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Page last updated at 12:10 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 13:10 UK

Nigerian stampede survivor's ordeal

By Abdulsalam Ahmad
BBC News, Enugu

Chikaodili Okeke
The only thing I remember was that I fell down
Stampede survivor Chikaodili Okeke

A survivor of a fatal scramble for jobs in Nigeria's immigration service has told the BBC how she was trampled by a crowd.

Chikaodili Okeke, a mother of two, said she was knocked unconscious as she ran to where applicants in the south-eastern city of Enugu were due to sit an exam on Saturday.

Four people died in the crush after the gates to the exam room were closed.

"We were told to run from the government secretariat to the college, and we had to reach there within 20 minutes," she said from her hospital bed.

"The first people to get there were allowed to enter the gate, but the second set were not allowed.

"We were told to go, but we waited thinking that maybe they would change their mind."

But then another group of applicants in a bus were allowed in, she said.

People outside began to get angry, there was a stampede for the gate and she was knocked unconscious.

Trampled

"I don't know exactly what happened. I was trying to get into that gate. The only thing I remember was that I fell down.

"The next thing I remember was being in this hospital. Maybe people were marching on me or fell on me."

Mrs Okeke does not know exactly how many were in the crowd, but there were a lot of people.

I don't have anything to do. I've been trying but there are no jobs at all
Chikaodili Okeke

"Someone said there was 11,000 of us," she said.

They were applying for only 100 jobs.

"We were just trying our luck," Mrs Okeke said.

Across Nigeria a dozen people died at the weekend as over 130,000 people applied for 1,260 civil servant positions.

Some died during fitness tests that were carried out during the hottest part of the day.

"Had it been that there was employment for people this sort of thing wouldn't happen," she said.

Qualifications

Mrs Okeke is a qualified teacher, but she has not worked in five years.

"I don't have anything to do. I've been trying but there are no jobs at all," she said.

"There are no jobs in government schools and in private schools the pay is too small."

She said private schools only pay around 3000 naira ($25, 12) per month.

The Nigerian civil service is the largest employer in the country, but in recent years posts have been cut in government reforms.

But with little industry or service sector, thousands of graduates emerge from colleges across the country every year with no prospect of getting a job.

Most of Nigeria's 140m population end up making a living in the informal economy.


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