As investigative panel fails to turn in report
By Olasunkanmi Akoni
March 13, 2019, seemed to be the darkest day in the annals of Lagos State when a three-storey building at No. 63 Massey Street, Ita-Faji area of Lagos Island, caved in, killing at least 20 persons including 16 school children within the premises.
The incident saddened everyone that heard of it, even the hard-hearted.
Subsequently, as part of efforts to alleviate the sufferings of the survivours, Lagos State Government took a bold step by relocating them to some of the resettlement centres in the state.
Specifically, on March, 26, 2019, the state government opened resettlement camps in Agbowa in Ikorodu area and Igando in old Alimosho, to willing survivors and Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, who were rendered homeless as a result of the collapsed building which brought about the ongoing demolition of distressed buildings in Lagos Island.
Although the resettlement camp at Agbowa, is yet to be opened to IDPs due to paucity of fund, according to official source, who preferred anonymity, but Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, Resettlement Centre, Igando, is already bubbling with life for the resettled or displaced persons at the camp, Vanguard can authoritatively report.
According to LASEMA’s record, at least 300 IDPs, including children, teenagers and adults, are currently in camp with likelihood of more arriving by this weekend when intake of more persons will be officially closed.
Initially, it was learned that the IDPs were reluctant to move to the camp because they were not sure of the conduciveness of the place, but when the news of the comfort of the camp and the welfare package on ground broke to the displaced persons, they started rushing for accommodation at the camp.
Speaking during an earlier tour of the camp, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Kehinde Bamigbetan, stated that Governor Akinwumi Ambode had approved that those affected as a result of the ongoing demolition of distressed buildings in Lagos Island be resettled at relief centres in line with international best practices.
Bamigbetan stated that LASEMA’s Resettlement Camp, Igando, was ready to accommodate no fewer than 500 displaced persons.
He said: “The exercise is part of the state government’s efforts to ensure that the effect of loss on the victims is mitigated to the barest minimum.”
However, speaking to Vanguard at the relief camp, the General Manager, LASEMA, Adesina Tiamiyu, said that the camp would be open for three months in the first instance after which the government would review the need for an extension.
Tiamiyu said further that a medical team is already on ground and has been providing assistance to ascertain the health status of those affected, while the Igando General Hospital will handle referrals from the camp.
He said the camp has facilities to provide relief for affected victims, including those living with disabilities.
It is instructive to note that the Igando Resettlement Centre has five hostels with 22 rooms each, four double bunk beds and is capable of accommodating eight persons per room.
The centre also has a kitchen facility, a dining hall, a general hall to be used for recreational activities, a three-ward medical facility, a set of 10 toilets and bathrooms for each hostel, sets of three bedroom flats for members of staff, facilities for persons living with disabilities, security post, power-generating set, among others.
When Vanguard visited the centre, children and adults were seen playing around and feeling happy. Vanguard learned they are fed three square meals daily.
Survivors recount experiences, as IDP accuses hospital staff of collecting medical fees
Meanwhile, responding to the allegation by a victim, Mrs. Kehinde Ajisegiri of paying medical bill for the treatment of her injured daughter, Kemi Ajisegiri, 35, who survived the Ita-Faji building collapse, now at a special ward in Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Ikeja, Tiamiyu said he was not aware but will do his findings and communicate same to the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris and appropriate quarters for immediate action.
“I’m aware that the Governor has directed all the medical facilities attending to victims of Ita-Faji building collapse to give free service on government expenses. So this is definitely against that directive. But, I wouldn’t want to make further comment until the truth is established”, LASEMA boss noted.
Mrs. Ajisegiri had appealed to Vanguard on the need to beg the state government to come to the family’s aid as her daughter who survived the incident with serious neck injury and another victim, identified as Jamiu Hassan, who suffered groin injury are paying for their medical bills themselves.
“We are begging Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to come to our aid. We are paying the medical bills for my daughter and one other victim, Hassan, who are receiving treatment at special wards in LASUTH, and we heard that government has promised to pay all medical expenses. I have all the receipts of the bill with me but they are not with me at the moment.”
A teenager, Ayomide Adeyemo, 16, lost one of his younger twin sisters, Taiwo, 7, in the incident.
According to Ayomide who attends Olakeji Private School, Olakeji, Lagos Island: “I have left for school that day but only to be told that our house has collapsed. I quickly rushed down because my twin sister attend a private school in the same building and when I got to the scene, I met a lot of people wailing. By then, they had rescued Kehinde but Taiwo was still trapped in the rubble. But so sad, Taiwo was later brought out lifeless. All efforts to revive her failed.
“But we are moving on in the camp. We have pitch to play football, Ludo, watch Premiership matches.
“More so, the government has provided three buses to convey us to and from our schools and our parents from their respective offices daily. This has really helped us in terms of transport fares and stress if those things were not provided. We really thank government for their magnanimity and love. But I want to appeal to them to assist me in my studies because I lost all my books and other belongings that were useful to me.
“Since we arrived at the camp, we have been well taken care of. We really don’t miss our former abode. This camp is really conducive. I prefer this place to the Island.
“However, I’m seizing this opportunity to beg government to come to my aid. I lost all my belongings to the tragic incident. My only support and breadwinner, mum is dead. I need capital to start my own business to be able to cater for my siblings left behind for me. Please, I am pleading with government,” he said.
Also, Mr. Olayiwola Ramon, 55, was another lucky survivor. He narrated his experience: “I sell CDs on the ground floor of the building and a resident as well. That fateful day, my brother, Adebayo Fadipe, 40, who was a commercial motorcyclist, popularly called okoda, just came back for a short rest from work and told me someone wanted to buy CD outside. So while I went to attend to the customer outside, my brother was inside, the building collapsed on us. I was rescued later but my brother died in it. I lost all my means of livelihood. I beg government to come to my aid because I have nothing else to live on.”
Mr. Kabiru Animashawun, 56, a fashion designer and one of the IDPs of demolished distressed buildings from Apatira Street, Lagos Island, moved in with his family, four in number. He narrated his story: “Since we arrived here, it’s been another experience. We give thanks to God and to government for their concern and support. Since we were moved away from the distressed building, my business has really gone down. It’s not been easy making money. As I am now, I don’t have N10, 000 in my account. But if government can provide a sustainable work and a good apartment, I will really appreciate to start a new life with my family.”
Panel fails to submit report after two weeks
Exactly two weeks after a five-man panel of inquiry set up by the state government to investigate the collapse was supposed to submit its report, the panel has failed to submit its report.
According to the state government during inauguration, the charge given to the panel chaired by Engr. Wasiu Olokunola, was to submit its report two weeks after their swearing in.
However, a source in the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, told our correspondent that they were still expecting the five-man panel to submit it’s report as earlier stated in their terms.
He noted that the report was expected because the recommendation would assist the government to issue possibly a white-paper that would assist in stemming the tide of building collapse in the state.
Panel member reacts
However, explaining reasons the panel was unable to submit its report, a member of the committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, explained that they have started compiling their findings on the collapsed building.
He noted that the report cannot be done in a hurry because there was need to examine outcome of all tests conducted on materials collected from the site.
The member stressed that the panel’s aim was to conduct a thorough investigation and make best recommendations to the government.
It would be recalled that the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Rotimi Ogunleye, explained that the panel was to proffer remedial measures to stem future building collapse and determine level of negligence on the part of the developer or owner and the role of the state government.