National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) has pointed out the reasons why Nigeria continued to experience an increase in missing persons cases across the country.
The agency said the increase might not be related to the mass death rate caused by explosions, bombings and inter-tribal conflicts.
The agency (NEMA), said that because people find it difficult to identify bodies because they are usually burned beyond recognition, the bodies end up being thrown into body bags and then buried in droves because no one came forward to claim them.
However, in order to address it, the agency announced its willingness to develop a mass fatality response plan.
The plan is aimed at the efficient handling and management of mass fatality in Nigeria.
It is hoped that the plan will also facilitate the identification of the dead who are mainly thrown into body bags and sent to morgues.
The Director-General of NEMA Engr. Mustapha Maihaja, disclosed this in Abuja at the stakeholder workshop on developing a national mass fatality response plan for Nigeria.
Mustapha Maihaja, was represented by the director of disaster risk reduction, Vincent Owan, said: “Mass deaths result substantially in Nigeria from an explosion, bombing and inter-tribal conflicts. Such attacks are often against untrained, unsuspecting and unprotected civilians. The helpless situation brought to the fore the need to face the challenges and give the dead the necessary.
“Over the years, we have faced many challenges in identifying organs after we have mass casualties. So today, we are here to develop a mass fatality response plan for Nigeria, which is very important.
“If there is an incident, how do you do it and how do you identify the agencies and that’s why the stakeholders that are essential in disaster management are here. When a mass casualty incident occurs after the plan is developed, procedures will be established to identify them.
“If, for example, we have a mass victim, it is difficult for those who are alive to identify the bodies and, due to the difficulty, the bodies end up being placed in body bags and taken to the morgue and after a few days when no one else comes to claim them because it will be difficult to claim bodies that cannot be identified, you will find out that the bodies are buried in mass graves. At the end of the day, you see people talking about missing people. It is the reason for the increase in cases of missing persons and is a major challenge in this country. “
The agency explained it is working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), disaster management agencies, ministry of health, academia, pathologists and other relevant stakeholders to develop the working document.
Also speaking, the ICRC’s Protection Coordinator, Maryam Kashefi, said the plan would help prevent people from disappearing, paving the way for the development of a national mass fatalities management plan.
She said: “This will represent a milestone in Africa and address the complexity of coordination mechanisms in disaster situations because, in the end, humanitarian management of the dead is about caring for the living and helping bereaved families to mourn and move on with their life.”