BY EBUN SESSOU
Calm seemed to have returned to the Lekan Ogunsola mortuary of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Ikeja where families of the victims of the Dana Air crash converged in order to identify the remains of their loved ones.
Although, some of the corpses have been identified and released to their families, others are still battling with the identification process.
And with the completion of the autopsy investigation on Wednesday this week by the management of Lagos State Teaching Hospital which was led by a consultant pathologist, forensic medicine, and vice chancellor, Lagos State University (LASU), Professor John Obafunwa, and seven other pathologists, the part one of the show seemed to have come to an end.
Unfortunately, some of the relatives of the victims who haven’t been able to identify the corpses of their loved ones have continued to express dissatisfaction against the management of the hospital who they claimed to have been playing games with their corpses.
However, the family members have been given forms to fill for identification process which also included taking the passport photographs of family representatives and photocopies of their international passports.
A man who was reluctant to talk to the press said, “Please, I wouldn’t want to talk on that issue because I don’t know if the management of this hospital is trying to play games with our corpses. I don’t really know what is wrong with them”.
Efforts to make him talk more on the issue proved abortive as he wouldn’t give any chance for more interrogations.
In his moody condition, he was seated in the waiting room of the Lekan Ogunsola mortuary, waiting patiently to be given the opportunity to identify the corpse of his beloved one.
Some other families who also came to claim the bodies of their beloved ones who were involved in the ill-fated Dana plane crash wouldn’t accommodate the presence of any reporter.
The look on their faces was enough signal that they weren’t ready to accommodate any question and answer time, even a sight of any reporter was disgusting.
Anyone who is caught taking a shot would be in for more troubles as they are already bitter and are looking for the nearest available means to vet their anger.
As much as journalists were ready to make friendship with them in a way to penetrate them and get them to talk, they wouldn’t cooperate at all.
Those who were ready to talk with reporters were skeptical on what to say. Some seemed to have lost their sense of reasoning.
Earlier this week, two families fought over a particular corpse earlier identified by one of the families who claimed that the corpse was quite identifiable last week but had now degenerated so much that they look alike.
Trouble ensued when the family of late Mr. Jones Ifekanwa, who died in the crash was told that another family who refused to disclose their identity to newsmen have also identified same corpse as their own.
In an encounter with Saturday Vanguard, one of the relatives of the victims Jenifer Enanana who was at the hospital in search of her brother said, “I am testifying just for my brother, Mr. Jones Ifekanwa. He was identified at the crash site.
He wasn’t burnt. He had his identity card with him and some other documents in his pockets and he was identified with those documents. When we were there last Tuesday, it did not take them up to five minutes to get him to us. They even told us that we were very lucky so they wrote his name on the body bag he was in. When we went in there, we identified his clothes and birth marks on him and everything was okay. They told us that within 48 hours he will be released.
But, things didn’t work out that way. We were told that there are still some investigations including DNA to be carried out. So, getting him was delayed. So, we went back on Saturday but we found out that he was not properly taken care of, we found out that he was getting worse. His face was peeling off, he was deteriorating and I expressed my grievances.
Luckily enough, Fashola said we should meet him on Sunday, which most of us did. The place was packed full with people. It was agreed there that all identified bodies should be released. And unknowingly, they had released six bodies without us knowing. After, they told us that, they need DNA reports to be completed before releasing the body. We got to know that six bodies have been released as at last week Friday.
“We have come to claim our body that had been identified by the chief examiner on the case, Prof. Obafunwa and confirmed by us to be him only for us to get there, the professor that claims to know what he is doing took us in again, traumatising my family members to re-identify the body that had already been identified by them and confirmed and identified by us. “They took us in and they wrapped him up as if it was a gift pack showing just his face not his ears, head and wrapped up. And we were telling them that this is our brother whom we have identified.
He has a mark on his lips and on his fore-head is somehow, it just a unique feature of him and all that. We cannot take that anymore because we are hearing rumours flying around that they have started selling bodies. We heard that these big men are coming to take bodies to put in their caskets for them to throw party.
“Could you believe that another family went in and claimed the same body. A body that has been identified by them and confirmed by us twice, he (chief examiner) took another family to go and identify the body. The family was already devastated and the girl came out and because she wasn’t sure of the body and asked him to bring out his hands because their own person has a mark in his hands. The professor refused.
“He now came out to tell us that there was a problem on our own body that there is a contention on the body. He said because of this he will not release the body. That means they did not store the bodies properly, that means there is something fishy going on. Because we are hearing that the so called big men in Nigeria who were in that crash who has no body to present have started coming to get bodies and because of political favour and money, they have started playing pranks. That professor has started playing pranks. You can see him shaking when he was talking. He is getting confused”.
In another development at the mortuary, an angry relative of one of the deceased attacked LASUTH officials with a cutlass but the assault was interrupted by a special squad of the Rapid Respond team of the Nigerian Police.
Victims must be well compensated – Hon. Fafunnmi
Meanwhile, Honourable member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Dayo Fafunmi, representing Ifako/Ijaye the site of the ill-fated crash expressed great sympathy for the affected families and those whose properties perished inthe crash.
His words: “I feel the pains of the people of Ifako/Ijaiye especially those who were directly affected by the plane crash. We want to say that those people suffered double loss. They were not on the road, they were in their homes when plane crashed into them which led to loss of lives and properties.
Essentially, the people of the area have greater challenge and the major challenge is inaccessibility of the roads around the crash site. If the roads were in good condition help might probably have come earlier and there might be reduction on the number of causalities that we experienced.
I learnt that when the plane crashed, it didn’t burst into flames immediately. Part of its wing crash landed into a two-storey building which has been brought down and at that point when there was no flame, some could have been done.
However, he lamented that the poor state of disaster response in the country today is devastating. “The lesson to be learnt is that our emergency recovery method needs to be improved upon. There was not enough fire-fighting devices that could assist the people before and after the explosion.
“Even NEMA was unable to do anything except for the services of Julius Berger which was employed to bring down the burnt air craft. That is to say that as a nation, we are not ready in terms of disaster management”.
Meanwhile, he said the victims should be well compensated by necessary authorities. “Even those, whose properties would be acquired by the government should be compensated irrespective of title because it was a system failure.
“The accident occurred as a result of inadequacy of some staff of the airline and the aviation ministry itself because they ought to ensure that only air-worthy aircraft are flying Nigeria air-space and since they were not there to do their duty, the system should be held responsible and ensure that adequate compensation are paid to the victims. “It was not what they bargained for. I know that government in its own way will be demanding for C of O amongst other things regardless of what the man had suffered.
The loss of lives and properties has passed any documentary requirement or whatever they might want to use to stop him from getting his legitimate right. All the three houses affected ought to be duly and adequately compensated.
Talking about relocation, he said, “The camp is a temporary site. Those people can never get the same comfort they enjoyed in their homes. And relief camp for someone who lived in such an environment, it will take sometimes for them to adjust.
And government should make the place more comfortable for them because what happened to them was an accident. I can’t blame them for not wanting to stay because they would rather prefer to stay in the neighbourhood, the homes of their friends or relatives. It is a national loss, it is a disaster that government should do everything possible to resettle and relocate them in a place that would be more befitting than where they are living now.
At least that would bring smile, although ,it cannot bring back the losses. it will soften their minds and make them feel wanted in the society. Every Nigerian should be treated with honour and respect that he or she will be willing to lay his life down for his country. It is not too much for the government to give them hope of a new life and sense of belonging.