By Christopher Oji and Job Osazuwa
It was tears and agony yesterday, when a 21-storey building, still under construction collapsed, killing four persons and leaving many others trapped and injured.
The incident, which took place on Gerald Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State, happened at about 2pm.
Sources said the building construction has been ongoing in the last two years, with tens of people working on the site day and night.
It was gathered that some persons were using the ground floor of the building to hold meeting as at the time it went down. Several people were trapped in the ill-fated building.
As at press time, four persons were rescued sustaining varying degrees of injuries.
Sympathisers trooped to the scene to catch a glimpse or to have first-hand information of the tragedy, while others rushed down to render one assistance or the other.
Many people, particularly women, betrayed their emotion and wept openly seeing the dead bodies being pulled out from the rubble.
Coordinator, Lagos Territorial Office of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, confirming the casualties, said that the bodies were moved to the state government hospital’s morgue, while rescue operation continued.
All the deceased were pulled out from the rubble with the help of first-hand responders and voluntary workers.
“We are deploying Disaster Response Unit of the Nigerian Army and the Nigertian Air Force to assist in the rescue operation,” Farinloye said.
He also disclosed that the four victims who were trapped were rescued and taken to the hospital for medical attention.
Spokesperson of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Mr. Nosa Okunbor, also confirmed the incident.
He assured residents that the agency in collaboration with other rescue agencies was on top of the situation.
According to some residents of the area, there were tens of construction workers in the building before it collapsed.
Residents and other eyewitnesses accused the emergency responders for not storming the scene on time. The concerned Nigerians argued that if help had come the way of the trapped victims, many of them could have remained alive.
Director-General, LASEMA, Dr Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, supervised the rescue operation. He insisted that the agency rushed to the scene and heavy-duty equipment and life detection equipment were swiftly deployed for thorough rescue operation.
He said: “Collapsed Building at Gerard Road, Ikoyi: The agency has activated its emergency response plan to the above incident.
“All first responders are en route to secure the scene while the heavy-duty equipment and life detection equipment have been dispatched.”
Meanwhile, the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Babafemi Hamzat, the Commissioner for Special Duties and Intergovernmental Relations, its counterpart, Commissioner for Physical Planning visited the scene of the incident.
The DG of LASEMA was ground to oversee the rescue operation of his
Meanwhile, it was also confirmed that one of Nigeria’s celebrated developers, Mr. Femi Osibona, died in the rubble of the building collapse.
Osibona, the MD of Fourscore, was the brain behind 360 Degrees Towers in Ikoyi. He was reportedly on a visit to the site when it collapsed.
The impact of the collapse caused pandemonium in the area, which forced people to scamper for safety.
Other first responders, including policemen, officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LATSMA), Lagos Fire Service, Nigeria Red Cross Society, and others were at the scene to render different assistance. Medics from the State Ambulance Service, (LASEMBUS) were also on the ground.
All the agencies took over the scene to avoid clashes between street urchins who were making the place rowdy preventing emergency organizations who were on rescue and recovery operation from discharging their duties.
“Rescue operation has commenced. Four persons have been rescued and they are being treated by the medical crew of the Lagos State Emergency Ambulance Service (LASEMBUS). We are on ground and we must finish the work today because we don’t want the repeat of what happened in Synagogue Church where it took emergency agencies eight days to finish the recovery,” Farinloye.
Policemen from the Area A Command and Ikoyi Police Station, were said to have arrived the scene early but they were overwhelmed by the surging crowd which forced the police to call for reinforcement from other formation.
The rescued victims were rushed to an undisclosed hospital for medical attention.
A witness, Emmanuel Sanda, told Daily Sun that: “there is strong indication that the owner of the building is among many of the construction workers trapped under the rubble. Some people said he is the owner, others said he is fronting for someone, but we know him as the owner. We saw him few minutes before the building collapsed, so we are suspecting that he is under the place”.
Sanda said that the police clashed with some people who claimed that they were Journalists who came to cover the story and some street urchins,” when the clash was becoming so tensed, the police had to call in the military, who have cordoned off the area to ward off attacks.
“In fact, when the building collapsed, we first scampered for safety because we thought it was bomb explosion. We later came back and started calling all the emergency numbers that we had. We were lucky to get the police who arrived and started calling emergency agencies”.
An unconfirmed letter that went viral yesterday by Prowess Engineering Limited dated February 20, 2020 and signed by the Managing Director of the company, Muritala Olawale, addressed to Fourscore Heights Limited, revealed how the former withdrew its structural consultancy service from the building project that came crashing yesterday.
It read in part: “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.
“Also note that we are not taking responsibilities of any other construction errors that may have occurred over time on the project.”
Telephone calls made by the reporters to the phone numbers on the letter could not connect, as they were switched off as at the time of filing this report.