18 die, 12 rescued as Lagos building collapses
• One-month-old baby, mother among victims • Residents indict state govt for negligence
Tragedy struck yesterday morning when a five-storey building collapsed in the Lekki area of Lagos. At least 18 persons died while 12 others were rescued alive from the rubble. Many are believed to be still trapped in the building, while rescue operations continued at the time of going to press.
The building, which belonged to Lekki Gardens Phase Two and located at Ikate Elugushi by Chisco bus stop, Lekki was at the roofing level, when it suddenly came down.
An eye witness and an iron bender, Isaac Martins said the building was under construction before it went down around 4:00 a.m. shortly after the early morning rains. According to him, those affected were mainly workers, the security man, those who ran into the building for cover during the rains and a woman with a one-month-old baby, who came to clarify an issue with her husband working at the site.The nursing mother, he said, came to confirm that her husband had not been actually paid by the contractors.
The incident again showed the ineptitude of government officers in the monitoring of buildings as well as the helplessness of rescue operators in saving the lives of victims who were trapped but were communicating with relatives on phone.
It was also another opportunity for government agencies to pass buck, while experts said the collapse was avoidable if agencies of the state government saddled with the responsibilities of building approval had lived up to their responsibilities.
For example, Martins, who said he was one of the iron benders working at the site before he was dropped blamed the contractors for being in the habit of using substandard materials and changing of workers whom they did not normally pay .
He also attributed the low rate of the rescue of persons to the ineptitude of rescuers who do not come with enough equipment or allow workers around, who had earlier rescued four people before their arrival to continue in the operation.
Another witness, Fidelis Angelo, said a security man, Abba Ali was one of the victims because of the use of wrong materials. According to him, there were no competent workers and supervision from government agencies.
For the vice chairman of the Nigeria Institute of Building (NIOB), Adelaja Adekunbi, there is the need to conduct tests on all the buildings, both painted and under construction to know their stability.
Adekumbi said he once wrote to the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) about the attitude of the owners when he was forced to leave site when the owners instructed him to add two more on a three-storeybuilding.
According to him, there was no proof that officers of the building control agency came to assess the building as approval was later given to the owners to add another two.
Another engineer, who pleaded for anonymity said if there was any one to be prosecuted, it was the Lagos State government and the agencies that gave approval for the building. According to him, the standard practice is to allow some time for a reclaimed land before building. He said that was what was done for Jakande buildings, where the land was left for 10 years after reclaiming.
But the General manager of LASBCA, Sola Adeigbe, who blamed the collapse on foundational failure following the sinking of the building said the contractors never informed the agency when they wanted to start the foundation.
According to him, it is not enough to get an approval because the law says that notwithstanding the approval, the agency should be contacted at the time of starting the foundation. He stressed that the owners would likely forfeit the land for contravening the law, as there was evidence of the use of substandard materials in the mixing of the concrete. Adeigbe stressed that there was no time limit for a reclaimed land since what was important was the stabilisation of the land.
But South-West Information Officer, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Ibrahim Farinloye and General Manager of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Michael Kolawole Akindele, who led the police, Lagos State Ambulance Service (LASAMBUS), the fire service and Red Cross for the operations, said rescuers employed the best international practice in their operation.
Farinloye, who did not comment on the cause of the collapse, said the rescuers were more interested in rescuing people alive and not in the timing.
According to him, it will make no sense to bring dead bodies in an attempt to rescue people alive.
While confirming that 15 bodies were recovered and 11 were rescued alive, he extolled the cooperation of the locals, security agents and the community in the success recorded so far. Farinloye said two excavators were still at work as rescue operations continued.
Meanwhile the recovered bodies had been deposited at the Lagos General Hospital morgue, while the rescued had been taken to an undisclosed hospital for treatment.