LAGOS, Nigeria - Fourteen people have been killed in a stampede at a campaign rally for Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari in the oil-rich Port Harcourt city, according to a hospital spokesman.

“I can confirm that 14 persons were brought here dead while we are battling to save three persons who were in intensive care unit,” Kem Daniel-Elebiga of the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital told Anadolu Agency late Tuesday.

Daniel-Elebiga said a dozen others were later brought into the hospital for serious injuries. Nigerians are set to go to the polls on Saturday in knife-edge presidential and parliamentary elections.

In a statement on Tuesday, the president condoled with the families of the victims.

“President Buhari is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of lives and extends deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims. He also wished a speedy recovery to all those injured,” according to a statement by his media office. He said the deaths could have been averted if there was an orderly exit from the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, the venue of the rally.

“It is indeed a great tragedy that Nigerians who have important roles to play in shaping the future of the country and had come to see and hear from us how hard their government is working to build a Nigeria of their dreams, would meet their end in this unfortunate circumstance,” the statement added.

Buhari, now in his late 70s, faces a tough reelection battle which many say would be a referendum on his scorecards as a leader who came to office amid towering hopes of economic boom, increased security and anti-corruption fight.

Although there are over a dozen aspirants on the ballot paper, Buhari’s main challenger is the opposition People’s Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar, also a septuagenarian, who was himself a former vice president of the country.

The elections for state governors and state assemblies are scheduled for March 2.