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Buhari probes deaths as Italy buries 26 Nigerian girls

President Muhammadu Buhari has constituted a cabinet committee to examine the circumstances of the death of 26 teenage Nigerian migrant girls found dead in the Mediterranean early this month.

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The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, confirmed this to State House correspondents last night. 

The girls were reported to have drowned while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

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The committee, headed by the Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami, comprises the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Sports and Youths and Women Affairs as well as the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora, Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

A presidency source disclosed yesterday that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had briefed the presidency on a regular basis since the incident occurred.

According to him, the committee is also mandated to examine the reported sale of Nigerian citizens through slavery and report to the Federal Executive Council within one week.

A funeral mass was held yesterday at Italy’s southern city of Salerno near Naples for the 26 Nigerian girls who drowned earlier this month trying to cross the Mediterranean.

The mass was held with prayers said by a Catholic archbishop and a Muslim imam.

A report by ‘The Local,’ said 26 coffins were laid out in Salerno’s Monumental Cemetery on Friday morning, watched by a military guard, local politicians, rescue workers and journalists.

Each coffin bore a white rose on top, though only two were marked with names: Marian Shaka and OsatoOsaro.

The Local also said the bodies would be buried in different cemeteries around Salerno. Yesterday was also declared a day of mourning by the city’s mayor as local schools were asked to observe a minute of silence, while light displays in the city centrewere switched off in remembrance.

According to the report, the girls’ bodies were recovered at sea and brought to Italy on November 3. Post-mortem examinations revealed that 25 of the victims had drowned, while one had a wound on her side. 

It added: “All of the girls are believed to have been Nigerian nationals between 14 and 30 years old. Five have been identified so far. Two of them were pregnant, including Osaro with twins. Her coffin bore a pink and a blue rose in their memory.

“At least 100 other people believed to have been travelling with the women are still missing, all feared drowned.  A Spanish military ship rescued around 400 survivors, as well as the 26 bodies in the Strait of Sicily. They were attempting to make the crossing between Libya and Italy when the rubber boats carrying them capsized. 

The report did not mention any Nigerian delegation present nor at the burial.

 


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