Hajj Stampede: 87 more Nigerians confirmed dead

By: Abbas Jimoh

Eighty-seven more Nigerians have been confirmed dead, after the September 24 stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia, thereby bumping up the death toll of Nigerians to 309, with 47 officially missing. Sokoto and Kano states still top the list of casualties.

An official of the commission who pleaded anonymity told Daily Trust yesterday in Abuja that only 47 Nigerians remain officially missing, as those on admission have been discharged.

The Head of Medical of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) Dr. Ibrahim Kana had told Daily Trust a fortnight ago that the latest figures then were 222 identified bodies, 130 missing and three recuperating in the hospital and that the commission would not leave any stone unturned to account for all Nigerians.

“Majority have been buried in Makkah. We have all the records of graves of Nigerians. The idea is that we would share this with relations who may want to visit and pray for them,” Kana had said.

During the Hajj exercise when the stampede occurred, NAHCON had set up of three committee on the incident; burial arrangement headed by Alhaji Salisu Danjuma, another to liaise with families of victims headed by Dr K. K Olosho and the third headed by a Deputy Comptroller-General of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) Muhammed Babandede to investigate.

When contacted, the Commissioner Planning, Research Statistical Information and Library Service (PRSILS) of NAHCON Dr. Saleh Okenwa told Daily Trust that though he cannot give a breakdown, he can confirm that 47 Nigerians were officially declared missing. He also insisted that those missing cannot be declared dead as their bodies have not been identified.

As at 18 October, the Nigerian death toll was 199 with Sokoto and Kano states losing 79 and 20 pilgrims, respectively. Sokoto also accounts for the highest number of those missing at 59. Both states recorded the highest female casualty.

Meanwhile, the commission will on Monday in Abuja hold a high-level stakeholders meeting involving officials of the ministries of health and foreign affairs, board members of the commission, zonal coordinators and other relevant stakeholders on the modalities for the DNA testing of family members of those declared missing.

Dr. Kana had told Daily Trust that the DNA analysis that would be carried out in Nigeria would provide identities for everyone, adding that the DNA kits collected from the Saudi authorities will be used on relations, while the DNA analysis would be conducted in Riyadh.

Dr. Okenwa told Daily Trust that the blood samples can only be taken from the victims’ direct relations. Other states affected in the stampede are Adamawa, Borno, FCT, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Plateau, Rivers, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara who lost pilgrims between one and seven for the dead

The number of dead continued to rise after some of the missing were identified among the corpses in the hospitals and the figure is expected to rise when those declared missing may have been identified. While Saudi Arabia within the first days put the death toll at 769, it has not updated the figure. Independent collation put the death toll at 2385 and 571 missing, with 45 countries affected.

SOURCE: WEEKLY TRUST

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