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Sosoliso: Parents fight over corpses • Govt considers DNA test • Obasanjo suspends perm sec, visits college

Posted by Soni Daniel, Sola Adebayo, Oluyinka Akintunde and Onyedi Ojiabor on 2005/12/13 | Views: 748 |

Sosoliso: Parents fight over corpses • Govt considers DNA test • Obasanjo suspends perm sec, visits college


Indications emerged on Monday in Port Harcourt that some of the victims of Saturday’s Sosoliso Airlines plane crash might not have the opportunity of being buried individually.

Indications emerged on Monday in Port Harcourt that some of the victims of Saturday’s Sosoliso Airlines plane crash might not have the opportunity of being buried individually.

Reason: Their bodies are being contested by their parents and relatives.

And the blame for this goes to the Rivers State Government which the mourning parents and relatives have accused of not putting in place a proper method of identifying and releasing the corpses.

Three of such parents –Mr. Dennis Ekereuwem, Dr. Andy Ilabor and Mr. Olubusayo Adebolu – who narrated their ordeals to our correspondents, said it was painful that other bereaved families were claiming the bodies that did not belong to them.

Ekereuwem, a top oil worker , said four families were laying claims to the remains of his 14-year-old daughter.

He said, “It is very sad that I have to wait here indefinitely because some people are contesting the body of my dead daughter with me.”

Although he did not name the families, he added,“I have brought my daughter’s photograph and one of the families is still insisting that the body of my daughter is theirs.

“I doubt if anybody is sure of what he or she is talking. That is the extent of the trauma.”

Ekereuwem argued that it would have been better if the government had given the victims a mass burial instead of releasing their bodies without a proper method of identification.

The family of Ilabor which lost three children, are yet to get the third, a girl, following a contention by another family over her remains.

Ilabor said, “We have some conflicts in identifying my first daughter with another family that happens to be close to us. We are insisting on DNA being done to identify that corpse.”

He however said that her burial would have to wait until the controversy over the ownership of her body was sorted out.

Ilabor blamed the crash on the Federal Government for not paying serious attention to the aviation industry.

Adebolu said that he would not mind if a DNA test was conducted to determine the ownership of the corpse of his child which was being contested by someone else.

Investigations by our correspondents revealed that many families that were unable to identify their dead resorted to taking any corpse for burial.

Those who went home empty-handed accused the government of being responsible for the disappearance of the bodies of their departed relations.

They said they might have to go to court if nothing was done to enable them to recover and give their departed ones a befitting burial.

A source at the Rivers State Ministry of Health however told our correspondents that the government was considering DNA test so as to put to rest the controversy surrounding the identity of corpses.

The Rivers State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Magnus Abe, said the state did its best to identify the crash victims.

He said, “It is difficult to identify people who have been burnt beyond recognition. The Rivers State Government has tried its best given the fact that the tragedy was not prepared for.”

In Abuja, President Olusegun Obasanjo ordered the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Aviation, Mr. Tommy Oyelade , to proceed on an indefinite leave following the numerous air crashes and near mishaps in the country.

Also to proceed on indefinite leave, is the Director of Planning, Research and Statistics (PRS) in the ministry, Mr. Esai Dangabar.

Obasanjo, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mrs. Oluremi Oyo, also ordered a critical assessment of institutional and human capacity deficiencies in the aviation sector.

He noted that the actions were as a result of the spate of "regrettable" accidents in the aviation sector.

Earlier, Obasanjo visited the Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja, to commiserate with the management over the death of 71 of its students.

He urged Nigerians not to attribute the increasing spate of plane crashes in the country to supernatural forces.

The President noted that it was unfortunate that within two months, the country had had series of air mishaps.

He said,"I will not want to jump to conclusion as to why the latest crash happened but I would want to know why. Some people may attribute it partly to superstition. I will not like to think that way because I believe that any thing that happened, God allowed it otherwise it would not happen."

Obasanjo promised that the government would act swiftly to ensure that Nigerians and indeed the world " do not lose confidence in the aviation industry."

He said that he had also directed stakeholders meeting of the aviation industry as part of the measures to finding lasting solution to incessant air accidents.

The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Most Rev. John Onaiyekan, who received Obasanjo, said that parents of those who lost their loved ones would be consoled that they were not alone in their moment of grief.

The Minister of Aviation, Prof. Babalola Borishade, who arrived the country on Monday from a one–week visit to Canada, also visited the college to commiserate with the management.

Babalola said the ministry had engaged the services of Akintola Williams and J.K. Randle, to scrutinise the books of key parastatals in the ministry.

"This is with a view to exposing those who perpetrated corruption and brought the industry to ridicule. The culprit would be handed over to the appropriate authorities for further necessary action," he said.

In Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Government declared a seven-day mourning for the crash victims.

During the period, flags in the state will fly at half mast.

The Governor, Dr. Peter Odili, in a televised broadcast on Monday, declared Tuesday (today), a workfree day to enable christians to pray for the repose of the souls of the victims.

Meanwhile, the black box and the flight recorder of the ill-fated plane has been dispatched to the United Kingdom for processing .

The Director of Accident Investigation and Prevention in the Federal Minitry of Aviation, Mr. Angus Ozoka, told journalists in Port Harcourt that the ministry would also carry out interviews with relevant groups and individuals to determine the remote and immediate cause of the crash.

THE PUNCH, Tuesday, December 13, 2005

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.