S.Africa to repatriate last of Nigerian church victims
South Africa said Monday it will this week bring back the remaining bodies of its nationals killed in a Nigerian church building collapse four months ago.
Minister in the presidency Jeff Radebe told reporters that a South African airforce C130 aircraft would be dispatched to Lagos Monday “to bring the mortal remains of those that have been positively identified.”
Of the 81 bodies, 70 were repatriated in November, two months after a multi-storey building collapsed at the Lagos church of the influential Nigerian preacher TB Joshua.
The outstanding 11 were still undergoing DNA identification.
“Our repatriation team is departing this afternoon for Lagos,” said Radebe, and “when they land, we will know precisely how many South Africans will be repatriated.”
Nigerian authorities have been driving the testing and verification process.
A delayed rescue operation, “climatic conditions” and the sheer number of victims that had to be identified were responsible for the prolonged wait for the bodies, said Radebe.
The disaster killed 116 people in all, including Nigerians and other foreign nationals.
The Lagos state coroner is carrying out an inquest into the causes of the collapse at a guesthouse within the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) church’s compound.
Joshua is one Nigeria’s most influential and wealthiest pastors whose followers include prominent politicians and business leaders from across Africa and around the world.
The self-proclaimed prophet, has claimed the building collapse may have been sabotage and has on three occasions ignored summonses to testify.
He is now challenging the coroner’s powers to call him as a witness and the case is still pending in the High Court.