Media release

Update on the situation affecting SA citizens in Lagos

18 September 2014

18 September 2014

This statement serves as an update on the situation following the collapse of a building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Lagos, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Government has already announced, as instructed by President Zuma, that our disaster management processes and mechanisms have been activated; that an inter-departmental team has been put together and that the NATJOINTS has also been activated to provide technical assistance and support to the victims and their families.

Subsequently, the President has also appointed an Inter-Ministerial Task Team led by the Minister in The Presidency, Mr Jeff Radebe. Other members of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team include the Ministers of International Relations and Cooperation; Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula; State Security, Mr David Mahlobo; Police, Mr Nkosinathi Nhleko; Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi; Home Affairs, Mr Malusi Gigaba; Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini;  Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mr Pravin Gordhan.

The Inter-Ministerial Task Team will lead Government efforts in supporting the families and doing whatever is necessary to manage the impact of the tragedy. As the President said when announcing the Task Team, Government urges all South Africans to provide all possible support to the affected families.

Government is maintaining contact with the affected families and is providing information as and when it is received from the authorities in Lagos, working through our High Commission and the Consul-General in Nigeria. We would once again like to thank the families of the affected compatriots for their cooperation and understanding during this painful period.

Since the appeal made yesterday for family members to send photographs of their affected loved ones to the Operations Centre at DIRCO, we have received an overwhelmingly positive response and we appreciate this gesture of cooperation.

We have forwarded the pictures to the South African Consulate in Nigeria and the team on the ground in Lagos is making use of the pictures in the process of identifying those of our fallen compatriots who can still be identified through the use of photographs. We understand that some of the bodies may take a while to be positively identified due to the nature and extent of the calamity.

An Assessment Team has arrived in Lagos to conduct an assessment on the ground as a matter of urgency.  The assessment team will give feedback to government on necessary arrangements to be made to treat or bring home the injured. The team will also work with authorities on the process of the repatriation of the mortal remains of deceased South Africans.

Today we received new information from our Consulate in Lagos confirming the seriousness of the incident. The team has confirmed that, at the time of the incident, there were a total of 349 South Africans in Lagos on matters connected to the church. Of these, 265 were found alive.

Out of the 84 that are unaccounted for, the figure of our compatriots that perished, as received from our mission, stands at 67. The mission has informed us that 10 bodies have been positively linked as our citizens through reference to identity documents found in their possession. The families of these deceased compatriots have been informed; and government has deployed a team of social workers at the DIRCO Operation Centre and ORTIA to provide the much needed support to the affected families.

South African government would like to reiterate our commitment that all South Africans are accounted for. Once the deceased have been positively identified government working with all stakeholders will ensure that the remains are repatriated back home. 

The South African High Commissioner and the Consul-General have been working with the leadership of the church and other authorities, visiting the scene, going to hospitals and mortuaries in an effort to provide assistance to all our affected citizens. Here in Pretoria, the 24-hour Operations Centre that has been set up at DIRCO is relaying information from Nigeria to the families as well as receiving information from the families and sharing the information with the team on the ground in Lagos.

Government once again thanks all affected families and friends for sharing information with government.

As President Zuma said, our thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues that have lost their loved ones in this heart-breaking tragedy. The whole nation shares the pain of the mothers, fathers, daughters and sons who have lost their loved ones. We are all in grief. This is a time for all of us to work together to bring comfort and support to the affected families during this difficult time.

Phumla Williams
Cell: 083 501 0139

Nelson Kgwete
Cell: 076 431 3078

Issued by GCIS on behalf of  the Inter-ministerial Task Team on the Nigerian Tragedy

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