Johannesburg - “You don’t want to die in Nigeria.” Another member of the international press, who had been based in Lagos for several years, was giving me her thoughts on the collapse of the Synagogue Church of Nations, or Scoan, hostel building.
“Hell, you don’t even want to get sick in Nigeria. You are just another number. You will be told ‘people die all the time in Nigeria, what makes you so special?’”
Tough words, especially since death carries such weight in other parts of Africa, but after what my team and I had witnessed and reported on the past week it was quickly becoming believable.
The rescue of those trapped in the collapse, and the recovery of those killed, seemed lacklustre at best. Officials – both from the church and then from the first responders the National Emergency Management Authority – seemed to be almost deliberately keeping the figures as low as possible, and releasing little information to the press. It wasn’t until news broke that 67 of those killed were South African (the number later jumped to 84) that the story got much attention at all.
I would have expected the Nigerian authorities to have done anything they could to accommodate the South Africans. Yet I was told countless stories of family members and caregivers being barred from entering hospitals and morgues.