Lagos collapsed building: A day after the fatal collapse of a three-storey building on No. 63 Massey Street, Ita Faaji, Lagos Island, a woman, Mrs Adedayo Adedoyin, who lost one of her twin daughters in the incident, has begged the state government to ensure that her surviving child does not die.
The incident, which occurred around 10am on Wednesday, had claimed about 10 lives, including four pupils of the Ohen Nursery and Primary School, which operated on one of the floors of the building.
About 50 persons, including pupils and other residents of the building, were rescued from the rubble by emergency workers and taken to the Lagos Island General Hospital, Massey Children Hospital, Lagos University Teaching Hospital and the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital.
Adedayo stated that her extended family had four children in the school that was located on one of the floors of the collapsed building, her twins and her husband sister’s two children.
She added that she had no inkling that the building would collapse, noting that it was recently painted.
“They’ve been going to the school for three years and the children have never told me of any issue in the school,” she said.
Adedayo said her surviving six-year-old daughter was receiving treatment in the hospital.
“She’s the twin sister of the one who died. The one who survived is injured on one side of her body from the neck to her foot,” she added.
Another mother, Ijayat Salau, whose three daughters were victims of the collapsed structure, called upon the state government to help the families of the victims.
Ijayat’s eldest daughter died in the accident, while the two others are currently receiving treatment at the surgical emergency unit of LASUTH.
The traumatised mother noted that she was in her shop when she received a call that the building had collapsed, adding that she would appreciate all the help she could receive.
“One of my children has been pronounced dead, while the other two are still receiving treatment. We pray the Lord to give us the strength to go through this trying time, because we have lost everything and I don’t know where we are going to start from; we beg the government to come to our aid,” she said
A resident of the area where the building collapsed, who gave her name simply as Alao, said one of her nieces was killed in the collapse.
She urged the government to always monitor schools and other buildings in the state to avoid incidents like that.
Another victim’s mother, Azizat Ayanbola, also urged the government to come to her aid.
She said, “I was called around 10am that the building collapsed and I took a bike to the site and my son was rescued around 3pm.
“The government should help us; my son has an injury on the head and he is in pain. His head is swollen, so we beg the government to continue to appeal to the doctors to continue with the treatment of the victims.
“I have done several X-rays of the body and the whole body is okay except for the swollen head, but the doctors said they would check the x-ray result to see what is wrong but they have not checked it.”
The Medical Director, Lagos Island General Hospital, Dr Ismaila Igbanikale, said some pupils affected by the collapse were in stable conditions and were receiving adequate medical attention.
Iganikale, who said this in a chat with journalists on Thursday, noted that the number of the affected pupils and other victims were unknown.
He said that the victims’ list would soon be pasted for the public to get the accurate number of casualties.
The General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Adeshina Tiamiyu, while addressing journalists on Thursday, confirmed the end of the rescue operation, adding that nobody was under the debris as all the victims had been rescued.
This was just as the state government gave an indication that it would charge the owner of the collapsed building with manslaughter because he refused to obey the order to evacuate all tenants from the structure, which had earlier been marked as unfit for human habitation.
The Secretary, Lagos State Building Control Agency, Mr Tayo Fakolujo, said the owner of the building would be charged for manslaughter and if found guilty, he could be jailed for life or a minimum of seven years in prison.
Under the state’s laws, whenever a building collapses, the owner is expected to forfeit the land to the government and may be prosecuted.
According to Fakolujo, the owner of the collapsed building violated the Lagos State Planning Law of 2010 by removing the seal on the building after it was identified as distressed and marked for investigation and possible demolition.
He said the yet-to-be-identified owner broke the seal on the building and ensured the returns of the tenants, who had been asked to vacate the property.
Fakolujo stated, “Definitely, we are going to prosecute him for violating the Lagos State Planning Law of 2010. We are not trying him with our normal law, because of the gravity of the incident. He will be charged for manslaughter and if found guilty, he could get between life sentence and seven years imprisonment.
“The issue is still under investigation and we are on the lookout for him; we are checking our data to identify the owner; when things like this happen, some of them go into hiding. There are times when the actual owner of the land is different from the person developing it, especially on the Lagos Island.
“That is why we are painstaking in identifying him so that we don’t transfer our aggression on an innocent person. If you break the government’s seal, the person will be taken to court for prosecution. The building was sealed off after it was identified as being distressed. When a building is identified as such, we seal it off and evacuate everybody inside it, which was what we did.
“Once we evacuate all of them, we give the landlords letters to carry out certain procedures, but the owner of the building broke the seal and all those who were evacuated went back in as tenants. Even when the building was standing, it was difficult to tell if there was a school there.”
Fakolujo said most of the buildings around the area had been marked as distressed and undergoing investigation, while the landlords were asked to subject the structures to integrity tests, which some of them had not done.
“We were still conducting tests to identify if the building should be removed or renovated before it collapsed,” he added.
Tiamiyu, however, said that he could not confirm the total figure of those rescued from the rubble, saying the state Ministry of Health would release the accurate figure later in the day.
He said, “We stopped work at 3am after recovering the lifeless body of a male and we are sure there is no more casualty left in the debris. Yes, we had support from so many people, especially the residents, but we were equally hampered by the fact that we had too many people around the incident scene, which is not a good thing.
“We are still putting up reports so, we cannot give a specific figure of the casualties involved but hopefully by the end of today (Thursday), the Lagos State Ministry of Health will release the accurate figure.
“The reason why we have to clear the rubble is to erase ease the doubts of people that there are still bodies yet unaccounted for and for people to easily forget the incident and get it behind them. If the building is still standing in its fallen state, people may want to come and take personal effects; some people may want to come and scavenge on the waste, which lead to people getting injured; we want to avoid secondary accidents.”
The LASEMA GM also debunked claims that over 100 pupils were trapped in the collapsed building.
He said, “I have seen a picture of the building before it collapsed and I can confirm to you that the floor that housed the school could not accommodate up to 100 pupils.
“It is only the school administrator that can tell us the number of pupils in the school, but the proprietor is also at the hospital receiving treatment and we can’t confirm that now.”
Tiamiyu, who stated that the residents requested the demolition of more buildings in the area, which had shown signs of weakness, added that LASEMA could not honour such requests without the backing of the law.
“Just as the governor said when he came yesterday (Wednesday), necessary measures will be taken to examine the buildings marked for demolition; any one that fails the integrity test, it is until then that we can come in to bring down any building marked for demolition,” he added.
However, a bulldozer was seen demolishing shanties surrounding the collapsed building.
The Director of Search and Rescue, National Emergency Management Agency, Air Commodore Akugbe Iyamu, represented the Federal Government at the scene of the incident for a first-hand assessment of the extent of damage and to look at preventive measures that could jointly be adopted by the federal and state governments to forestall frequent collapse of buildings.
He was also at the Mainland General Hospital to commiserate with the victims, their families and the state government.
He assured the relations of the victims that the Federal Government was working with the state officials to find ways that NEMA could be of further assistance to the victims.
The 1st Vice-President, Nigerian Institute of Building, Mr Kunle Awobodu, said there were over 1,000 unsafe buildings on Lagos Island, adding that the collapsed building was one of them.
“There are over 1,000 distressed buildings of this nature on Lagos Island, which, if nothing is done to demolish them, they will still collapse and result in more calamities. The collapsed building had been marked for demolition about three times, but the building regulatory agency did not demolish it,” he stated.
The President, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Mr Lekwa Ezutah, told one of our correspondents that the owner of the building should be sanctioned for putting a distressed building to public use.
He also urged government agencies to be proactive in ensuring that only qualified building professionals were approved to handle buildings as developers.
Ezutah stated, “We express our heartfelt sympathy to those who were injured in the incident and wish them quick recovery, while the institute advocates that a strong inquiry should be made on the incident and the culprits sanctioned appropriately.
“Developers are also advised to ensure that they engage qualified professionals on their projects and avoid changing land use approvals.”
Students in solidarity demonstration
Students of the Quatob Comprehensive College on the Lagos Island staged a demonstration in front of the collapsed building.
The students, who carried placards with various inscriptions like ‘Group of schools commiserate with the departed souls’, ‘Save our souls from quack developers’, and ‘We pray God to grant the families of the departed the fortitude to bear the loss’, said government intervention in the incessant collapse of buildings on Lagos Island was imperative.
One of the teachers at the school, Olabode Sokunbi, who spoke on behalf of the students, said buildings should be subjected to tests to avoid collapse.
A self-imposed calamity — BCPG
A former National President, Building Collapse Prevention Guild, Kunle Awobodu, said the collapse was a self-imposed calamity, which should have been avoided.
Awobodu alleged that the government was responsible for allowing illegality to thrive.
He said, “All the buildings around us pass through the same process, where businessmen and traders venture into building construction for the purpose of profiteering. They have no knowledge of how to handle construction. What’s unfortunate is that the government and the people allow illegality to reign in an enlightened domain like Lagos Island.
“Lagos Island used to be the base of the master builders, who were returnees from Brazil. And they were the ones constructing magnificent buildings all over the West African coast towns and cities, but it is ironical that today, this particular base has turned out to be a base of substandard construction leading to building collapse.”
Residents tell their tales
Sherifat Mosere, who resides behind the collapsed building on No. 15 Oke Street, Ita Faaji, said the incident had rendered her 99-year-old grandmother bedridden.
She said, “I live behind the collapsed building. We have been complaining about the fact that the small particles from the house fly into our compound but nothing was done about it. When the building collapsed, it affected our building, which is a bungalow.
“It fell on our 99-year-old grandmother, Iya Surulere, who is currently at the general hospital receiving treatment.”