BY ARCHIBONG EYO, CALABAR –
President Muhammadu Buhari has commiserated with the government and people of Cross River State over the football fans electrocuted at a viewing centre during the Manchester United’s second leg quarter-final Europa League match against Anderlecht on Thursday in Calabar
Also, condolences have poured in from former Senate President, Senator David Mark, World Soccer governing body, FIFA, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) and Manchester United Football Club.
President Buhari said he is ‘shocked and saddened’ by the deaths that took place at the Calabar viewing centre located at Nyang-Asang community, along Edim Otop and Atimbo area of Calabar Municipality.
Commiserating with the government and people of Cross River State, as well as football fans nationwide over the unfortunate incident, the President, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media & Publicity, Garba Shehu on Friday in Abuja, offered “his deepest condolences to the family and friends of the mostly young victims, whose sudden demise is a big blow not only to their families but also to the football-loving nation,”
President Buhari, who praised the State Government for the prompt action in setting up a commission of inquiry into the incident, and its offer of assistance to the victims and their families, prayed “that God Almighty will grant the souls of the departed eternal rest and comfort all who mourn their irreparable loss.”
On his part, former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark lamented the tragic death in a condolence message to the Cross River State Governor, Senator Ben Ayade, saying it is sad that such young people met their untimely deaths while watching a game that should ordinarily bring joy and excitement to them.
Describing the incident as one tragedy too many, Senator Mark said: “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”.
A statement by his Media Assistant, Paul Mumeh quoted the Senator as suggesting that the public utility providers should take precautionary measures to avoid future re-occurrence, even as he said that despite the tragedy, soccer remains ‘a unifying tool between and among Nigerians that must of a necessity be promoted and encouraged in our society.’
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), in its condolence message to the government and people of Cross River State on the deaths, said, “We mourn with the Government of Cross River State, our affiliate the Cross River State Football Association, the good people of Cross River State and the families and friends of the deceased football fans.”
Signed by its General Secretary Dr Mohammed Sanusi, the Federation further said, “We pray that God Almighty will grant their souls eternal rest and also grant their loved ones and the Government and people of Cross River State the fortitude to bear the big loss.”
“We are much pained by this unfortunate incident because football is a game of peace that brings joy and excitement to the whole of humanity,” the statement added.
Similarly, the world football governing body, FIFA also released a statement reacting to the tragic incident. Its official twitter page stated that ‘FIFA is deeply saddened by the deaths of several football fans in Calabar and offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victims. May the souls of the dead RIP!
In the same vein, Manchester United sent out a condolence message to those who were affected by the tragedy through their official Twitter account. According to the Club, “Our thoughts go out to the United fans, their friends and families affected by the tragedy in Calabar, Nigeria, yesterday.”
Meanwhile, the Police in Calabar have continued to insist that only seven deaths were recorded and 11 injured in the incident, a claim that eyewitnesses and the locals have so far debunked, saying the figure is higher. The incident took place when a transformer reportedly exploded at night, with one of the tension cables falling onto the roof of the viewing centre and electrocuting scores of soccer fans.