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Lagos Building Collapse: Death toll Hits 30, 13 Rescued

Wailings resonated yesterday at Horizon 1, Lekki Gardens, Ikate area of Lagos State, where a five-storey building sank and crumbled like a pack of cards. The incident, which occurred around 3a.m., claimed the lives of a nursing woman, her eightmonth- old baby and her second child as well as 15 others while 13 people were rescued from the rubble. At press time, rescue efforts were ongoing while many people, including women and children were still trapped.


Elderly women were seen at the site, praying and weeping. The building was originally meant for a three-story building but the owners suddenly raised it to five-storey. The dead are a Beninese woman and her two kids.

The others are men. Speaking of the woman and her kids, one Fidelis Anjolo, a worker at the site, said: “The Beninese woman and her children came from Cotonou to meet her husband. The man hadn’t been home for three months. She thought her husband was lying that he has not been paid for three months.

She came to see things for herself and got trapped in the building.” It was gathered that 150 workers from Benin Republic were brought in on Monday evening to continue work on the building, which was at the roofing stage.

These foreigners are causalities of the collapsed building. There are other workers, who, owing to everyday transport fare and distance to home and the site, used to sleep inside the building, except at weekends.

They are part of the victims. The workers at the site are both Nigerians and Beninese. The foreigners were allegedly hastily recruited after the contractors refused to pay their former workers. It was also gathered that the building had gone through the hands of a series of contractors.

Mr. Mathew Ademola, one of the workers said: “We’ve not seen the Benin Republic nationals that were brought in on Monday evening to work on the site. We all came here to work because we have families to feed. Hauwa, a food vendor, is still trapped in the building.

“Before the rescue team came, we recovered some bodies. Most of the workers usually sleep outside, but they went into the building on Tuesday morning because of the rain. They hardly pay us.

The owners of the building change contractors every week. “I have always known they use cheap building materials because I have worked here for two years. When I saw the money wasn’t forthcoming, I left.

They import their materials from Benin Republic.” A young lady, Remi, was seen at the site. She was shaking and could barely speak. She clutched a phone in her hand. She was calling every few minutes.

She said: “My brother has been working here for a month now. My brother is a bricklayer. He lives at Alagbado with his wife and children. He couldn’t go home every day because of transport fare.

I have called his number several times, but it’s not reachable. I don’t know what to do! I have checked the bodies, but he is not there. Our elder sister has also been trying his line, but it hasn’t been reachable.”

A carpenter, Mutiu Gani, said he and some of his friends pay security men to spend the night. Gani claimed that he knew four of his friends who were trapped. He said: “It’s unfortunate. The rescue team spent three hours on a person. They had no equipment.

They could have rented bulldozers or excavators from neighbouring companies. Our lives are in danger in this country. We work, but we are not paid.” An interior decorator, who refused to give his name, said: “The company handling the estate doesn’t have a human face.

They owe me N317,000 for interior decorations. I have slept in the sun, rain and suffered mosquito bites. When I came to site on Monday, I had hope of collecting my money. I sold my power bank to transport myself to the Island today (yesterday).” Another worker, John, said that if workers had been paid, so many dead would not have been recorded. He added.

“We have many dead bodies, because many couldn’t afford transport fares, so they passed the night at the site. Initially, when we started the work, we were paid N3,000 daily. It was changed to N3,500 weekly. Yet, they still continue to owe us.”

Alhaji Babangida Bello, a Hausa leader, said he was attending to some issues when he received a call that the building where his brothers were working had collapsed. He said: “I rushed down to the scene and we were able to identify the names and number of those that were trapped under the rubble.

They are Umar, Ado, Alu, Muhammed, Jemilu, Sabiu and Saminu. One of those rescued is Hassan. When Hassan was rescued, he screamed ‘Allah Akbar’ (meaning God is great).” In the midst of the chaos, tears and pains, a mild drama played out. The rescue team recovered a body of a victim, later identified by his friends to be a Muslim.

The body was handed over to the Environmental Health Monitoring Unit (SEHMU) officials. But the Hausa protested, demanding the body be handed over to them. There appeared to be a struggle for the possession of the body.

The confrontation was resolved after a top government official ordered the Hausa men to immediately release the body. Bello explained: “Muslims are buried few hours after death.”

The General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Mr. Michael Akindele, and the Information Officer of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, said that the bodies had been handed over to SEHMU.

They added that the rescued victims had been rushed to the Lagos Island General Hospital by the Lagos State Ambulance Service (LASAMBUS). General Manager Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), Mr. Shola Adeigbe, said: “I learnt that there was an approval for the building from the district officer.

The materials used for the construction are substandard. It was a foundation failure because it sank before collapsing. We’ll subject the entire building to structural stability test. The only thing now is to ensure that they construct with quality materials.”

He said all the structures erected in Lekki Gardens Horizon 1 were not safe for habitation. He said: “I started one or two buildings and the ownership was going the wrong way of building construction.

I recommend that Lagos State should subject all the buildings here to proper stability test.” Operatives of Rapid Response Squad (RRS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and Neighbourhood Watch were on ground to provide security. The Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Adelaja Adekanb said.

By Robert Muriisa.

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