floor everywhere. I carried him with the help of his nephew, but he was not responding. His body was cold. With the help of a neighbour who is a taxi man, we carried him to the hospital where we were told he was dead,” she said, while sobbing.

Also speaking, Godswill Okon, a nephew to the late woman’s husband said: “That evening, me and my uncle were just joking about the match. He is a Man U fan and I am a Chelsea fan. So, we were playfully arguing, and I told him Man U will lose. He said no way that they would win. So, when it was time for the match, he called me to go with him and watch, but I felt somehow and decided not to go.

“Normally, I would have been there to watch the game, but I suddenly did not feel too well. People were even surprised that I did not go to watch. It was while we were at home that we heard the noise, and we went out; and I got there and saw my uncle dead. My uncle was a very loving and kind person. He was the one who was taking care of me. My school fees, accommodation, feeding, clothes, everything. I don’t know what I would do now that he is gone. Who would come to our help?”, he lamented.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara yesterday called for investigation into the unfortunate incident which led to the death of football fans in the Calabar viewing centre.

Dogara, who expressed sadness over the development, however, condoled with the families of those who lost their lives as well as those who survived the incident, and the people and government of the state.

The police had confirmed that no fewer than seven persons watching the Europa League match between Manchester United and Anderlecht football clubs died by electrocution on Thursday.

However, Dogara, in a statement issued by his Special Adviser on media and publicity, Turaki Hassan, said: “My heart goes out to the families of football fans who died in the incident at the viewing centre. At this moment, my thoughts and prayers are with the affected families, survivors, and the government and good people of Cross River state following this sad incident.

“It is my ardent hope that survivors are receiving adequate care, and that the state government is taking the necessary steps to avoid a recurrence of such a sad incident”, the Speaker said, and urged the state government to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Also, former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark has lamented over the tragic death of the soccer fans, who were electrocuted at the viewing centre in Calabar.

In a condolence message to the Governor of Cross River state, Senator Ben Ayade, Senator Mark said it was sad that such young people met their untimely deaths while watching a game that should ordinarily bring joy and excitement to them. 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”, Mark said, in a statement issued by his media aide, Mr. Paul Mumeh.

Mark suggested that public utility providers should take precautionary measures to avoid future re-occurrence. In spite of the tragedy, he believes that “soccer is a unifying tool between and among Nigerians that must of a necessity be promoted and encouraged in our society”.

Meanwhile, former Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa yesterday promised to build a standard viewing centre at Nyaghassang Community, Calabar Municipality in memory of people who died at the viewing centre in the community.

Ita-Giwa said she was making the promise on behalf of mothers of the Efik Kingdom, whom she led to visit the victims of the viewing centre tragedy. She put the blame of the incident on those she described as the political class, saying the sad event was an indictment on them.

“We as mothers of the Efik Kingdom feel the pains of the mothers, wives and children of those who died here. We are here to sympathise and commiserate with them. We appreciate the President for showing sympathy for what has happened. We are not going to stop there and let this slide. We are going to set up a help line with designated help lines to help victims of the incident.

“We will build a viewing centre to commemorate the people that died here. We call on football lovers, football stars, Manchester United to come and help government to alleviate the problems of the victims.

“What shocked me when I got here was the state of the place where people paid N50 to come and watch football. I am here as a mother but I would not also deny the fact the fact that I am a politician. So these are the kind of things I see as a politician that make me feel very guilty that the people are not living well in this country, because under normal circumstances these are some of the things a representative should provide. These are some of the things that keep the boys off crime.

“Nigerians are great football enthusiasts. We will try to forestall future occurrences to see the state of other viewing centres to prevent further loss of lives. As mothers, we will do our best to alleviate the pains of the people. We share the pains. We urge football lovers, don’t allow this make you lose your interest in football; don’t let it wane your passion for football,” Ita-Giwa said.

Responding, the secretary of the Nyaghassang Community, Iso Bassey Edim, thanked Ita-Giwa and the Efik mothers for the gesture. Edim said the community was working towards completing the exact figure of victims of the incident.

No fewer than seven people were officially pronounced dead following the collapse of a high tension cable on the roof of a football viewing centre, where football fans were watching the Manchester United versus Anderlecht return leg match of the UEFA Europa league.

Also, the Commissioner representing Cross River on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NNDC), Mr. Sylvester Nsa has commiserated with families of the electrocuted victims. In a press statement he issued in Calabar, Nsa described the incident as unfortunate, noting that the loss of lives under such circumstance was regrettable.

The commissioner commiserated with the bereaved families while wishing the injured speedy recovery. He, however advised the Town Planning department and other regulatory agencies in Cross River not to approve the construction of houses under high tension cable.

Nsa said houses already constructed under high tension cables should immediately be demolished by relevant authorities to forestall future occurrence of such unfortunate incidents.

Also, the Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) says it has taken the photographic data of the affected area of Nyagasang community where the electrocution tragedy occurred.

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