By Tobi Soniyi, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Wole Ayodele in Jalingo
Two justices of the Court of Appeal, Justice Abubakar Abdulkadir Jega and Justice Musa Hassan Alkali, have been identified among the pilgrims who died in last Thursday stampede in Mina, Saudi Arabia. While Jega was the presiding justice of the Abuja Division, Justice Alkali was of the Ilorin Division.
The tragedy occurred while pilgrims were going to perform the symbolic hajj ritual of stoning the devil at the Jamarat Bridge outside Makkah, in Saudi Arabia. As at last night, the death toll had risen to 769.
A source at the Court of Appeal told THISDAY that Justice Jega was a member of the Kebbi State Government Delegation to 2015 Hajj. Last year May, the late justice, who was a brother of the former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, had lost his wife to cancer.
Also identified among the dead was the Kpanti Zing and paramount ruler of Mumuye land in Taraba State, Alhaji Abbas Sambo Ibrahim, who was also the state’s Amirul Hajj for the 2015.
Speaking with newsmen in a telephone interview from Saudi Arabia, Chairman of the state’s Pilgrims Welfare Board, Alhaji Hamman-Adama Tukur, said the Kpanti a first-class chief was among others at the site of the Jamrat.
In a further disclosure of the loss of life, the Tafidan Zing, Alhaji Gurama Bawa has also confirmed that two out of the late Kpanti’s four wives, Hajia Fatu Adamu Ibrahim and Rashida Salahu Ibrahim, who went on the pilgrimage with him, were among the dead.
Similarly, the District Head of Garba Chedde in Bali Local Government Area of the state, Alhaji Kasimu Kaigama who is the Deputy Amirul Hajj is also said to be missing following the stampede.
Alhaji Tukur further disclosed that the body of the late traditional ruler had been recovered and had been buried according Muslim rites in Mecca on Friday.
Tukur also disclosed that many indigenes of the state are still missing while others who sustained varying degrees of injuries are receiving treatment in some hospitals in the Saudi Kingdom.
The Taraba State Government however said a message received from the head of 2015 medical team, Dr Adamu Hamidu Karaoke, disclosed that eleven pilgrims were still missing while one person was hospitalised for injuries sustained in the stampede.
Also a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Niger State and lawyer, Alhaji Isa Abubakar Bashaba, has been confirmed dead in the hajj stampede. Bashaba was one time the secretary of the Niger State Pilgrims Board.
The Sokoto State government said as at 6pm on Saturday, nine pilgrims from the state had been confirmed dead in the stampede that occurred in Saudi Arabia on Thursday. The Special Adviser to the governor, Imam Imam, who disclosed this on his facebook page, said the state government had set up a help desk in the 23 local government councils, to be coordinated by the office of the Secretary to the State Government.
Earlier confirmed among the dead Nigerians in the Mina stampede were the Deputy Secretary General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Professor Tijani Abubakar El-Miskin, and renowned journalist and activist, Hajiya Bilikisu Yusuf, in the stampede.
Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, and the President of Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, have extended heartfelt condolences to the family, associates and the entire judiciary on the death of two Justices of the Appeal Court who lost their lives during the tragedy.
In separate messages, signed by their respective media aides Mr Ahurakah Isah and Mrs Saadatu Musa for the CJN and the Appeal Court President respectively, they prayed Almighty Allah to comfort the families left behind by the deceased.
The CJN received the news of the demise of the two jurists with a deep sense of shock but with gratitude to Almighty Allah and said their death was not just a huge loss to the judiciary but to Nigeria in general, adding that both men contributed immensely to the development of the nation’s jurisprudence. He prayed the Almighty Allah to grant the soul of the departed Justices eternal rest and their families the fortitude to bear the irreparable loss.
Justice Mohammed expressed his personal condolences to the immediate family and relations as well as friends and associates of the highly respected jurists whom he said would be greatly missed by the entire judiciary.
He urged members of the deceased families to be comforted by the knowledge that the departed jurists served their country with commitment, dedication and honesty.
In her condolence message, the President of the Court of Appeal expressed shock over the demise of the two Justices describing their sudden passage as a huge loss to the Judiciary, Nigeria, and most particularly the Court of Appeal.
Bulkachuwa also said the two late Justices had never been found wanting in the discharge of their responsibilities.
Similarly, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has expressed deep regret and sorrow over the tragedy that struck Muslim pilgrims. A statement released by his media office in Abuja yesterday described the incident as one of the saddest accidents to have befallen Muslims in recent memories.
Noting that such colossal loss of human life was rare and remarkably regrettable, Atiku added that the Muslim world should be united in grief and offer prayers to God to avert this kind of accident of calamitous proportion.
The Turakin Adamawa described life as so precious that the world should be united in grief in the event of a death, because “we are bound by our common humanity” and advised that “we learn lessons from these tragic incidents, and take precautionary measures to ward off future disasters.”
The former Vice President while conveying his condolences to the families of the Nigerian victims described one of the Nigerian victims, the late Hajiya Bilkisu Yusuf, “as the shining light of the journalism profession in Nigeria, and a pride to Northern Nigeria for being the first female Editor of the North’s two major newspapers – The Triumph and The New Nigerian.”
The former Vice President noted that the late Bilkisu Yusuf was not only an outstanding editor, but also an internationally recognised activist on women and development issues.
Earlier on Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari had, in a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, expressed sadness on the colossal calamity.
He described the stampede as a monumental tragedy, not only for citizens of the countries involved, but for the global Islamic community and extended sincerest condolences to the families of the over 700 pilgrims who lost their lives in the tragedy.
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