“Nobody knows who detonated the bombs but it was very close to the football field where the rally took place. Many people sustained injuries while trying to escape to safety."
A rally organised by the All Progressives Congress in Okirika, home to Nigeria’ First Lady, Patience Jonathan, was disrupted twice on Wednesday.
The rally was first disrupted by triple bomb blasts which occurred a few minutes after the leadership and party faithful assembled at the Okirika National Secondary School field in the early hours of the day.
A source, who pleaded not to be named for security reasons, told PREMIUM TIMES that the rally had just got underway, when three bombs went off in quick succession in three different locations close to the venue of the programme.
“We had just started the rally when three bombs went off near the venue. There was a stampede as people fled in different directions to safety.
“Nobody knows who detonated the bombs but it was very close to the football field where the rally took place. Many people sustained injuries while trying to escape to safety.
Two hours after the initial disruption, the organizers rallied party faithful and supporters back to the venue of the rally and the programme was kicked off again.
Just as the speakers mounted the platform to address the rally, sporadic gunshots rented the air and the party members again took to their heels.
The party’s gubernatorial candidate, Dakuku Peterside, was fielding questions from a Channels Television reporter when the gunshots went off.
Both Mr. Peterside and the reporter took to their heels as armed mobile policemen fired back and tried to calm down frightened citizens.
While monitoring the rally, which was broadcast live on Channels Television, PREMIUM TIMES saw one old man with a walking stick struggling to escape to safety while the gunshots persisted.
The aged party supporter fell down but got up again and still ran away with the help of his walking stick.
The Channels Television cameras were left rolling while the cameramen scampered to safety in the nearby buildings.
A few minutes later, the television reporter, Charles Eruka, was shown taking cover somewhere in the school field while giving live updates on the crisis.
“We were at the National Secondary School when we heard series of explosions but when the crowd had the confidence to return because security agents had taken control of the situation,” Mr. Eruka said.
“But when the gunshots started, of course everybody took their heels. But we are still here trying to find out what is going on. We can’t see the shooters apart from armed security personnel. But we can hear gunfire in the background behind the buildings here.
“The security agents are trying to make sure that people are whisked to safety. Some of the things that were left behind at the VIP areas are also being carried away to safety. The security agents have secured those in the VIP stand while most of us are lying on the floor.”