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Nigerians want law on unclaimed corpses in morgues

17 September 2015, 18:08

Abuja - Some Nigerians have called for the enactment of a law that would address the problem of abandoned corpses in morgues across the country.

Making the call in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the citizens identified problems of accumulated mortuary bills and lack of proper identification of victims as some of the factors responsible for remains of the dead not being claimed by relations.

Mr James Buba, a mortuary attendant at the LCCN Hospital in Yola, urged the National Assembly to enact a law that would henceforth address the problem of unclaimed corpses at mortuaries.

He said that there was need to fix a time frame for keeping corpses in the morgue.

Buba, however, noted that most of the unclaimed corpses, especially accident victims, remained in mortuary for lack of identification by relations of the deceased.

Mrs Sara Zira, a staff Nurse with Alfa Clinic in Jimeta-Yola, said that the over-stay of corpses was dangerous to environmental health.

Also read: Woman's corpse found in Ogun rubbish dump

Zira said the process of embalmment involved the application of chemicals, adding that the corpse could begin to emit the chemicals to the environment when kept for long.

She also called on the government to enact a law that would regulate the handling of corpses.

Also contributing, Mr Denis Kura, a resident of Yola, said that accumulated mortuary bills were sometimes responsible for the pilling of corpses in morgues.

In Bauchi, the Public Relations Officer, Bauchi State Police Command, DSP Haruna Mohammed, told NAN that a substantial percentage of abandoned corpses in mortuaries across the state were remains of babies.

He said that other corpses that often remained in morgues unclaimed were those of people who drowned and accident victims.
He said that after some time, public announcement were made before burying the corpses.

"Most corpses that remain unclaimed are those of babies. Other abandoned corpses are remains of victims of disasters such as accidents and drowning, among others,” he said.

He said that after thorough investigation of unclaimed corpses, they were often handed to the Welfare Departments of local government councils for burial.

Acting Chief Medical Director, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital (ATBU-TH), Bauchi, Dr Yusuf Jibrin, said most unclaimed corpses were remains of accident victims brought by the police. But in Borno, the Chief Medical Director of University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital (UMTH), Prof. Abdulrahman Tahir, said there were no unclaimed corpses in their morgue.

"Cases of abandoned corpses have become a thing of the past, unlike in 2010 when we used to have several unclaimed remains because of the security challenges.

"At that time, the military often come to drop loads of dead bodies.

"What we were doing then was sponsoring public announcements over the media and if remains last 15 days without being claimed, we took such dead bodies to the military Task Force.

"The mortuary has the capacity to accommodate about 400 copses," he said.

However, Mr Emeka Chikwudi, a spare parts dealer in Maiduguri, said it took him two months to save money for the burial of his brother.

"Financial incapacitation is one of the reasons why corpses are abandoned in the mortuary. In my place, you spend a lot of money to bury the dead.

"When my own brother died, I had to save about N2 million for his burial while his corpse remained in the Teaching Hospital morgue,” he said.

Malam Abubakar Muktar, a resident of Maiduguri, said his son was a victim of the insurgency, pointing out that his corpse was never traced.

"Many people have died without been traced, my son died along Bama road in 2012 after being attacked by Boko Haram.

"One of the escapees came and told us that my son could not run because he was shot in the leg.

"His remains might have been kept somewhere but because I had no idea of the place, it would have remained unclaimed,” he said.

Malam Abdullahi Isah, Secretary, Specialists’ Hospital, Gombe, said most of the unclaimed corpses in the hospital were either the remains of destitute or accident victims.

"I am calling on the public to imbibe the culture of travelling with their identity cards or giving their correct addresses at the motor park.

"This will go a long way in identifying their relations whenever accidents occur or if there is any problem,” he advised.

According to him, whenever they have unclaimed corpses, the hospital liaises with the police and social welfare department and bury them.

Mr Ayobami Omiyale, Sector Commander of Federal Road Safety Commission, Gombe state, also confirmed that most of the unclaimed corps were victims of road accidents, especially long journey.

On her part, Mrs Sarah Yeppwa, the Deputy Director, NOA, Gombe state, also advised travellers to have means of identification even if they never had any identity card.

She also called on the National Union of Road Transport Workers to make it mandatory for passengers to give their complete identity and those of their relations in the manifest.

A report from Damaturu, Yobe, said there are no unclaimed corpses in hospital morgues.

Alhaji Usman Muhammad, an Islamic Scholar and resident of Damaturu, attributed this development to cultural and religious beliefs.

"In Islam, the dead is supposed to be burried immediately he or she is confirmed dead.

"It is unacceptable to delay burial of the dead and that is why we do not leave them in the morgue,” he said.

Similarly, in Jigawa, hospital sources told NAN at the state government-owned Rasheed Sekoni Specialists’ Hospital, Dutse, that measures taken by the management had left them with no unclaimed corpses.

"We do not have unclaimed corpses. The maximum period corpses are kept in the mortuary is one week, and if not identified and claimed, we secure court warrant and bury them,” said Alhaji Kabiru Ibrahim, a staff of the hospital.


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