NEMA gives reasons for rising missing person cases

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The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said the increase in missing person cases may not be unconnected to the mass fatality rate caused by explosion, bombings, and inter-tribal conflicts.

This was disclosed in Abuja by the Director-General of NEMA, Engr. Mustapha Maihaja at a stakeholder’s workshop on the development of a national mass fatality response plan for Nigeria.

Maihaja who was represented by the Director of Disaster Risk Reduction, Vincent Owan said: “Mass fatalities result substantially in Nigeria from an explosion, bombing and inter-tribal conflicts. Such attacks are often against the untrained, unsuspecting and unprotected civilians. The helpless situation brought to the fore the need to address the challenges and accord the dead the required.

“Over the years, we have been having a lot of challenges in identifying bodies after we have mass casualties. So today, we are here to develop and come up with a mass fatality response plan for Nigeria which is very key.

“If there is an incident, how do you go about it and how do you identify the bodies and that is why stakeholders who are key in disaster management are here. When an incident that has to do with mass casualty happens after the plan has been developed, procedures will be established on how to identify them.

“If for instance, we have a mass casualty, it becomes difficult for those who are alive to identify the bodies and because of the difficulty, bodies end up being put in body bags and taken to the morgue and after a couple of days when nobody comes to claim them because it will be difficult to claim bodies that cannot be identified, you will discover that the bodies are buried in mass graves. At the end of the day, you see people talking about missing persons. It is the reason for the increase in cases of the missing person and it is a big challenge in this country.”

The Agency said it is working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), ministry of health, academia, disaster management agencies, pathologists and other relevant stakeholders to develop the working document.

National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)
National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)

The agency said because people find the identification of bodies difficult because they are usually burnt beyond recognition, the corpses end up being thrown into body bags and later given mass burial because no one came forward to claim them.

To however address it, the agency disclosed its readiness to develop a mass fatality response plan.

The plan is targeted at the efficient handling and management of mass fatality in Nigeria.

It is expected that the plan will also ease the identification of the dead who are mostly thrown in body bags and sent to morgues.

Also speaking, the Protection Coordinator of ICRC, Maryam Kashefi said the plan will help prevent people from going missing by paving the way to the development of a national mass fatality handling plan.

She said: “This will represent a milestone in Africa and address the complexity of coordination mechanisms in situations of disasters because, in the end, humanitarian management of the dead is about caring for the living, and helping grieved families to mourn and go forward with their lives.”

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