Confusion reigned in Minna Niger State on Saturday as several dignitaries, including the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Pius Anyim, governors and ministers escaped death as a part of the podium, hosting the top government officials, collapsed.
The podium, hurriedly constructed at the Trade Fair ground for the North Central rally of the controversial group, Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria, rooting for President Goodluck Jonathan re-election in 2015, gave way while the ceremony was underway.
The podium caved in at about 11.53am, with a few minutes left for goodwill messages.
The top government functionaries at the event however escaped unhurt as they were all protected by their orderlies and escorted to the main podium to continue the event.
Our correspondent gathered that the event managers were still under the podium, at the time of the incident, fixing some of the scaffolds having arrived in Minna late on Friday to mount the stage.
Some of the victims, who sustained injuries, were rushed to the IBB Specialist Hospital, General Hospital, Minna, Bay Clinic and Top Medical centre.
Among the injured included the wife of the Niger State Governor, Hajia Jumai Aliyu, and Director General, Public Affairs, Mallam Tanko Dada, who had a deep cut in his head.
Our correspondent learnt that also injured were Mallam Suleiman, Special Assistant to Governor Aliyu, who tried to rescue the Governor while an operative of the State Security Service allegedly broke his leg.
Several telephone sets were scattered on the floor after those who had close shave with death, fled the scene. As of the time of filing this report, the number of casualties was not known as security men barred people and journalists from getting to some of the hospitals and the scene.
One of the victims, Ismail Gambo, said, “I thought it was a bomb blast; so I had to jump as much as I could but I realised I was trapped in the stand as so many people were scrambling for safety.”
However, Niger State Governor, Dr Babangida Aliyu, asked TAN not to be discouraged by the incident. “This thing that happened should not deter you from doing what you came to do,” Aliyu said.
Another victim, a journalist attached to TAN, said, “I was interviewing one of the top officials when the scaffold started giving way. I quickly headed for the stairs, but before I got there, the stand collapsed. I only sustained this minor injury.