Special envoy to expedite repatriation process in Nigeria

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pretoria - Minister in the Presidency for Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation, Jeff Radebe, has been appointed as a special envoy to engage Nigerian authorities with a view to expedite the repatriation of the mortal remains of the South Africans who died when a guesthouse collapsed in Lagos in September. 

Briefing reporters in Cape Town on Thursday, Minister Radebe said that President Jacob Zuma had appointed him to head the mission to Nigeria.

Minister Radebe, who will depart for Nigeria in a few days’ time, will hold meetings with the Nigerian Federal Government authorities as well as Lagos State authorities.

“The reason we are going to Nigeria is to expedite the process of repatriating the mortal remains of all South Africans so that we can get a better understanding officially from authorities both in the Federal State of Nigeria in Abuja as well as the State of Lagos.

“I think that as South Africans we should also understand that Nigeria is a federal government. Our main preoccupation is where is the process of completing the DNA which is in the domain of the Nigerian medical officers. That’s precisely the reason why we are going there,” explained Minister Radebe.

Government is in contact with Nigerian authorities, he added.

Around 116 people, among them 81 South Africans, were killed and dozens trapped when a multi-storey guesthouse attached to the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed in Lagos on September 12.

Last month, government said that post-mortems on all 116 deceased had been completed.

“Our nation will, within the next few days, mark two months since the Synagogue Church of All Nations guesthouse building collapse. This incident remains one of the worst tragedies in the history of our country since 1994,” said Minister Radebe.

Government said it was heartbreaking that the families of the 81 South Africans presumed dead continue to wait for their mortal remains to be returned home.

“The South African government committed itself to work tirelessly to repatriate the injured as well as mortal remains of our deceased citizens from Nigeria back home to South Africa. We remain firmly committed to delivering on that commitment,” said the Minister.

Mortal remains and preparatory team

To date, the South African government does not know when authorities in Nigeria will release the mortal remains of South Africans that have positively been identified.

“We have to maintain high levels of readiness. To this end, a preparatory team has been deployed to Lagos to lay the foundation for the repatriation of the mortal remains.

“The team is working closely with the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ambassador Lulu Mnguni, and South African Consul General in Lagos, Ambassador Sam Monaisa, to meet all necessary administrative requirements for the repatriation process,” said the Minister.

Additionally, government commended all affected families for their patience during the period of waiting.

“We would like to reassure the families and South Africans at large that government has not taken the foot off the pedal. The repatriation of the mortal remains is very high on the government agenda,” said the Minister.

Injured South Africans

Of the 29 injured South Africans, who were repatriated since the incident, six patients are still receiving treatment at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria.

The others have been discharged and are recuperating at home. – SAnews.gov.za