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Synagogue Church tragedy: Outrage in South Africa over victims’ bodies

By News Express on 23/10/2014

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There is outrage in South Africa over the late release of bodies of the over 84 nationals who died in the Synagogue Church building collapse in Ikotun, on the Lagos outskirts on September 12.

In all, 116 people died in the disaster into which the Lagos State Government has initiated an inquest.

There was still no news on when the bodies will be returned home, a South African Government spokesperson was quoted as saying yesterday.

“We still don’t know. Even as we speak now the laboratory (in Lagos) has not given us an update,” Phumla Williams said.

“We reckon by end of the week there will be some information. You see, they are not commissioned by us; they are commissioned by the Nigerian Government. So they are reporting directly to the Nigerian government, not to us.”

The Chief Medical Director of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Prof. Olawale Oke, said DNA samples for identification of the 116 victims had been concluded.

He said the hospital sent the specimens to South Africa and was awaiting the results of the analyses.

Oke said: “You are aware that an inquest is on now; so, there is limit to what I can tell you about this. I can tell you that the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital has collected the samples of family members of victims of the collapsed building for DNA testing at a Pathology and Forensic Medicine.

“This is to ensure that all victims of the collapsed building are properly identified and delivered to their various families for burial rites. The DNA is being done free.

“Because 80 per cent of the victims were South Africans, for us to take a specimen from the relations, you have to bring at least two relatives from South Africa to Nigeria.

“So, the state decided to select a laboratory in South Africa that is equally competent to do the DNA so that 80 per cent of the relations who are South Africans could have their specimens taken.

“The specimens of their Nigerian victims have been flown to South Africa.

“The post-mortem for all of them have been conducted, the dental recognition process done, X-rays have been done where necessary; so, we are just waiting for the results to be out.”

LASUTH Board Chairman, Dr. Francis Williams, said the hospital had the capacity to effectively manage crises and emergencies within the state.

On October 12, South African newspaper City Press quoted a Nigerian medical examiner as saying the bodies would be taken from Lagos by month-end.

“We are looking at three weeks,” Prof. John Obafunwa was quoted as saying. “I would be surprised if we had to wait till November… I expect all bodies to be out by that time. The inquest could drag on for weeks and months. But we’re not going to delay the release of bodies to family members because of that.”

The Inkatha Freedom Party yesterday criticised the Nigerian Government for the delay.

“This is disheartening and this clearly shows a lack of ubuntu. One can imagine the agony of the families who have been waiting for several weeks for their loved ones to be brought back home,” the party’s national chairperson Blessed Gwala said.

“The Nigerian Government must respond in the spirit of ubuntu by speeding up the process of the DNA testing and the bodies must be sent back home without any further delay.”

Gwala said families in South Africa had to postpone funerals because they did not have the bodies.

“Whenever there is death there are rituals and cultural norms that need to be observed, but these families are being denied this.”

A group of pastors called the Mahikeng Ministers Fellowship called on Nigerian authorities to expedite the repatriation of the bodies.

“We are concerned that until the (families) have mourned and buried their loved ones in dignity, families… will not find closure to carry on with their lives,” the group’s chairman, Zandisile Mpame, said in a statement.

He said it was unacceptable that the identification and repatriation of the bodies had still not been completed after 40 days.

•Text courtesy of The Nation. Photo shows Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola inspecting the collapsed Synagogue Church.

Source News Express

Posted 23/10/2014 12:10:56 PM


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