By Ebun Sessou, Bose Adelaja, Monsuru Olowoopejo and Faith Ake
Lagos—A five storey building caved in yesterday in Ikate Elegushi area of Lagos, killing 18 persons among whom was a woman and her three-year-old child.
A food vendor was also reportedly among the dead.
The fate of 13 others that were rescued from the debris of the collapsed building, hung in the balance as doctors battle to save their lives.
Most workers who died in the building were reportedly waiting to collect their wages from the contractors. Some of them were said to have been owed up to N40,000.
The building located at Horizon 1, Lekki Gardens which was under construction, was part of the phase 3 project by the Lekki Garden Estate, caved in at about 4.10am after a heavy down pour . Report said up to 100 masons were working at the site .
Vanguard gathered that the building with 30 flats was erected within four months.
Sources said that at the time of the collapse, over 70 artisans and labourers were passing the night in the uncompleted structure.
Vanguard gathered that one of the labourers wife came visiting from Benin Republic, with her three year-old child, having seen their bread winner last in December 2015. Bodies of mother and child were recovered 12 hours later . Even in death , the woman was found clutching her baby.
An artisan, Mr. Fidelis Anjolo, said; “She thought that her husband was lying that they were not paid for three months and decided to see things for herself. Her husband even borrowed N4,000 from five of us, with a promise to pay at the end of March. His wife came on Sunday night and was to leave yesterday morning. They used to sleep outside but yesterday they slept outside because of the rain.‘’
Another artisan, Kingsley Mathew, disclosed that seven citizens of Benin Republic arrived Monday evening to start work on Tuesday (yesterday). “But at the moment, we cannot say where they are. They might be trapped in the building.
“Government should do something on issue of collapse buildings in Lagos because the magnitude of death is much. We have families to cater for that is why we are here. They owe most of us here. Hauwa, a food vendor, who hails from Nasarrawa State was also in the building,” he added.
One of the rescued persons simply identified as Hassan, an indigene of Kaduna State. When rescued, he was screaming ‘ALLAH AKBAR’ ( God is Great).”
A resident, Remi, who was in tears, disclosed that her brother, Femi, was still trapped under the rubbles.
Wailing, she said “My brother is a bricklayer. He lives in Alagbado with his wife and children but he couldn’t go home everyday because of transport fare. I don’t know what to do. I have checked the recovered bodies but his is not one of them. Our elder sister has also been trying his mobile line but it is not reachable. This is pathetic. He has been catering for our needs since the death of our parents. What will be our fate if he dies?”
Also, a carpenter, Mutiu Gani, disclosed that four of his friends were trapped under the debris .
Another worker who spoke with Vanguard, Seyi Oluwafemi, dsaid construction of the building began August last year. According to him; “ I worked as a carpenter. Carpenters were paid N2,500, bricklayers, N3,000 while labourers were paid N2,000 each daily. At a point, the contractors started defaulting in payment. Some workers who died were waiting to collect their wages and because they were not paid, they had no choice than to sleep there until the following day.
As I speak, the contractors are owing me three weeks wages. I left when it accumulated to three weeks. About 50 workers were deplored to the site on Monday to continue work on it.
The number of casualties would not have been much, if workers normally go home daily. Most of them stay till weekend before leaving.”
Another labourer who spoke on condition of anonymity said he was owed N317,000. “I do interior decoration job. As I speak I have not been paid. The debt went this bad after the introduction of weekly payment. Because of that, several labourers resorted to leaving on weekly basis.
Some of the aggrieved sympathizers who spoke to Vanguard complained that rescue operation was slow, attributing to the delay in rescuing victims that were trapped .
When Vanguard arrived the scene family members, friends and other sympathizers were seen be mourning their loved ones while others joined rescue operators in the search for trapped victims.
Call from the debris
One of them gave the name of his relatiion as Isaac Martins, he said “My brother is a welder . He called me on phone this morning to come and help him, that he was in a collapsed building. He called twice but when I got here, policemen did not permit me and other workers to help in the rescue operation. I got here 3am and have so far rescued some people . But I cant find my brother and his phone is switched off.
Another eyewitness Angelo, said that” the building collapse as a result of the inferior materials used and I blame it on the contractors and the engineers who only think about themselves alone imagine you working and not being paid.
”Sometimes, the contractors will go to neighbouring countries to bring workers to work if we refuse to work because of lack of payment I learnt this work in Ghana i stop working here because they don’t give us quantity material to work with and they short pay.
General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, Micheal Akindele, who was at the scene described the incident as unfortunate.
He explained that “We moved here immediately information reached us. Rescue operation started at about 4:45am . So far, 18 were recovered dead, while 13 were rescued alive.