No closure until bodies back from Nigeria - pastors

2014-10-23 07:20
The site of the Nigeria church collapse. (Sunday Alamba, AP)

The site of the Nigeria church collapse. (Sunday Alamba, AP)

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Johannesburg - Families of more than 80 South Africans killed in a building collapse in Nigeria will not find closure until the bodies are brought back, the Mahikeng Ministers Fellowship (MMF) chairperson Apostle Zandisile Reginald Mpame said on Wednesday.

"We are concerned that until they have mourned and buried their loved ones in dignity, families that are traumatised by their loss and protracted delay will not find closure to carry on with their lives.

"It is completely unacceptable by any standard that the identification process and repatriation of the bodies of our compatriots who perished in the tragedy had not been completed after 40 days," Mpame said.

In the statement, MMF is described as an interdenominational pastors fellowship.

On 12 September, 116 people, among them 84 South Africans, were killed in the collapse of a multi-storey guest house attached to the Synagogue Church of all Nations.

The church is run by Nigerian preacher TB Joshua. An inquest into the deaths began in mid-October in Nigeria.

No update from laboratory

On Wednesday, a government spokeswoman said that there was still no word on when the bodies would be returned home.

"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."

Williams said once she received new information, a media briefing would be called.

Mpame said that the church should unite in prayer for the families that lost loved ones in the collapse.

"This is not the time for opportunistic slander and ridicule to be directed at Prophet TB Joshua, the Synagogue Church of All Nations and those who visited his church," Mpame said.

End of the month

On 12 October, the City Press quoted a Nigerian medical examiner as saying the bodies would be home by the end of the month.

"We are looking at three weeks," Prof John Obafunwa, chief medical examiner of Lagos State, 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."

Obafunwa was overseeing the identification process and speaking from Lagos University Teaching Hospital, where some of the remains were.

Obafunwa said the autopsies had been completed and samples were shipped out for DNA analysis. He said the identification process had been slow because Nigeria did not have facilities to analyse DNA.

Read more on:    tb joshua  |  nigeria  |  mahikeng  |  religion  |  nigeria building collapse  |  west africa

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