Nigerian preacher TB Joshua on Thursday broke his silence over a building collapse that killed 80 at his Lagos megachurch but denied lack of co-operation and stuck to his theory of possible aerial sabotage, reports BD Live.
The popular televangelist, known as “The Preacher” or “The Man of God” to his thousands of followers in Nigeria and around the world, also indicated that other overseas nationals were involved.
President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday said that 67 South Aricans were killed when a guesthouse for foreign followers of the Synagogue Church of All Nations came down last Friday.
The death toll from the tragedy climbed after 10 more bodies were pulled from among the twisted metal and shattered masonry of the building on the sprawling church compound.
Joshua had not directly commented on the deaths and had only published Bible quotations on his Facebook site and Twitter account.
But in a statement he extended his sympathies to victims’ families and described those who died as “martyrs of the Kingdom of God”.
“The pain of one is the pain of all. It is indeed a sad and painful moment for the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones,” he said.
“To all those who lost family members and loved ones, please accept our heartfelt commiserations.”
He said “Nigerians, South African and citizens of other nations were affected”, but did not specify which countries or say whether they were among the dead, 131 injured or both.
SA’s High Commissioner to Nigeria Lulu Mnguni said 17 of his compatriots were unaccounted for and the church had set up a hotline in Johannesburg for concerned relatives.
“It (the death toll) can’t all be South Africans,” he told AFP. “There were also Nigerians who were working.”
Two children were pulled alive from the collapsed building but both their mother and father were among the missing, he said.
“They were under the rubble together with their father. Their father kept them talking to each other,” he said.
Freed after 5 days under rubble
Nehanda Radio.com reports that a South African woman who was trapped in the rubble of the collapsed church guesthouse for five days has been found uninjured by rescuers. Lindiwe Ndwandwe drank water from a broken pipe while she was stuck in a tiny space in the ruins of prophet TB Joshua’s church guesthouse, the Times reported.
South African consul-general in Nigeria, Sam Monaisa, said Ndwandwe’s rescue was “amazing” and gives hope that others might be found alive.
According to the BBC about 300 people, not all South African, travelled from South Africa last week to Lagos for one of Joshua’s healing gatherings.
On Wednesday, the Lagos state government ordered urgent structural checks of all buildings on the church site while Nema said that rescue operations could wind up on Thursday.
In SA, president Zuma rejected criticism that his government was slow to respond to the tragedy.
Joshua, whose followers include heads of state and top-level politicians such as Malawi’s former president Joyce Banda, again suggested that a low-flying aircraft may have been to blame.
“This incident was preceded by the appearance of a strange aircraft which flew very low over the building four times and then disappeared,” he said.
“The church views this tragedy as part of an attack on The Synagogue Church Of All Nations and in particular prophet TB Joshua.
“In due course, God will reveal the perpetrators of this unfortunate tragedy.”
Responses from SA
In a media statment this weak the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa “expresses its deepest sympathy and heartfelt condolences to the family-members of the victims of the tragic catastrophe at the campus of TB. Joshua in Lagos, Nigeria.”
“It is not the AFM’s mandate to speculate about the reasons for the collapse of the building and even less about the fact that devoted Christians were the victims.
“The AFM Leadership merely wishes to express its solidarity and sorrow with the bereaved families. The Bible declares that if one member of the Body suffers, all suffer.
“The AFM, in conjunction with assemblies and pastors across the country, avail ourselves to support and care for the family members and friends of the victims.”
The African Christian Democratic Party responded: “The ACDP is grieved by the tragic loss of life and was deeply saddened at the time of receiving the news that sixty-seven South Africans had been killed and scores injured in the collapse of a building in the compound of a Lagos Pentecostal church in Nigeria last week.
“We extend our deepest sympathy to the families of the bereaved and pray for the swift and full recovery of those who were wounded.”
The Economic Freedom Fighters Party, whose leader Julius Malema has reportedly previously consulted TB Joshua in Lagos comments on the tragedy as follows: “The Economic Freedom Fighters sends its revolutionary condolences to the families and friends of 67 South Africans who have lost their lives after the collapse of a building at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Nigeria.
“This is indeed a sad and tragic development. These compatriots left the country to go and seek the face of God through prayer and only to meet their untimely death.
“This tragedy must particularly weigh heavily on the shoulders of the Head of SCOAN, Prophet TB Joshua, who is a man with great heart, which has been demonstrated in all his humanitarian acts for the poor and the downtrodden. The EFF wishes him strength. The EFF also sends its revolutionary condolences to the other families from the rest of the world who have lost loved ones in this tragedy. Our hearts and prayers are with you.”