By Olasunkanmi Akoni & Monsur Olowoopejo
As Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, yesterday, finally brought down the building at No 3 Ajayi Street, Ogba-Aguda, Lagos State found to be collapsing, one of the contractors who handled the construction of the building, Mr. Christian Okafor, expressed surprise over the longevity of the building. “I was surprise to see the building still standing after 29 years (1983), he said.”
Okafor who spoke to Saturday Vanguard yesterday at the building site, said the building would have collapsed 29 years ago when he first raised alarm over the unprofessional method adopted by the project contractor in 1983 when he was fixing of the tiles.
Okafor who was employed by the contractor (name withheld) to fix the terrazzo at the building said he discovered that the building was ill constructed.
According to him, “when I was contacted by the contractor to fix the terrazzo in late 1982, while fixing the tiles I discovered that the foundation and the decking of the 3-storey building were shaking. And immediately, I alerted the contractor who is handling the project and the owner of the house (late Dr. Aga Izu) who was my friend on what I discovered.
“But to my surprises, the contractor told the owner of the house to ignore me as I was not qualified to speak on the strength of the structure. And that was how I concentrated on what I was asked to fix on the building.”
Okafor however, said, “If not for the iron rods that were specifically prescribed for the contractor by the owner of the house, the house would have caved in before now.”
Corroborating Okafor claim, Mr. Mustapha Aregbe who lives adjacent to the building also said that in 1985, a team from the state Ministry of Works led by Engr. Olayiwola Cole, warned that the building might collapse any moment, adding that the contractor did a bad job.
According to Aregbe, “And when I heard this, I called the owner of the building to inform him of the warning from the state ministry of Works. But he said that the contractor was his best contractor and that he has built several houses that have stood the test of time.”
On the building, the General Manager of LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, said the agency had succeeded in pulling down the 3-storey building aimed at saving the lives of both the occupants and their neighbours.
While urging all property owners in the state to subject their buildings to structural tests to ascertain their level of safety for habitation, Oke-Osanyintolu, at the scene of the demolition, said that after the demolition, the state government would call a stakeholders meeting which would include the caretaker of the building, the Council chairman of Ifako-Ijaiye and all agencies involved in construction in the state.
He said: “A major solution to the growing cases of collapsed building in the state is for property owners to subject their properties to testing to know their level of safety.
“They should not wait until they begin to notice serious signs of distress on their structures or threats to occupants‘ lives before they t start raising alarm .
“They should go to the Lagos State Solid Materials and Testing Agency for their tests. By so doing, they will be preventing needless loss of lives to collapsed buildings and could also salvage their structures.“
The General Manager dismissed the claims in some quarters that the test was solely for the purpose of demolition, saying it was for the government to take the right action to correct defective buildings..
“People talk about demolition when we appeal for structural integrity tests. But that that is not the essence. It is for us to carry out investigation and employ the necessary corrective measures.“
Osanyintolu, restated the commitment of the state government to arresting the spate of collapsed structures in the state and appealed to residents to support the government as well as furnish the government with information on any buildings showing signs of distress in their areas, pledging government‘s immediate response.