* Trapped victim begs from under rubble

*Sanwo-Olu suspends LASBCA GM indefinitely

*Death toll rises to 20 as rescue team search for over 45 trapped victims

*Owner of building arrested for prosecution — LABSCA

*Families besiege scene for loved ones

*My daughter, 26, a Youth Corps member, still trapped — Father

*Lagos to pay hospital bills of injured victimslLASBCA culpable — Lawyer

*Institute of Architects blames govt, professional bodies for oversight failure

*Obaseki commiserates with Sanwo-Olu, victims’ families

By Dapo Akinrefon, Olasunkanmi Akoni, Evelyn Usman, Kingsley Adegboye, Chioma Obinna, Bose Adelaja, Esther Onyegbula & Arogbonlo Israel

This (Wednesday) morning, the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, and Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, have confirmed that the death toll from the Ikoyi building collapse tragedy is now 22.

According to the agencies, two bodies were recovered at about 2:28am today.

Meanwhile, yesterday, the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, and General Manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency, LASBCA, Mr Gbolahan Oki, differed over circumstances that surrounded collapse of the 21-storey building at Ikoyi on Monday.

LASBCA boss, Oki, had said the developer of the building violated the state’s building code by extending the 15-floor structure approved for him to 21 floors but the Deputy Governor told newsmen at the scene yesterday that the developer had approval for 21-floor building.

Hamzat, however, noted that the project site was sealed in June this year for four months by the relevant agency when it was discovered that there were some anomalies in the construction process.

This came as Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, also yesterday, ordered indefinite suspension of the LASBCA boss, Mr. Gbolahan Oki.

Rescue team in search of over 45 trapped victims

Meanwhile, 45 victims are said to be still trapped in the rubble yesterday as the rescue team continued search operation, yesterday.

The state government also disclosed that 15 bodies had been recovered from the rubble of the collapsed building, following collaborative efforts of a rescue team, comprising the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, both federal and state Fire Services, Police, Neighbourhood Watch, among others.

Watch an exclusive video of the scene HERE.

Approval was for 15 floors, says embattled LASBCA boss

Reacting to the development earlier, the now-suspended LASBCA boss, Mr. Oki, said the owner of the building was given approval to construct only 15 floors.

He said: “He got approval for a 15-storey building and he exceeded his limit. I am on the ground here and the materials and reinforcement he used are so inferior and terrible.

“He got approval for 15 floors but built 21. I think he has been locked down. He has been arrested before now.”

Collapsed building earlier sealed for 4 months — Hamzat

But countering the embattled LABSCA boss, the Deputy Governor, Dr Hamzat, said the developer got approval for 21 floors for the collapsed structure.

He also disclosed that the building was sealed in June for four months when certain defects were noticed by government until this month when it was unsealed after the defects had been corrected.

The Deputy Governor, accompanied to the site by top government officials, said the focus of government is to ensure that ongoing rescue operations yielded positive results, such that those still trapped in the rubble could be brought out alive.

He said: “We are not sure of the number of people inside there. It is not a residential building yet. It is not that we have tenants or a list of people.

“As a matter of fact, if you are aware, this location was sealed for about four months sometime ago. It was sealed because our agency came in to do structural tests and saw some anomalies. So they shut it down for those things to be corrected.

“The second building will also be audited in terms of integrity test, and of course, if we find anything, then the appropriate action will be taken.

“This particular one (pointing to the collapsed building) was approved for 21 floors, not 15. If you count the second building it is 14 or 15.

“The approval was done about three years ago, it is not something new. It is the construction that failed apparently from what we can see.

“The state government will embark on further foundation and borehole acidic level tests to ascertain the impact on the collapsed building.

“These tests, particularly the borehole acidic level, are important for the entire Gerard Road and adjoining areas.

“We wish to state that there will be no cover-up in the search for the truth in this incident. If anybody is found to have been indicted, he or she will face the law.

“It is important to restate that all developers and property owners are required to adhere strictly to all building codes and planning regulations to ensure safety of lives and property.

“Those who ignore such regulations, breaking seals and defying enforcement will surely be prosecuted.”

Sanwo-Olu suspends LASBCA GM indefinitely

Following the building collapse, Governor Sanwo-Olu yesterday suspended the LASBCA General Manager, Oki, and set up an independent panel.

The panel members are drawn from the Nigeria Institute of Architects, NIA, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, NITP, Nigeria Society of Engineers, NSE, and other professional bodies.

The panel, according to the governor, will independently investigate remote and immediate causes of the incident and make recommendations on how to prevent future occurrences. He said the investigation was not part of the internal probe already being conducted by the government.

A statement by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, said: “Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has said the government will surely find out what went wrong and punish those indicted.

“The governor, as a first step, has directed that the General Manager of LASBCA, Mr. Gbolahan Oki, an architect, be suspended from work immediately. The suspension is indefinite.

“More equipment and personnel have been deployed in the site to save more lives.

Nine persons – all men – have been pulled out of the rubble alive. They have been taken to the hospital. Unfortunately, 15 others were brought out dead at 2 pm.

“Mr. Sanwo-Olu thanks all first responders and those who have joined the rescue efforts, including construction giants Julius Berger, Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, CCECC, and the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA.”

Families besiege scene

Some affected families of the victims have visited the scene in search of their loved ones who were trapped in the building.

They besieged the scene of the collapse building as early as 6 am, wailing and praying that their loved ones be rescued alive.

Some family members, who wore mournful looks, refused to grant interviews to the press but were seen lamenting the situation and putting up calls to their loved ones about the incident.

One of them, a male, from the Sanni family, was seen begging officials at the scene to expedite action on the rescue operation.

He told them that his daughter, 26 years old, Sanni Oyindamola Zainab, a corps member, was attached to the construction company handling the project.

He said: “Oyin, as fondly called, was at the site for her official duty on Monday when the incident occurred.  The press should wait till my daughter is rescued before directing their questions to me.”

One of the family members, who refused to disclose her identity, said his younger sister, Keji, was trapped in the rubble.

“As at 10. pm yesterday (Monday), Keji was shouting for help and her voice was audible, unfortunately, as at 11 am today (yesterday), the rescue operation did not reach her exact location. As of now, I don’t know whether she will be rescued.”

An instructor, simply identified as ‘Papa’, said he brought seven workers to the construction site on Monday “but none of them is yet to be recovered.”

Trapped victim begs from under rubble

Also, one of the trapped victims, Muyideen, was said to have contacted his relatives from under the rubble at about 2 am yesterday, begging passionately that rescue operators hasten the process.

Muyideen, who is said to have spoken in a faint tone, complained of heat adding that he was with three other persons.

American returnee trapped

Among those trapped under the rubble is an America-based Nigerian who was said to have visited the site to see his friend when the unexpected occurred.

One of his friends, who took to his Facebook page to announce the tragic incident, explained that the victim had called him to announce that he would be returning to America on Tuesday (yesterday).

Confirming his claim, a man who identified himself as the taxi driver that was to convey the American returnee to the airport, was sighted at the scene of the collapsed building yesterday, lamenting what he described as the painful exit of the victim.

The driver said: “I was supposed to take him to the international airport. He directed me to stop for him to see someone in there. The rest is history.”

The South-West Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency, Ibrahim Farinloye, confirmed that contacts had been established with some of the trapped victims.

Farinloye said one of the victims, who spoke with his relatives, disclosed that some of them gathered around the muster point in the building when it collapsed.

He assured that efforts would be intensified to rescue trapped victims alive.

Our close shave with death — Workers

Meanwhile, one of the workers at the site, Enahoro Tony, said he would have ended up under the rubble like some of his colleagues, had he not gone out to get food.

Narrating his narrow escape, Tony said: “The incident happened at about 2 pm, which was our break time. I went out to eat. On my way back, I saw everywhere covered with dust. I looked around for the building we had been working on, it had disappeared.

“Immediately, I rushed into the building alongside some of my colleagues who also went out to look for what to eat, to rescue others. We managed to rescue some injured ones, while a few others managed to come out of the building without any injury.

“While we were on the rescue mission, some soldiers came and ordered us to leave the premises.

“We would have rescued more of our colleagues if we were not prevented by security agents.”

Another worker at the site, who also narrowly escaped death, Wisdom John, said: “Other workers and I were on the last floor charging our phones.

“As I stepped out to buy food because it was break time, I heard a strange sound from the building.

“Before I could fathom what it was, the building had caved in. Those who were not inside the building managed to escape unhurt.”

Lagos to pay hospital bills of victims

Meanwhile, Lagos State government has pledged to take over the hospital bills of the injured victims of the Ikoyi building collapse, even as it disclosed that three of the nine rescued victims on admission at the General Hospital Lagos had been discharged.

Deputy Governor of the state, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, who disclosed this during a visit to the General Hospital, Lagos, where some of the rescued victims of the incident were on admission, said nine people, all male, had so far been rescued from the debris of the building.

He added that three of the rescued victims were treated and discharged on the spot, while the remaining six were currently on admission receiving treatment at the Medical Emergency, LASEMS, unit of the General Hospital, Lagos.

While noting that the admitted victims were responding to treatment and doing well, the deputy governor noted that the injuries sustained by those currently on admission were minor injuries that were not life-threatening.

Hamzat said: “We have six people in here; all-male, and thankfully, they are doing well. The doctors have told us their state; they have minor injuries and nothing life-threatening thankfully.

“They are being treated and of course, as you know, the Lagos State Government is taking full responsibility for their treatment.

“We have their names and we will be getting in touch with their families. Nine people were rescued, six are here now, three people have gone home and as you know we have 10 dead bodies taken out of the place”.

Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Olusegun Ogboye, who accompanied the deputy governor on the visit, assured the rescued victims of quality and optimal health care service at the facility, stressing that trained medical personnel were on ground to aid their recovery process.

Building experts react

Meanwhile, angry reactions trailed the building collapse yesterday, as the Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Architects, in Lagos State, David Majekodunmi, who visited the site, lamented the unfortunate incident, saying such should not have happened if authorities had done what was expected of them.

Majekodunmi said: “My first impression is that the country is in a mess.

“We are in a mess because if we have done what we are supposed to do, either on the private or government side, we wouldn’t be having this kind of incident.

“Looking at this, you can’t determine what the cause of the collapse is. In a nutshell, we are standing in front of the signage which is supposed to be a prerequisite at a site.

“You cannot see the name of the architect, the structural engineer, and other consultants. But there is so much going on the platform where the number written on all these consultants happens to be the developer.”

Professionals blame Lagos control agencies for negligence

Similarly, built environment professionals also took a swipe at the various Lagos State agencies that are meant to monitor and control building projects in the state, saying their negligence caused the collapse of the 21-storey building.

Reacting to the collapse that claimed several lives, immediate past president of the Nigerian Institute of Building, NIOB, Mr Kunle Awobodu, said negligence on the part of the state government officials was responsible for the collapse.

Awobodu said: “Building projects of this magnitude is handled by specialists in the construction industry and not people that do not have a past record of integrity with the approving authorities.

“The pedigree of the contractors handling the project needed to be ascertained by the approving authorities before they were given the job.

“However, if there was monitoring of the project by the relevant government officials, the disaster would have been averted, because they would have been able to notice the structural defects that eventually resulted in the collapse of the building.

“Now, prospective property investors will lose confidence in property investment because of this incident. The government needs to boost the confidence of property investors in the state.”

Also, the Public Relations Officer, Nigerian Institute of Architects, NIA, Mr. Austin Otuoke, who spoke for himself and not for NIA, described the collapse as a human factor and a natural disaster.

Otuoke said: “How was he able to take the structure to 21 floors without notice by relevant government agencies? Where were the control agencies of the state government? 

“There is Lagos State Building Control Agency, LASBCA, there is Lagos State Safety Commission, and there is Lagos State Materials Testing Laboratory. All of them have roles to play to ensure buildings do not collapse in the state.

“But what did they do to ensure the collapse of the high rise building was prevented?

“So, negligence on the part of the control agencies which failed to do their job was responsible for the collapse. After all, the building did not just spring up one day from the ground.

“They were constructing from floor to floor, and if there was monitoring and checks by the relevant authorities, the developer wouldn’t have extended the building to 21 floors from 15 floors approved for him.”

LASBCA  culpable — Lawyer

However, in a petition dated November 2, 2021, a legal practitioner and member, Body of Benchers, Mr. Kunle Uthman, blamed the state government for the unfortunate incident.

The petition read: “In explaining this gory incident, the General Manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency said that the approval for the collapsed building was 15 and not 21 floors, and admitted that poor materials were used in the construction of that building, hence its collapse.

“This incident is an example of culpability of government officials and its supervisory agency and failure to perform their duties and responsibilities or enforcement of punitive measures in respect of a recalcitrant contractor and owners of private properties.

“Necessarily, it would have taken appreciable time to construct the six additional floors, but the agency responsible to issue a stop-work order and marking the building itself for demolition chose to ignore the construction of those additional floors and therefore failed in the enforcement of extant laws.

“Why was a Stop Order not placed on this building and why was there no supervision of the quality of materials as explicitly stated in several building control laws and legislation in the state?

“In this particular instance, which has resulted in fatality and deaths, the officials of the Lagos State Government responsible, especially the Lagos State Building Control Agency is culpable and should be prosecuted immediately, forthwith and without delay.

“This particular incident is a glaring example of officials of the government of Lagos State, compromising their duties and responsibilities for consideration.

“What is this hype of Centre of Excellence all about, if a 21-storey building in highbrow Ikoyi will collapse as a result of negligence of irresponsible public officials, who earn salaries and whose lifestyles are maintained at the expense of the people?

“We cannot continue like this, as apparently corruption and avarice has become not a social malaise but constitute our DNA.

“The proper thing to do is to immediately arrest and prosecute him and his cohorts in that agency in a court of law and to conduct integrity tests of all ongoing construction of buildings in Lagos State in excess of 10 floors.”

Obaseki commiserates with Sanwo-Olu, victims’ families

Also reacting, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, yesterday, commiserated with his Lagos State counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the families of victims and the people of Lagos State over the building collapse.

The governor, who expressed sadness over the incident, urged the authorities to beef up emergency operations to ensure the rescue of those still trapped under the rubble.

Obaseki said: “We are deeply saddened by the news of the collapse of a 21-storey building in Ikoyi, Lagos. Our hearts are with the Government and people of Lagos State, especially the families who lost their loved ones in this incident.

“While we urge the government and relevant agencies to intensify efforts to ensure the rescue of those still trapped in the rubble, we pray for the repose of the souls of those who lost their lives in the unfortunate incident.

“On behalf of the government and good people of Edo State, I offer my deepest condolences to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the people of Lagos State and the affected families over this painful incident.”

Incident a symptom of a dysfunctional state —Bode George

On his part, former Deputy National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Bode George, described the incident as a symptom of a dysfunctional state.

George, in a statement, said: “The collapse of the 21-storey building on Gerrard Road on Monday afternoon is a symbol of a systemic state failure. It is a reflection of greed, the arrogance of power and sheer lawlessness.

“Everything about the building spells doom and yet the state appears comatose and indifferent.

“A 15-storey building was approved and yet the developer raised it to 21. The structural engineer wrote a letter in February last year detailing all the anomalies and informing the authorities about the looming danger. Still, the developer, called Fourscore, continued, negating the building codes.

“There is definitely a lot wrong with a government that cannot exercise a firm grip in ensuring that its laws are complied with.

“Some builders apparently take dangerous short-cuts to evade the law, with the obvious connivance of those who are supposed to regulate their activities.

“Fourscore was an obvious disaster waiting to happen and yet everyone ignored it.

“The citizens of Lagos State deserve to know the whole truth about the real owners of Fourscore and not the hapless fronts who are sadly buried in the ruins.

“This is one building disaster too many.

“This is also a moral to the electorate to choose wisely at the polls and make sure that those who are elected effectively represent their interests.”

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