By Tony Ekata, Johannesburg

A cross section of participants at the candlelight vigil

A cross section of participants at the candlelight vigil
A cross section of participants at the candlelight vigil

Members of the Nigerian community in South Africa have held a candlelight vigil for the South African victims of the Synagogue Church of All Nations’ (SCOAN) building collapse in Lagos, Nigeria.

The event, organized by Nigeria Union South Africa (NUSA) at the Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg, was attended mainly by a cross section of Nigerians resident in the Gauteng Province, family members and friends of the deceased, religious ministers, and officials of the Consulate, led by the Consular Officer in Charge of Trade and Investment, Mr. Uche Okafor.

NUSA President, Mr. Ikechukwu Anyene, told Voice of Nigeria in an exclusive interview that the vigil was informed by the need to identify with the grieving families and honour the dead as done in Nigeria:

We feel the pain of South Africans, we were at the airport when the wounded were brought back from Lagos and we felt as a Nigerian community in South Africa, we should do something as we normally do in our own country to commiserate with South Africans.”

Mrs Lindelua Uche lighting a candle for the deceased at the Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg
Mrs Lindelua Uche lighting a candle for the deceased at the Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg

Cooperation

Mr. Anyene said the union planned to pay condolence visits to the families of the deceased and counseled that the incident should not be a source of friction between South Africans and Nigerians.

“There is tension now but I know that the understanding and cooperation between us will continue when the tension goes down. Instead of this tragedy pulling the countries apart, it should actually make the countries to work together to avoid such incidents in future,” he said.

Act of God

VON Correspondent Tony Ekata chatting with Mr. Chidozie Ejimadu
VON Correspondent Tony Ekata chatting with Mr. Chidozie Ejimadu

Speaking in the same vein, one of the officiating priests at the vigil, Executive President of Impact Africa Network and the Chairman of International Gathering for Peace and Human Rights, Bishop (Dr) Chidebere Ogbu, described the incident as an act of God and stressed the need for Nigeria and South Africa to continue to work together.

“Right now, the two most empowered countries in Africa are Nigeria and South Africa. For the two countries to have a problem now is not in any way for the benefit of Africa. So, this little problem should not bring a crisis between Nigeria and South Africa,” Dr Ogbu advised.

Also, Mrs. Lindelua Uche, a South African woman married to a Nigerian for the last 16 years, pointed out that the tragedy could have occurred anywhere. She said, “Building collapse is not only a Nigerian problem. Buildings do collapse everywhere in Africa, including South Africa. This incident, rather than divide us should bring us closer”

A lawyer and religious minister, Mr. Chidozie Ejimadu, who rendered a moving poem at the event to honour the deceased, said those who are trading blame for the SCOAN tragedy should ponder and exercise wisdom in their reaction:

“God works in complex ways. If people start jumping up because a building collapsed in Lagos, why don’t they also ask, ‘why is it that God allowed apartheid to rage in South Africa for a very long time’?” 

Death toll

Meanwhile, South African authorities have established that 3deceased persons in the building collapse are citizens of Zimbabwe while 1 is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, though they travelled to Nigeria with South African permanent residents’ permits. This brings down to 80, the number of South Africans who died in the incident.

 

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