*Food vendor, daughter, others still trapped

*About 50 of us, including owner, were in the building – Survivor

*Relatives throng scene

*Military takes over operation

*How firm withdrew services from collapsed building over poor execution Feb 2020

*Sanwo-Olu orders probe, residents blame govt for negligence

Consultant's advice ignored on collapsed 21-floor tower in Lagos

By Olasunkanmi Akoni, Evelyn Usman & Bose Adelaja, LAGOS

It was a black Monday in Lagos yesterday, as a 21-storey building under construction  on Gerard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos , collapsed, burying an unspecified number of persons under the rubble.

However, it came to light at press time yesterday that the developers of the building project ignored advice from consultants. The original plan was for 15 floors.

As of 5pm, four persons, all males, were brought out dead, while  six  others were rescued alive. Both the dead and those rescued were workers at the site.

Tragedy struck at about 2pm as work progressed on the building.  Some of the workers were said to be taking a nap when the building collapsed.

Among those trapped was a food vendor and her nine-year-old daughter said to have arrived the scene less than five minutes before  the building caved in.

At press time last night, it could not be ascertained if one of the foremost Nigeria estate developers, Mr. Femi Osibona, who was in the building at the time of collapse, died in the rubble. He was yet to be rescued.

The developer was reportedly on a visit to the site when the collapse occurred. Osibona, the Managing Director of Four Score Properties, was the builder of 360 Degrees Towers in Ikoyi.

Information at Vanguard’s disposal said  residents in the area commenced rescue operations before the arrival of government agencies,  comprising Police, officials of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA; Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA ; Lagos State Fire Service,  the  Red Cross Society and construction giant, Julius Berger Plc.

The Lagos Sate Commissioner of Police, CP Hakeem Odumosu, was  also on ground , coordinating security for rescued workers. 

The entire area  was cordoned off to allow for seamless rescue operation and prevent possible damages.

Eyewitness account

 An eyewitness who gave his name as Mr. Junaid Musiliu,  explained:  “I was around the neigbourhood when I  heard a deafening sound. We thought it was an explosion and ran for safety without knowing where  the sound was coming from.

“It was after seven minutes  that we knew it was a building that collapsed.  Two men ran out of the place and started shouting for help.  They said people were trapped under the building.’’

“The witness  said they were from another building that was also under construction, that they were going to buy food from a food vendor at the affected building when the unexpected happened”. 

According to the witness,  the food vendor, identified simply as  Iya Modinat and her daughter  were under the  rubble.

Another eye-witness, Mr Thompson David,  said:  “I saw the building going down. It was so pathetic that I could  not help but watch how the building went down from one side of the pillar that probably broke off. “

Relatives throng scene

Some relatives of the workers thronged the scene to see if their loved ones survived. 

Three of them refused to speak  with journalists but were seen rushing to have a glance at the those brought out of the rubble dead or alive, to know if they were their relatives.

One of them, who confirmed that one of the corpses was his relative, was seen  telling someone on the phone that “ he was just brought out dead.’’ He immediately  left the crowd.

We were about 50 in the building  – Survivor

One of those rescued alive, who gave his name simply as Morris, 27, said: “ We were up to 50 in the building.

“The owner was also around. He came to monitor the  work. I can’t tell how it happened.  It happened suddenly.”

How I escaped the scene — Eyewitness

Another eyewitness, who gave his name as James, said he was among the construction workers of a neighbouring building in the area, adding that when they noticed the danger, they all scampered for safety.

According to him, the vibration shook the area before the building collapsed.

He said: “I worked very close to the 21-storey building before the unusual vibration was noticed.

“This forced us to suspend what we were doing but on looking towards the direction of the vibration, we noticed that the 21-storey building was collapsing.

“Unfortunately many of its workers could not escape the scene.”

Military takes over operation

Meanwhile, personnel of  81 Division of the  Nigerian Army were sighted  at the scene carrying out rescue operations.

South-West Coordinator of  NEMA, Mr Ibrahim Farinloye, told Vanguard that  the  Army was invited  to take over the operation to avoid a repeat of a long process as experienced in the Synagogue Church’s collapse.

He said: “We are moving the military to take over operation because it is beyond the capacity of the civil operators. We don’t want it to be like the Synagogue case where it took seven to eight days.

“So far, four persons were recovered dead,  while five were rescued alive. We don’t know how many are still trapped.”

LASEMA boss

On his part,  the Director General, LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, said the  agency activated its emergency response plan to the scene immediately the news  got to  them.

He said:  “All first responders were enroute to secure the scene while the heavy duty equipment and life detection equipment  were  dispatched.”

Present at the scene were Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr. Idris Salako; Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr. Bamgbose-Martins; Special Adviser, Urban Development,  Ganiyu Adele Ayuba and Special Adviser,  GIS and Physical Planning, Dr. Olajide Babatunde.

Management team from  Lagos State Building Control Agency and the Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority were  also on ground to ascertain  the extent of damage to the surrounding structures.

The Deputy Governor noted that it was important to cordon off the scene of the incident to facilitate efforts of professional rescuers and limit casualty.

The Deputy Director, Public Affairs,  Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, said investigations were still on  to ascertain  the cause of the collapse.

Consultant withdraws over poor execution on Feb 2020

Although the cause of the collapse is not known, unconfirmed reports indicated how Prowess Engineering Limited withdrew its services from the building over poor execution of the project.

In a letter dated February 20, 2020, Muritala Olawale, Managing Director of Prowess Engineering Limited, said the firm could no longer vouch for the integrity of the building.

The letter addressed to Femi Osibona of Fourscore Heights Limited, the main contractor, stated that the execution of the project didn’t meet the required criteria.

It read:  “This letter is to formally inform you of the withdrawal of our structural consultancy service from the above named project.

“We arrived at this decision due to the fact that we no longer share same vision with you as our client in terms of how the project is being executed,” the letter stated.

“We can guarantee the integrity of the first two buildings and also works done up to the fourth floor of the third building supervised by us provided specifications have been met in terms of the required concrete strength.

“This we do not have control over as we do not have the concrete cube test results for each stage of the building till date,

“Also, kindly note that we are not taking responsibilities for any other construction errors that may have occurred over time on the project.

“Furthermore, we request that our company’s name and logo be removed from the project board and also kindly notify all necessary approving authorities of our withdrawal from the project.

“We regret this decision and the lost opportunity to do business together. We look forward to future cooperation in other projects.”

Vanguard learned that the developer got approval for 15-floors, the building was raised to 21, prompting the state government to mark it for violation of state building regulations.

Sanwo-Olu orders probe into building collapse

Reacting, Governor Bababjide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, yesterday, ordered an immediate investigation into the unfortunate building collapse.

Governor Sanwo-Olu, in a statement by his Commissoner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso, said: “Governor Sanwo-Olu has ordered an investigation into the incident.

“The General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, Arch. Gbolahan Oki, was also at the scene assessing the site for any likely damage to the surrounding structures.

“A report of the investigations will be made public in due course,” Omotoso assured citizens.”

On the wide circulated death of the developer, Farinloye told Vanguard that the circumstances at the scene of the building collapse made it difficult for emergency officials to ascertain if the developer was trapped or not.

Farinloye said: “Members of the public should be patient and allow us to continue our findings. The true state of the developer will be made public at appropriate time.”

Residents blame govt for negligence

Meanwhile, some concerned residents have heaped the blame on the state government for not been proactive to prevent the disaster from happening.

At the scene of the incident, a middle aged man, who simply identified himself as, Ajayi, lamented that the “ugly incident as preventable.”

“Why does government always wait for disasters to happen before taking steps. With all the multiple building control agencies and ministry, yet this magnitude of waiting disaster could not be detected let alone prevented. 

“This is one too many. Mr Bababjide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State should wake up and live up to his responsibility of protecting lives of citizens. 

“It has always been fire brigdage approach to managing disasters in this state.

“For example, the defects in this 21 21 storey building should have been detected if government knows what they are doing. This is absolutely unacceptable.”

Also,   Mrs Margret Akpan, a residents on the Island who was at the scene, appealed to relevant authorities to take more pragmatic steps in safeguarding lives and Properties of residents rather than waiting for loss of lives before taking action.

“Government should jettison this belated disaster response for more pragmatic steps.

“Look at the lives wasted today which should have been avoided if right steps were taken by government. This is so sad.”

Vanguard News Nigeria

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.