Nigeria collapse: Families refused entry to state mortuary

The initial reason provided by government is that the bodies are in a bad state.

A policeman monitors the excavation of the collapsed guesthouse of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in the Ikotun neighborhood of Lagos on 17 September, 2014. Picture: AFP.

LAGOS/JOHANNESBURG - The Nigerian government has refused to allow South African families to enter the state mortuary to identify the bodies of their loved ones.

At least 67 South Africans were killed when a residential building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria collapsed on Friday.

The collapse occurred on Friday when three extra storeys were being added to the existing two of a guest house of the church compound, where visitors from abroad flock to stay.

Uncertainty remains about the actual number of South Africans who died during the collapse with heavy security measures at the building site and government mortuary.

The South African government has also been struggling to get information.

The National Emergency Management Agency in Nigeria says the death toll stands at 80, while 131 survivors have been pulled from the rubble.

Traumatised families in Nigeria have been left frustrated as they desperately plead for answers about the fate of their loved ones.

South Africa's High Commissioner to Nigeria Lulu Mnguni says a meeting has been scheduled with the health commissioner this afternoon to ensure the families are allowed into the state mortuary.

The initial reason provided by government is that the bodies are in a bad state.

At this stage, only Nigerian government officials are allowed to enter the mortuary.

The collapsed Lagos Pentacostal church attracts a global following of Christians who believe Joshua is able to perform miracles including curing the ill and raising the dead from the grave.

The regular influx of visitors from abroad for the church's services, which can last up to a week, creates demand for accommodation that the church's own guest house has been unable to meet, and often spills over into local hotels.

Several African leaders have traveled to Nigeria to meet with spiritual "healer" Joshua, including former Malawian President Joyce Banda and Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema.

It was reported at least 17 bodies were recovered from the rubble on Wednesday to add to the 63 dead bodies removed previously, bringing the total death toll from the collapse of a building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos to 80, while rescue operations continue.


Mnguni said 17 South Africans are still unaccounted for following Friday's building collapse.

He said there are 265 South African survivors with 29 still in hospital, including a three-year-old child.

Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma says an inter-ministerial task team will help Nigeria manage the disaster.

Zuma again expressed his condolences to the families of the victims during a local government summit in Midrand earlier today.

The president said the task team will be headed by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe and a number of other members from the departments of international relations, home affairs and cooperative governance.

A team, comprising of 10 officials, left for Nigeria last night to assist with forensic tests.

The advanced team will assist in the search and recovery operation.