Up to 20 people have been reportedly killed and many injured in a stampede during an annual event to distribute food and gifts to poor people in central Nigeria.
Witnesses said that the stampede occurred during the event held by the ruling People Democratic Party (PDP) near the home of Nigerian Senator Bukola Saraki in Ilorin, the capital city of the central Kwara state.
Medics at Sobi Specialist Hospital confirmed to Anadolu Agency that they counted up to 20 fatalities brought from the Ile Loke, the political courtyard of Senator Saraki.
This is the third time in the past four years that a stampede occurred in the state while distributing food, money and local fabrics among residents.
"The figure being reported falls far short of the reality," Muhyideen Abubakar, who attended the event, told AA.
"I counted up to 20 people who died. That is besides the many who were taken to hospitals. Some of them have been confirmed dead and some remain in critical condition."
But PDP spokesman Masiud Adebimpe insisted that only four people died in the stampede.
"We regret that four of our party members died in the stampede while those injured are being treated in the hospital," he told AA.
A source said the stampede occurred on Wednesday night through Thursday morning but "the Sarakis and the government have tried to suppress it in the media or play down the figures."
"The deaths have become an annual ritual here," the source told AA on condition of anonymity.
"Many years ago, it happened, it then stopped and then resumed in the past four years. Tongues are waggling but what can we do? We are helpless but God is most powerful and all knowing."
Senator Saraki's leadership is disputed by many opposition politicians and intellectuals who accuse the Saraki family - whose patriarch Olusola Saraki died last year after 40 years of dictating the state politics - of running patronage political system that thrives based on giving handouts to the poor masses while leaving the state underdeveloped.
Kwara politics is known nationwide to be strange and peculiar with a family deciding its direction for years.
Kwara is among Nigeria's poorest states and is believed to rank among the lowest in terms of human capital potentials.
Women and youths often queue in the central state to collect money at the Saraki's place almost every other week in return for political allegiance to the political dynasty.
AALast Mod: 18 Ekim 2013, 17:02