Home News Lagos okays repatriation of South Africans killed in Synagogue tragedy

Lagos okays repatriation of South Africans killed in Synagogue tragedy


Following unrelenting demand by the South African Government and its citizens alike for the bodies of its nationals killed in the collapsed building inside the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, the Lagos State government has released the body of 54 South Africans for collection by their families after the bodies were sorted out through DNA.

No fewer than 70 dead bodies have been identified through DNA out of the 116 people who died in the tragedy. While 54 of those cleared so far were South Africans, 16 others were Nigerians, Togolese, Beninoise and others.

Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State on Wednesday evening gave the approval for the South African Government to repatriate its 54 corpses ready for collection at the State House, Marina.

While giving the approval, Fashola explained, “We regret that this has happened here. Unfortunately, I managed such issues during the Dana plane crash and I understand the anxiety of families who want the closure and the religious undertone as well. Our responsibility is to ensure that families get closure. And those culture exist here. I know that this is an issue that has attracted global attention.

“I understand the call by South Africans to get the bodies of their relatives but we cannot at this time get the process wrong because if we release a body, we want to ensure that each family takes the body of their relative. It will be unpardonable for us to make mistake.

“And the choice of South Africa for the test was a special decision to make the process easier for South Africans who bore the bigger brunt of the tragedy. So since the relatives were in South Africa, it was easier to use a laboratory in the country, where we could easily take samples from the deceased families for the test. It was meant to further demonstrate what our intentions were,” he added.

While noting that the state government had no reason to deny South Africa the right to take those 54 bodies, the Governor said, “you have my word, you can take them whenever you are ready to do so. It is left for you to decide whether to take them in batches or wait until we conclude the exercise. But if you are ready, my team will ensure that you take them without any delay.”

Fashola went on to state that the coroner inquest was still ongoing to investigate the cause of the disaster and to prosecute whoever is found culpable.

The leader of the South African delegation to Nigeria, Special Envoy and Minister at the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, had noted that South African culture and traditions demand that burial be conducted for a deceased within a week of death.

According to him, “today makes it two month since the incident, so I paid a condolence visit to President Goodluck Jonathan two days ago, to convey the message of our president and find ways of speeding up the processes and repatriation of the mortal remains of those 85 (81 South Africans) including those four who carry South African passports even though they are not nationals of our country.”

The special envoy maintained that arrangement had been made to include the four, and take them to Pretoria, from where three would be taken to Harare and one to Kinsasa, adding that; “the whole nation of South Africa is in mourning, especially the families that have to endure two months of waiting in order to bring closure to this whole incident. We are ready to repatriate them as soon as we get the green light from the state government.”

Also speaking, the Director in the South African Presidency, Cassius Lubisi pointed out that all necessary machinery were already in place for the smooth repatriation of the corpses to South Africa, disclosing that two flights were ready for the exercise, with one to convey medical session of the Department of Defense, while mortuary trucks would arrive in the second flight.

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