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SA bodies decompose in Nigerian morgues

05 October 2014, 09:58

Johannesburg - The bodies of 84 South Africans who died more than three weeks ago in Lagos are believed to be decomposing in inadequate mortuaries while Nigerian officials frustrate the South African government’s efforts to speed up the identification process so as to be able to repatriate the remains.

According to the Sunday Independent, in some mortuaries there is no refrigeration system and bodies are being cooled with fans only.

The newspaper reports that the Nigerian government has denied these allegations, insisting it has adequate mortuary facilities. However in a statement issued by the South African government last week, it was mentioned that “... due to the scale of the disaster, passage of time and climatic conditions, most of the mortal remains are not in a good state”.

The statement went on to state: “Out of concern for potential secondary trauma to the families as well as public health considerations, government discourages all families from viewing the mortal remains.”
One government official says the delays have been caused by the Nigerian government, which has allegedly refused to have DNA analysis conducted in South Africa even despite them not having the expertise, facilities or skills to do it themselves.

However, the newspaper reports that it has since learnt that the Nigerian government has finally relented and has now agreed to the DNA analysis being done in Cape Town.

On Saturday News24 reported that post mortems on all 116 people killed in the collapse of the guest house at the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos have been completed.

This brought it closer to finalising the process of bringing the remains of the 80 South Africans home, the inter-ministerial task team on the Nigerian tragedy's spokesperson Phumla Williams said in a statement.

"While we are not sure about how much longer it will take to bring deceased South Africans home, we are encouraged with the completion of post mortems, which bring us closer to finalising the process."
Nigerian authorities had finished collecting DNA samples and were finalising administrative processes to have them taken to a forensic laboratory for comparison.The fingerprint verification process was still under way, she said.

South African ambassador to Nigeria, Sam Monaisa, met Nigerian officials on Thursday to discuss the repatriation of the bodies.

In another recent development, a Nigerian official told News24 Nigeria that the Lagos State Building Control Agency sealed off the guesthouse building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (Scoan) in Lagos days before it collapsed, but the church ignored its concerns and continued with construction work.

Also read: Injured South Africans go back to TB Joshua

The guesthouse building collapsed on Friday 12 September 2014, killing at least 116 people, including 84 South Africans.

No approval

Government officials who spoke to News24 Nigeria said they did not give Scoan approval to add additional storeys to the original plan.

Abimbola Animashaun-Odunayo, general manager at the Lagos State Building Control Agency, said the collapsed building only had approval to be a three-storey structure.

She noted that her agency had sealed off the building a few days before the incident but the church ignored the concerns expressed by the agency and continued working on the building.

She was, however, evasive on what action the government would take should the church be found responsible. She said she would not want to pre-empt the outcome of the investigation and structural integrity test being carried out on the building site.


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