Death toll in Lagos building collapse hits 20
By Olajide Meseko
The death toll in the 21-storey building at Gerard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos which collapsed on Monday has hit 20 while no fewer than nine persons had been rescued after being trapped for almost 24 hours under the debris as rescue and search efforts entered day two, yesterday.
Coordinator of Lagos Territorial Office of National Emergency Management Agency, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, said rescue operation was still ongoing as at press time.
Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat, who was at the scene said government was hopeful that more people would be found alive.
The building construction had been ongoing in the last two years with tens of people working on the site day and night. It was gathered that some persons were using the ground floor for a meeting as at the time the structure went down.
Hamzat said the number of those inside the building cannot be ascertained as two rescued victims gave conflicting figures of 24 and 28.
“We are not sure of the number of people inside there. It is not a residential building yet; it is not that we have tenants or a list of people.”
He said the construction site had earlier been sealed in July till November to allow for structural adjustment by the developer, stating that there are always procedures to be followed in demolishing a property for non-compliance.
“As a matter of fact, if you are aware, this location was sealed for about four months sometimes ago. It was sealed because our agency came in to do structural tests and saw some anomalies. So, they shut it down for those things to be corrected. The second building will also be audited in terms of integrity test, and of course, if we find anything, then the appropriate action will be taken.”
Hamzat also clarified that the collapsed building got approval for 21 storeys and not 15 as earlier said by Gbolahan Oki, general manager, LASBCA.
As part of investigation of the remote and immediate causes of the incident, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has ordered indefinite suspension of Mr. Oki.
A statement by Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, said the state government was setting up an independent panel to probe the incident.
“Members of the panel will be drawn from the Nigeria Institute of Architects (NIA), Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) and other professional bodies. It will independently investigate the remote and immediate causes of the incident and make recommendations on how to prevent future occurrence. The investigation is not part of the internal probe already being conducted by the government.”
Sanwo-Olu assured that government would find out what went wrong and punish those indicted. Handlers of the project and regulatory agencies are being accused of not adhering to standard and proper quality control in its execution.
The Lagos State Bricklayer Association of Nigeria has called for inclusion of its members in the independent panel set up by the state government to probe the collapsed building.
Speaking to journalists at the scene of the incident, president of the association, Oyebamiji Dauda, said they were ready to assist government to unravel the misery behind the incident.
Former Lagos State governor and All Progressives Congress National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has backed Governor Sanwo-olu on the probe.
He said government must get to the bottom of the ghastly occurrence, while adding that he sought not to prejudge anything or anyone.
“It is obvious and plain to us all that something went terribly wrong. If indeed intentional or reckless wrongdoing has been committed, severe and appropriate sanctions should find those who have been found to have shirked their fundamental responsibilities. The departed, their grieving families and the people of Lagos deserve no less and should perhaps demand even more.”
Asiwaju’s commiseration with the dead, sympathy for other victims of the incident and condemnation of the collapse is contained in a statement by his Media Office in Abuja, yesterday.
“Some tragedies are unavoidable, but most are not. We need to understand what happened here so that we can work harder to prevent a reoccurrence. I endorse Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu’s order for an investigation into this tragedy. There are many questions to ask, and all those questions deserve full and public answers.
“We must get to the bottom of this ghastly occurrence. I seek not to prejudge anything or anyone, but it is obvious and plain to us all that something went terribly wrong. If indeed intentional or reckless wrongdoing has been committed, severe and appropriate sanctions should find those who have been found to have shirked their fundamental responsibilities. The departed, their grieving families and the people of Lagos deserve no less and should perhaps demand even more.
“As much as we are in collective pain and grief, we must also be clear and focused. Let us use this tragedy to serve as a strong warning and deterrent to end any malpractices and misconduct that might in any way contribute to such an incident.
“We must never become numb to the tragedies that befall others; we must work and strive to put an end to these frightening events and the brutal but avoidable deaths that go with them. Lagos is and must forever be a place of light and life where the best of human endeavour is our currency and our calling card,” the former governor said.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has, through the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, has expressed shock at the incident.
The minister in a statement by her Special Adviser on Media, Nneka Ike Anibeze, sympathised with the people and government of Lagos State and directed the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to assist with rescue operations at the site.
“We have mobilised immediate rescue operations through the NEMA Team from the Lagos Territorial Office to team up with the state SEMA. NEMA has also facilitated mobilisation of response involving heavy duty equipment for rescue operations and security for crowd control. We pray that through the rescue operatives still on ground at the site, many of those trapped will be rescued,” she said.