Nigeria collapse: Govt working to speed up repatriation of bodies

Cyril Ramaphosa said the Nigerian government’s investigation has to be respected.

FILE: Rescue efforts underway in Lagos, Nigeria where at least 67 South Africans have been killed after the collapse of a building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says government is doing all it can to speed up the repatriation of the bodies of more than 80 South Africans who died in the Nigerian church disaster.

The building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed on 12 September, killing 115 people, including 84 South Africans.

The collapse occurred 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.

Led by the charismatic "Prophet" TB Joshua, the 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.

Families of the 84 South Africans who died are still waiting for the return of their bodies.

Ramaphosa said the South African government is making every effort but at the same time, the Nigerian government's investigation has to be respected.

Nigeria launched a court inquest on Friday into the collapse of the church guesthouse.

The deputy president was replying to questions in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Tuesday afternoon.

Dr Hunadi Mateme, African National Congress Chief Whip in the NCOP, spoke of the pain of those who lost loved ones and who can't get closure.

But Ramaphosa said an inquest started on 24 October but South Africa is not part of the investigation ordered by the Nigerian government.

He said South Africa is ready to repatriate the remains of those who died in the disaster but could not give a date when this was likely to happen.

Nigeria has a history of building collapses due to shoddy construction, with 130 reported incidents from 2007 to 2012 in Lagos alone, its vast and largest city of 21 million people.

At the same time, Joshua is scheduled to testify in court on 5 November.