By Tony Edike
ENUGU—A three-storey building under construction at 16, Nnobi Street in Enugu State capital, collapsed in the early hours of Saturday. No casualty was recorded.
The building, which consists of 13 flats and a penthouse, and had been roofed, suddenly came down at 6.40am, forcing residents in the neighbourhood to scamper for safety.
Governor Sullivan Chime’s private house, known as Thinkers’ Lodge, a one-storey apartment, is located on the same street in Uwani, which is close to Enugu South Local Government secretariat.
The owner of the building, identified as Paschal Eneh from Udi town in Udi Local Government Area, where Governor Chime also hails from, currently resides in South Africa.
State Commissioners for Lands and Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority, ECTDA, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ujam and Engr. Ikechukwu Ugwuegede, respectively, who rushed to the scene shortly after the incident, said the building collapsed due to structural defects.
They disclosed that the developer did not get the approval of the Enugu Town Planning Authority as he went beyond government’s specification of a maximum of two-storey building for the area.
It was learnt that the government had issued a stop-work order on the building several times, but it was ignored as the developer allegedly went beyond the specified limit to erect four floors and a penthouse.
Ujam said that the state Waste Management Agency, ESWAMA, had been invited to evacuate the debris to determine whether anybody was trapped inside.
Ugwuegede said: “It is very unfortunate. We thank God that at least there were no casualties. But we are conducting investigations to ensure that miscreants or homeless people are not inside the rubble.
“What has happened is a structural failure of a building. Evidently, there must have been some structural problems in the foundation or the columns, slabs and beams. They are inferior and not up to what they should be.
Against rules, regulations
“I am also aware that this particular structure was in default of the town planning rules and regulations having been constructed in excess of the approved number of floors.
“It is a vindication of government’s intention to bring to very close scrutiny applications for buildings to make sure that integrity intended is what is given out.
“Getting the approval is one thing, but sticking to what was approved is another. We are going to be more stringent in our inspectorate arms in the Ministry of Lands and the Town Planning Authority.
“We want to make sure that all the citizens of Enugu live in secured homes.”
At press time, the excavator from ESWAMA was still removing the rubble. No casualty had been found, although those living in the neighbourhood expressed fears that some miscreants, who normally smoke in the uncompleted building, could be present at the time of collapse.
Suspected fowl play
However, a woman who claimed to be a relation of the property owner said that the family suspected fowl play as the building erected in the last two years couldn’t have collapsed without any interference.
She said that the developer had genuine Certificate of Occupancy on the said property in addition to the approval by the state Town Planning Authority.
She alleged that someone believed to be representing the interest of some people in government “had demanded N20 million to enable them allow the construction of the building, but the developer declined.”
She alleged: “We had on our own offered to demolish part of the building to meet the government’s specification, but this was rejected by the government officials. We believe that there is something to it than we are made to understand.”
Meanwhile, Lands Commissioner said that the property would be revoked for violating town planning regulations, adding that a thorough investigation would be conducted to determine the cause of the collapse.