Though the Manchester United versus Anderlecht game took place in Europe, passionate football fans in Calabar, Nigeriam were not willing to be told how it all went down.
Manchester United enjoy a lot of followership among soccer crazy Nigerian fans who usually go the extra mile to satisfy their passion.
The Calabar fans were keen to see how the Red Devils will qualify for the semi-final and inch closer to another silverware having won the ‘lesser’ League Cup, EFL, earlier in the season.
As it is the case across the length and breadth of the country, viewing centres abound where fans pay a token to watch live games; and that was the case on this fateful night when many gathered at one of those centres to watch the Europa League second leg quarter-final match.
But instead of the relief and celebration that could have greeted another hard-earned win for the Jose Mourinho led team, it was anguish as seven fans were confirmed dead and at least 10 others injured after an electric cable fell on the building electrocuting the football fans.
The English Premier League giants were quick to acknowledge the death of these unlucky fans in a tweet on Friday.
“Our thoughts go out to the United fans, their friends and families affected by the tragedy in Calabar, Nigeria, yesterday,” the club wrote.
Also, Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River described as tragic and horrifying, the loss of several lives at a viewing centre in Calabar, the Cross River capital on Thursday.
The governor said this in a statement issued by Christian Ita, his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Chief Press Secretary, in Calabar on Friday.
Mr. Ayade also said it was heart wrenching that the lives of the young men were lost through electrocution.
“The incident marks a dark chapter in the life of the state where the precious lives of football lovers have been lost.
“At this point in time, it is sad to know that the victims lost their lives at a viewing centre where they usually converge, at their leisure time to watch their matches,” Mr. Ayade said.
While commiserating with the families of the victims of the tragedy, the governor promised that the state government would look into the likely cause of the incident to preventing reoccurrence.
The incident happened at about 9.30 p.m. at Nyagasang area of Atimbo in Calabar Municipality Local Government Area of the state
President Muhammadu Buhari also expressed shock and was deeply saddened about the tragic event.
The president in a statement signed by his spokesperson, Garba Shehu, on Friday commiserated with the government and people of Cross River State, and football fans nationwide over the unfortunate incident.
Mr. Buhari also commended 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.
“The President offers 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.
“He prays that God Almighty will grant the souls of the departed eternal rest and comfort all who mourn their irreparable loss,” Mr. Shehu said.
It is yet to be seen if this incidence will tone down the extent fans go in supporting their teams.
In its reaction, the Federation of International Football Association, FIFA, expressed sadness over the death.
“FIFA is deeply saddened by the deaths of several football fans in Calabar and offer our deepest condolences to family and friends of the victims,” the world football body wrote on its Twitter handle on Friday.
In its reaction, the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency, NEMSA, says it has commenced full investigation to unravel the remote and immediate causes of the electrocution.
The Chief Electrical Inspector of the Federation, Peter Ewesor, announced this to the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Friday.
Mr. Ewesor, who is also the Managing Director of the agency, described the incident as “unfortunate’’.
“Our field engineers are already there. I am equally on the way to the place now for us to go and find out actually what happened, how it happened and how we can prevent future occurrence.
“Presently, we are mourning with the family of the diseased; however, we will be able to make concrete statement to the nation after the investigation.
“When things like this happen, as painful as they are, we should be on guard to prevent further occurrences,” he said.
He said the investigation would assist the agency to find out what led to the mishap.
He said NEMSA had always been sincere with investigation of this nature.
According to him, the agency’s report on a similar incident that killed a student of University of Lagos recently remains transparent.
“You remember the issue that happened in university of Lagos; it was equally a similar thing when the breakable cable dropped directly on a female student of the institution.
“We were able to make a firm statement at that time, after we had visited and reviewed the incidence and carried out our test,” he said.
Mr. Ewesor, however, said NEMSA had initiated measures to avert electrical accidents in the country.
“For us to prevent this kind of situation, we had actually given so many instructions and directive to the industry in the area of using quality and standard electrical materials,” he said.
According to him, the use of sub-standard materials contributes to electrical accidents.
He also said non-adherence to rules on electrical installation by professionals and consumers were responsible for some of the electrical accidents.
He said staff in its 17 field offices had been involved in monitoring and evaluation of existing networks across the country.
“They go round the network to see those ones that are in bad shape which we call high risk network that are about to cause accident.
“When we discover that, we do a memo to the DISCO concern for appropriate steps to remedy the situation,” Mr. Ewesor said.
He said NEMSA had been encouraging the DISCOs to embark on standard construction of electrical installations and the need to monitor their network.
Mr. Ewesor said it was better for operators to spend their money to repair damaged network than to spend the money to pay compensation.