ABUJA – At least seven people were killed and dozens more injured in Nigeria’s capital Abuja after thousands of panicked jobseekers stampeded during a government recruitment drive at the national stadium.
Survivors told AFP that thousands had gathered to apply for jobs with the immigration department in the Abuja stadium.
One witness said the stampede broke out as applicants surged towards a central stage. They said only one entrance to the 60,000-capacity stadium was open. It was unclear how many people were inside at the time of the crush.
No official toll was given, but an AFP journalist at the scene counted seven dead and dozens injured.
The public hospital was forced to turn victims away due to a lack of capacity, according to spokesman Tayo Haastrup.
“I cannot even imagine the number of people that stamped on me,” said survivor Rosemary Ogida. “I just remember being picked up by three men.”
The young woman, who had regained consciousness at the hospital but could barely move her left leg, told AFP she was desperate after having lost the original of her university diploma in the stampede.
Those with stable injuries “will be sent to other hospitals so that we can deal with the numerous injured that continue to arrive,” Haastrup said.
“Unfortunately, the hospital management was not given any early warning about the scale of the situation at the stadium,” he added.
The recruitment drive was being held at several stadiums around the country on Saturday.
The sheer size of the crowds was a testament to the vast numbers of unemployed in Nigeria, most of whose 170 million citizens live on less than two dollars a day, while the country lags behind in key development indicators such as health.