The death of 11 people in Port Harcourt following a recent rally for President Goodluck Jonathan was unnecessary, regrettable and sadly, predictable – in our environment – and I was riveted by eyewitness accounts of the horror as victims were crushed trying to leave the venue through one gate.
A. Single. Gate. Why?
Design and safety standards require the architect to assure public safety by making adequate provision for people to leave in an orderly manner and pay close attention to the time it take to completely empty public facilities like stadia because they fill up gradually but tend to empty rapidly. Our facility managers and other public operatives divorce themselves from the philosophical underpinning of having multiple entries and exits, believing instead that they are ‘enhancing security’ by restricting exit routes or, illegally, locking them.
Look around you everywhere in this nation; wherever there are two gates, one is locked. When there are four, three are locked and my ultimate experience was when I saw fifteen out of sixteen gates locked as I attempting to enter one of the nations ports! It is anachronistic to accept an environment where people profit from restricting access in any form. Nobody or society planning to succeed can do so by blocking others. Just ask Hosni Mubarak.
Whatever ails our society can be addressed by pulverizing the psyche that thrives on constriction of opportunity or access to places, persons or purpose. In a society with a large population, proper standards for facility maintenance and crowd management must established, communicated and maintained.
We mourn those who lost their lives and expect that this tragedy will result in a more enlightened approach to securing and managing public facilities and venues in the future. It is significant that the President suspended his campaign rallies in honor of the dead and has launched an investigation whose findings must provide for commensurate consequences to those liable and for compensation to the families of the victims.