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Lagos collapsed building: Untold story of how bribery, corruption led to avoidable deaths

…Victims narrate heartbreaking tales
…Controversy trails halting of rescue operations

By Lolo Ayaba

When six year old Adeyemo Taiye, her twin Kehinde and some of her school mates including teachers of Ohen Nursery and Primary school arrived school on Wednesday 13th March 2019, little did they know that they would be trapped under the debris of their school building for several hours before rescue would come or that some of them would meet their end.

For loved ones, relatives and friends of victims who received calls that something bad had happened to their children, wards, parents or relatives, it was nightmare turned reality.

If only they knew what the day had in stock, none of the pupils would be in school that day and all the residents would have fled for their dear lives..

Unfortunately their young lives were sacrificed on the altar of sharp practices, corruption and greed by people who ought to protect them and keep them safe.

Lagos collapsed building: Untold story of how bribery, corruption led to avoidable deaths
Jennifer Pearse

Sadly, primary one pupil, Adeyemo Taiye was among the first corpses brought out from the rubbles while her twin sister, Adeyemo Kehinde, was later rescued and rushed to the hospital about 2.19 pm on Wednesday afternoon alongside a pregnant woman.

Others who were rescued alive are: Adedoyin Rukayat, Sanusi Rukayat, Suleiman Baraka, Rasheed Shukurat , Komolafe Saidat , Hassan Omotolani , Abimbola Faruq and Alabi Quayum. Others are: Afolabi Rodiat, Olawusi Rokibat, Alawu Fayibat, Adedoyin Kehinde, Rasheed Labat ,Naimot Tise, Alabi Kabiru, Shashore Kabiru, Ogunsanwo Daniel , Owolabi Ayomide and Ayeni Faruo.

Meanwhile Lagos State Government has released the official figures of pupils and adult who died in Wednesday’s collapsed building in Lagos Island.
At a news conference at the Lagos Island General Hospital, Lagos, State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris disclosed that 20 children and adults died in the collapsed building.
The commissioner also disclosed that 43 people were rescued alive and were receiving treatment.
Some of the deceased identified were: Adeyemo Taiye Aaliyah Akinshina, Fawad Abdulfatah.

Unfortunately the building which triples as a school, residential building also had shops occupied by artisans and trader several years back. The artisans’ space was a toilet before it was constructed.

Itafaji collapsed building according to residents who knew the state of the building prior to its collapse, was an avoidable incident if those who were in charge especially the Lagos State Government Building Control Agency LASBCA had deemed it fit to do the right thing since 2014 when the building was marked for demolition.

READ MORE: Breaking: After collapse, Lagos govt begins demolition of over 180 defective houses

A former teacher of Ohen nursery and Primary school, Salami Bukola said “I was a teacher in that school for six months. When I was working, the building was shaking and stones were falling off. At a point I spoke with the proprieties Madam Esther on how unsafe the building was and how she urgently needs to relocate the school to a more secure location. But she said she didn’t have money to move the school to a safer location. At a point I resigned from the school that was in December.”

“There were signs that the building would collapse anytime as stones keeps falling off the building. When I was still a teacher we had about 30 pupils. The school has been here for years. As at the time I was still teaching in the school we had five teachers who taught in the school.”

One of the rescued pupils of Ohen Nursery and Primary School.
One of the rescued pupils of Ohen Nursery and Primary School.

Another resident Afeez Olalekan said “during Fashola’s administration, they marked this building for demolition but it wasn’t demolished and when he left, people came back. Occupants who were sent out of this building, later moved back. The kids that have been taken out from this building in my presence are 10 in number, and this has been going on since. Some persons are yet to be rescued.

Mrs Abiola Basiua who spoke to Newsbeats at the scene of the incident said “This is not the only building that has been marked by the government for demolition. The government should demolish the buildings that have been marked or chase the occupants out. Their officials should stop collecting bribe and giving developers permit to renovate dead building at the expense of innocent lives.

“I don’t stay in the collapsed building but everyone in this neighbourhood knows about the state of this building, almost every year it develops one issue or the other. For over five years this house has been having problem. The pillars of this building are too tiny and the rims are small. Once in a while you see the demolition sign on the building later you won’t find it again after they settle government officials. The Lagos state governor needs to check the activities of developers. They are the ones causing the problem of building collapse in Lagos state many of them don’t have the professional requirement that is required in building construction or relevant certification.

“Look at the little children, leaders of tomorrow that lost their lives here. We are pleading with the Lagos state government to help us. Things like this is not supposed to happen in this country. If you want to rent accommodation in this part of lagos island agreement and commission is N200,000 before you pay for the house rent money. Look at the house that the government is constructing at Ilubirin if they build if for the poor it will do a lot of things in our lives

Pained by the incident that claimed several lives including school children on Wednesday morning Alfa Babatunde Kaduri said ” I am pleading with the government to probe what happen here with a view to finding a lasting solution to the issue of buildings collapsing in Lagos island. The government should not treat it with levity considering that this is not the first time this is happening around this neighborhood. You see everything that happened here, is really terrible. It is the government responsibility to ensure that the people are safe. If the government had asked the people to evacuate a building there is no way they won’t. Apart from the government there is nothing anyone would do to eject occupants from any building.

This particular building has been marked twice for demolition because it is unsafe for living. Initially people who lived here parked out but school stayed back. After months passed and nothing happened people moved back in.

Another thing is that the government agency in charge of building must be up and doing.
How else do you explain the fact that people will use substandard materials to build and the government will do nothing. How many people have been prosecuted for collapsed building and related issues?

The agency must ensure that the right quality of cement and other materials are used when building. They use little cement when constructing and this is the outcome, look at those three buildings how they are built close to each other.”

Another resident, Abdul Kareem Omotosho said that “What happened here is waste of human life, preventable tragedy. Outside the country the government makes provision for people who can’t own a house

In this community people just erect structure the way they like, no planning nothing. Buildings clustered everywhere no provision for safety. If we investigate this collapsed building issue closely, you will discover that the civil engineers or developers are not capable, the bricklayers do what they feel like. Our drainage system have failed because there are no channels for water to flow when it rains. The rain water goes back to foundation. This affects the foundation, for example, look at the house before us (pointing to a building close to the collapsed house), you would see that water has weakened the fence.

Please beg them because when is time for voting they come hear for campaigns, we will vote but no result. We should not be made to regret voting them into power this time because what just occurred is not satisfying. The government should be concerned because we are the people they govern and our lives should count.

A victim tells her story

One of the victims who lives in the penthouse but narrowly escaped and her husband had gone to work while their children had gone to school when the incident happened on Wednesday morning. According to her this building has been built over 20 years ago. It has been long that this building has issues. In 2014 the government of Fashola marked it for demolition. The building has been making sound. I live in a room and parlour and we have clothes and other valuables like my school certificate including my NCE is buried under the debris. I have not seen anything from the building except from this plastic which is in my hand.

“My appeal to the government is to rescue residents in this part of Lagos Island because of the high house rent, we want the government to build low cost estates for the people. There are building projects at Ikoyi, Eti-osa and other places that have been abandoned where people are living, they should rent it out to people. Many people are dying because of money. We are all suffering because we don’t have money. We deserve to live like human beings but the economic situation of the country has not made live easy. If you don’t have about half a million you can’t rent a place here. The government should please take a look at the Island, the abandoned project at Adeniji Adele, those estates that have been abandoned should please give it out to people to live in”

Adebola kolawole, Chairman Nigeria Redcross society Lagos Island branch, said “I can’t give an exact figure of the casualties or survivors because LASEMA is coordinating all emergency so they are the ones to give the report so thay we won’t have conflicting figures, but on Thursday morning around 4am a body was still recovered.

Kolawole, however called on parents to be safety conscious. According to her this should serve as a warning and a lesson to parents who choose to send their children to private schools, send your child to public schools, there are public schools all over the place at each local government. In Lagos state we have more than 600 government schools. Take your children to schools that have enough safety, safety is the key.”

Controversy trails halting of rescue operations

Despite claims by the General Manager, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Mr. Tiamiyu Adesina, that occupants of the failed building have all been rescued and operations have been concluded, controversy has continued to trail the decision to call off rescue as some parents are still searching for their children. And residents have continued to allege that some of the occupants of the building were not rescued even as some parents are still searching for their kids in the hospitals or mortuary.

Among those who are still missing is a girl Mujidat Akinshina,

According to Mr. Muyideen Akinshina, whose three children attend the school, Ohen nursery and Primary school, Lagos Island, one of my daughters Mujidat is still missing 48 hours after the incident. Akinshina, revealed that he has buried one, Aaliyah, who did not survive after the collapse. I am now left with my last child, Abdullahi, who is two year-old and was still been attended to at the hospital ward.”

Lamenting at the pace of the rescue operation, a resident, Bukola Bashira, said the “The ncident is quite unfortunate and preventable, if only we lived in a country where human lives matter. How can the government bring just one equipment to rescue people who are trapped here for over five hours, we haven’t been able to rescue 30 persons and there are other people trapped inside the debris. Now they have called off the rescue when it is obvious that some victims haven’t been found.”

Also the founder, Give Back Nigeria, Jenifer Soba Pearse frowned at the fact that the search and rescue team had been called off while some parents are yet to see their children in any of the hospitals.

“The government has called off the rescue team, it now lies in the hands of residents to use shovels and diggers. This is bad because the more time spent, the less chances of recovering victims alive.”, she said.

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