”Most of the corpses buried in the mass grave yesterday (Friday) were those that were mutilated or burnt beyond recognition.”
Four days after at least 122 people were killed in twin explosions, the Plateau State government, unable to preserve the corpses of scores of the victims in its insufficient hospital mortuaries, approved a secret mass burial.
Scores of the unclaimed corpses were, Friday evening, subsequently given a mass burial, officials have said.
The burial was done without any announcement by officials on any radio or television station, and was not mentioned by the Plateau State governor, who addressed journalists on Friday afternoon on his first visit to the blast scene.
The twin car explosions on Tuesday afternoon at the Terminus Market also injured over 120 people.
The Zonal Information Officer of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Audu Yohana, confirmed the mass burial to PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday in a telephone interview.
The Chief Medical Director of the Plateau Specialist Hospital, Gidado Idris, also confirmed the conduct of the mass burial, but declined further comments.
The NEMA spokesperson said the corpses were buried on Friday evening along Maingo road in Jos South Local Government Area of the state.
”Most of the corpses buried in the mass grave yesterday (Friday) were those that were mutilated or burnt beyond recognition and those that nobody has come to claim since the incident occurred,” he said.
Mr. Yohana said the mass burial was conducted in collaboration with the State Emergency Management Agency, SEMA.
“SEMA wrote to us (NEMA) over the mass burial. It was conducted along Maingo road late yesterday,” he said.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the hospital mortuaries where the corpses were taken to were overfilled and many of the corpses dropped on the floor.
On Wednesday morning, a PREMIUM TIMES correspondent counted over 50 corpses on the mortuary floor of the Plateau Specialist Hospital; about double that number were also piled on themselves at the mortuary of the temporary site of the Jos University Teaching Hospital.
On Friday afternoon, passersby near the specialist hospital reported pungent, putrid smell oozing all around the hospital mortuary, as many of the corpses, apparently unattended to, decayed.
The worsening smell around the hospital, and its health implications, sources said, informed the government’s decision to carry out the mass burial.
When PREMIUM TIMES visited the Plateau Specialist Hospital mortuary on Saturday morning, all the decomposed bodies had been cleared, apparently for the burial, while the odour had stopped.
The Executive Secretary of SEMA, Alhasan Barde, confirmed the burial but said it was a necessary action.
He said the agency got the approval of the Plateau Police Commissioner, Chris Olakpe, and that the burial was done in conjunction with the state ministries of health and environment.
Mr. Barde admitted that the corpses were already in “bad state” and had not been claimed since the explosion.
He also said the state had opened a register for people who were yet to see their loved ones, or their corpses, to register such; and that another mass burial would be done on Monday.
Some residents, who had identified the corpses of their relations, had already claimed them.
The Plateau governor, in his speech on Friday, had also asked residents yet to see their families to make complaints to relevant government agencies.
Mr. Jang had also blamed traders at the terminus marker for the explosion. He said the state government had asked the traders to leave, which they declined.
He added that the market would be demolished and the traders chased from the site.
Mr. Jang had also spoken on the controversial casualty figure from the blast. He claimed the state’s record showed 78 people died.
NEMA had, however, said at least 122 people died from the blast while hospital officials and PREMIUM TIMES body count showed that about 200 people died from the explosion.
With Friday’s mass and unannounced burial, Nigerians may never know how many people really died from the Jos explosions.