Rescue operations and the visit of the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, and his team to the site of the collapsed 21-storey building in Ikoyi, Lagos…on Tuesday. Photos: Olukayode Jaiyeola.
No fewer than 20 people have been confirmed dead in the 21-storey building that collapsed on Monday on Gerrard Road, in the Ikoyi area of Lagos State.
The building crumbled around 2pm when workers were on the site.
PUNCH Metro had reported that 10 people were feared dead when the incident happened, as many others were still trapped in the rubble, including the Managing Director, Fourscore Heights Limited, Mr Femi Osibona, who owned the building.
The South-West Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency, Ibrahim Farinloye, on Tuesday, said a total of 20 bodies, including that of Osibona’s personal assistant, had been recovered.
The state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, around 8pm on Tuesday, also confirmed that 20 corpses had been recovered.
Nine people were said to have been rescued alive.
Our correspondents learnt that three of the rescued victims had been released to their families, while others were being treated at the Lagos Island General Hospital, Marina.
PUNCH Metro, however, observed as agitated family members of some of the victims protested against what they described as the slow pace of work at the scene.
The aggrieved families and sympathisers urged emergency management workers to allow members of the public to help in the recovery process to increase the chances of saving more lives.
They claimed that they were not allowed to identify the bodies recovered to know if their loved ones had been found or were still trapped in the rubble.
One of our correspondents noted that during the protest, 10 men were selected to enter the premises to assist the responders.
They were later chased out, an action that aggravated the crowd.
PUNCH Metro learnt that a member of the National Youth Service Corps, identified only as Zainab, was among those trapped in the rubble.
Her family members, who refused to speak to journalists, were seen bemoaning their fate.
Journalists were also not allowed to enter the premises of the collapsed building.
LASBCA, deputy Gov contradict, Sanwo-Olu suspends GM
The General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, Mr Gbolahan Oki, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, said the owner of the building got approval for 15 storey-building and not 21.
He noted that inferior materials were used for the construction, saying appropriate actions would be taken.
But the state deputy governor, during a visit to the scene on Tuesday, said the collapsed building was approved for 21-storey building three years ago.
Hamzat disclosed that the building was sealed for four months in 2021 when the state government noticed some anomalies in the construction.
He said, “The operation, as you can see is going on and we will not leave until we are able to account for everybody. We are responsible for the people of the state; our focus is on saving lives.
“As a matter of fact, this place was sealed for about four months sometime last year from July to November because our agency came in to do structural tests and saw some anomalies and shut it down and said those things should be corrected.
They were making corrective actions when this happened. At the time this happened, they were not really constructing, but investigations later will show what really happened.
“This particular building that collapsed was approved for 21 floors three years ago not 15 floors, it’s the construction that failed, apparently.”
The deputy governor noted that the actual number of occupants of the uncompleted building at the time of its collapse was unknown.
The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Tuesday, ordered the indefinite suspension of the LASBCA GM over the incident.
Sanwo-Olu, in a statement by the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, said the government had also set up a panel to probe the tragedy.
The governor said, “The government will surely find out what went wrong and punish those indicted. The governor, as a first step, has directed that the General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, Mr Gbolahan Oki, an architect, be suspended from work immediately. The suspension is indefinite.”
He said more equipment and personnel had been deployed in the site to save more lives.
The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, during a visit to the scene, said anybody found culpable would be made to face the law.
He said, “It’s a major incident and an unfortunate incident and there’s a rescue operation going on.
“We need to strengthen regulations that are necessary when certain constructions are going to take place.
There’s going to be an investigation which will encompass professional touch and If anybody is found to have compromised, actions will be taken against them.”
‘Same person is consultant, architect’
The Chairman of Nigerian Red Cross, Lagos State chapter, Adebola Kolawole, urged the rescue teams to quickly recover the people under the rubble.
She said, “The rescue teams should do something fast; as fast as they can because time is limited. If they don’t bring them out, they’ll be suffocated and they’ll eventually die. We don’t pray for that. We pray that God will bring them out.”
The state Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Architects, David Majekodunmi, called on the state government and regulatory bodies to put strict building regulations in place to avoid a recurrence.
Majekodunmi, who faulted the signage of the building construction, noted that the numbers on the construction signage showed that same person was the consultant and the architect.
He said, “If the regulatory bodies had seen this signboard and done the needful, maybe we would be able to know who we are accusing or who to hold responsible for this mayhem.”
Lagos not aware of project designer’s withdrawal, says commissioner
The original designer of the project, Prowess Engineering Limited, had in February 2020 written to the Managing Director, Fourscore Heights Limited, Osibona, saying his firm was withdrawing from the building because it could no longer guarantee its integrity.
Asked if the government was aware of the letter, the state information commissioner, Omotosho, said no official saw the letter before the incident.
He said, “I have also seen the letter on the social media, but I am not sure the Lagos State Government was copied. I think it is a letter between the client and the builder, but no Lagos State official has confirmed seeing such a letter.”
Omotosho also insisted that the government did not approve the reopening of the construction site after it was sealed by the government.
“The guy (building owner) was not following the rules and they (government officials) went there and sealed it off in June 2020, and they didn’t go back to the place to reopen it until November 2020; it was reopened for them to be able to make some corrections on the lapses that were observed.
There was no sign that they were continuing with the building as they had not got the go-ahead to continue with the construction,” he added.
On the whereabouts of Osibona, the state police commissioner, Odumosu, said the command could not tell if the developer was also trapped in the rubble.
He, however, said no arrest had been made in connection with the incident.
“The rumour is that he (developer) was part of the victims of the collapsed building. But until we see all the corpses or he is part of the rescued victims, I can’t confirm authoritatively,” he added.
Gbajabiamila, Tinubu, Obaseki demand probe, commiserate with victims
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on Tuesday, expressed sympathy over the building collapse.
Gbajabiamila, in a statement, said it was unfortunate that the incident happened at a time the state government was doing everything possible to make the lives of Lagosians safer.
He called for adequate measures to forestall future occurrence while urging relevant authorities to double their efforts at rescuing those trapped in the multi-storey building.
The National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, urged the state government to investigate the circumstances surrounding the building collapse.
While backing Sanwo-Olu’s probe of the tragedy, Tunde Rahman, the spokesperson for Tinubu, in a statement on Tuesday, said the former governor would not to prejudge anything or anyone.
The statement read, “This tragedy should never have occurred. Workers at the site and, for that matter, no one who is simply trying to work in order to care for their loved ones, should have their lives abbreviated in such a manner. No one should suffer what these people suffered. Nor should families have to hear such news and bear such a burden like this.
“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.
“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.”
The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, commiserated with Sanwo-Olu, the families of victims and Lagos residents over the incident.
He urged the authorities to beef up emergency operations to ensure the rescue of those still trapped under the rubble.
Another building caves in
Meanwhile, a section of a two-storey building under construction caved in around Osapa London in the Lekki area of the state on Tuesday.
The building, which was under construction, reportedly caved in after the downpour of Monday night.
As of the time this report was filed, no casualty was reported from the incidents.