The dead included the driver and his passenger, who were killed by members of the crowd after the incident, which happened in the northeastern town of Gombe.
Police called the fatal incident “an unfortunate motor accident” and launched an investigation. But witnesses, as well as the leader of the procession, said the off-duty police officer deliberately ran over the victims after he got into an argument with some in the crowd about blocking traffic.
“He did it on purpose,” Isaac Kwadang, the head of the Boys Brigade, a Christian group that was participating in the procession, told Agence France-Presse. “The driver of the car had a heated argument with the children before they made way for him to pass, only for him, in a fit of rage, to turn and drive into them.”
Eight of the fatalities involved members of the Boys Brigade, according to local news outlet called Punch.
Gombe State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Kennedy Ishaya said: “There are various degrees of injuries, as there are those with head injuries and lacerations.”
Faith leaders called for calm following the tragedy.
Rev. Abare Kala, the North East chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said: "We call on the Christian community in Gombe to take the situation in good faith, be calm and also follow the right channel in seeking redress on the issue on ground. Two wrongs cannot make a right. So, I appeal for caution in the process of addressing the issue. If we apply the wrong approach, it will lead to another issue."
“We are aware of the pain this sad event had caused, but let’s be calm and allow the leadership to handle the matter,” he said.