• Rights body demands audit, prosecution of govt officials
• Buhari, Ambode, others condole with victims’ families
Eight bodies were pulled out from a collapsed three-storey building in Lagos State yesterday. The structure, which contained a primary school, at 63 Massey Street, Itafaaji, Lagos Island, came crashing down around 10:00 a.m.
Thirty-seven persons, mostly pupils, were rescued, according to figures released by Ibrahim Farinloye, the spokesman of the National Emergency Management Agency (Southwest).The school occupied the first and second floors, while the ground floor and third storey were residential.
“We were in the market when suddenly we heard a loud boom,” said Yemisi Bankole, deputy head of Itafaaji market.Concerned neighbours rushed to the scene as soon as the building fell and began rescue operations. Men of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) joined shortly after.
“There is a pregnant woman trapped in the building. We learnt she is now dead. A teacher also made a telephone call that she was trapped alongside 15 children. She asked rescuers to pour down water to keep them from suffocating,” Bankole said.She said the building was marked for demolition but had stood because state officials were allegedly receiving bribes.
The General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) Olalekan Shodeinde confirmed that the building was indeed marked for demolition. But he explained that the owner stubbornly pressed on with modifications and let out the structure.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode who visited the scene also said: “As you can see, some of the buildings have been marked for demolition. We get resistance from landlords. We will intensify efforts to see that occupants of those (buildings) that failed our integrity test are evacuated then we will bring such structures down.”
But pro-democracy and non-governmental organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), came down hard on the state government, calling for the prosecution of its commissioner for housing and urban planning. It also sought an independent audit of all public and private educational facilities in the state.
“This particular case must never be swept under the carpet of impunity. Action must be adopted to get to the root of this menace and fish out other culprits to face prosecution,” the group said in a statement by National Coordinator Emmanuel Onwubiko and National Media Affairs Director Zainab Yusuf.
It questioned why the state has remained a hub for substandard buildings and collapse and blamed corruption for poor dispensation of justice in past cases.The Pioneer president of the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG), Mr. Kunle Awobodu, on his part, blamed the tragedy on the use of non-professionals in construction. He said that with general elections over, government must rein in unscrupulous developers and pull down hundreds of defective buildings.
President Muhammadu Buhari meanwhile expressed sadness over the incident, even as he charged the state government to stem the tide of building collapse.
In a statement by Spokesman Femi Adesina, he said: “It touches one to lose precious lives in any kind of mishap, particularly those so young and tender. May God grant everyone affected by this sad incident fortitude and succour.”
The southwest zone of the country has the highest record of building collapse in the last decade. A 2015 survey showed that an average of 27 buildings fell in 14 months. Of these, 175 deaths occurred while 427 persons were injured. A further breakdown of the survey showed that 17 of the cases involved residential areas with a death toll of 44 and over 60 persons injured. Six cases involved church buildings with an estimated death toll of 134. Lagos accounted for over 134 deaths with over 159 injured. The figure is without reference to the September 12, 2014 incident at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), which killed about 115 persons and left 131 injured.