The death toll in the 21-storey building that collapsed on Monday on Gerrard Road, in the Ikoyi area of Lagos State, has increased to 21.
The building crumbled around 2pm when workers were on the site.
It had been reported that many people were trapped in the rubble, including the Managing Director, Fourscore Heights Limited, Mr Femi Osibona, who owned the building.
The state Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who described the incident as a national disaster, on Wednesday, confirmed that 21 persons were brought out dead from the rubble.
Families denied access to mortuary
Some families searching for their loved ones on Wednesday lamented that they were denied access to the Mainland Hospital mortuary, Yaba, where the recovered bodies were taken to.
A man, Jude Ogochukwu, who complained about not being allowed to identify his relation, said his family needed early closure.
He said, “I went to the IDH yesterday and today (Wednesday) when the deputy governor said we could go there, but it had been terrible. They refused to allow us to see the people there; they refused to allow us to have early closure. We need to know early; this thing can take two weeks to get it done; we are in serious pain.”
A father, Edward Godwin, who noted that his 18-year-old son was also trapped in the rubble, said he came from Abuja to look for him.
He said, “I came from Abuja this morning (Wednesday); my son is one of the victims, an 18-year-old boy. I got a call about this around 10am yesterday (Tuesday) and I started coming down immediately and ever since I got here, I was directed to the IDH, but they didn’t allow me to check whether my son was alive or dead. I’ve been to the general hospital, but I was not allowed to see anyone.”
Another man, who claimed to have taken 10 people to the site, said he had only been able to see one body.
He said, “I brought 10 people to this site on Monday; my brother, my wife’s brother and others. But I have only been able to see one body out of the 10 people.”
Redeemed pastor, 22 co-workers trapped
A pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Omotosho Emmanuel, told PUNCH Metro that a colleague, Ola Ogunfuwa, and 22 others from the Ibafo area of Ogun State, were also trapped in the rubble.
Ogunfuwa, who is the pastor of the RCCG, Living Water Parish, Ibafo, was one of the engineers at the collapsed building.
Emmanuel said Ogunfuwa came with the 22 artisans when he was told that workers were needed on the site.
He said, “I am here this morning because one of my pastor friends is working here; he is an engineer. He came with about 22 people all the way from Ibafo to work here; labourers, bricklayers, welders, about 22 different guys that came together with him to work just to make sure the project is completed. They talked to him that they needed workers and he brought those guys.
“Up till now, out of those that have been rescued, we’ve not seen any of those 22 and he is still there because we learnt that at break time, he came out to eat but as he was about washing his hands to eat, he was summoned by one of his bosses and he went back inside. Not up to five to 10 minutes later, the building collapsed and he was trapped.
“He is still there now and we pray that God will have his way upon those that are still there. As a church, we prayed all through yesterday night just to make sure God have his way and we’re still believing that there is nothing God cannot do because we know that people are still many there, they said they are over 50.
“The ones they’ve rescued are not up to 10; definitely we are still expecting more people to be rescued.”
Lagos approved 15-storey building plan, not 21
The suspended General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, Gbolahan Oki, on Monday, stated that the collapsed structure was approved as a 15-storey building, and not 21.
But the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, while countering Oki’s claim, stated that 21 storeys were approved.
However, as the rescue operation entered day three, a new document emerged on Wednesday, showing that the Lagos State Government approved 15 storeys for the company.
PUNCH Metro noted that the document was issued by the Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority.
It indicated that a development permit of 15 floors and three blocks was granted to the Fourscore Height Limited on 44 B, C, D, Gerrard Road, Ikoyi (West), Lagos.
The permit was dated April 9, 2019 and signed by the agency’s general manager.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotosho, said the panel set up by the government would look into the issue.
He said, “The governor has set up a panel of experts to look at what happened and that will be part of the things that the panel will try to determine. Tomorrow (Thursday), we are going to inaugurate the panel.”
Project owner’s whereabouts unknown, survivors identified
Three days after the tragedy, nothing has been heard about the project owner, Osibona, who was said to be on the 18th floor of the building when it collapsed.
However, the spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency, Ibrahim Farinloye, on Tuesday, said the body of his personal assistant had been recovered.
The state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, said no one could tell Osibona’s whereabouts, adding that his body had also yet to be recovered.
The state governor, Sanwo-Olu, during his visit to the scene on Wednesday, said nine people were rescued alive, adding that three of them had been discharged.
He identified the six injured survivors as Odutan Timileyin, 26; Ahmed Kinleku, 19, (Cotonou, Benin Republic); Sunday Monday, 21; Adeniran Mayowa, 37; Solagbade Nurudeen, 33; and Waliu Lateef, 32.
Town planning president heads panel
Sanwo-Olu, while addressing journalists, noted that an independent five-member panel had been set up to investigate the cause of the collapse.
He said the committee was given a 30-day ultimatum to submit its report, adding that an executive order would be signed to back the panel.
The governor said the panel would be headed by the President of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners of Nigeria, Tayo Ayinde, while a lawyer in a private law firm, Ekundayo Onajobi, would serve as the secretary.
Other members of the panel are Dr Akintilo Adeleke, Yinka Ogundairo, Godfrey Godfrey, Mrs Bunmi Ibrahim and Mr Ekundayo Onajobi.
Sanwo-Olu also stated that a help desk had been set up at the scene of the incident for families seeking enquiries.
He said, “This is an event that could be declared as a clear national disaster; this is an event one can say indeed mistakes were made from all angles and an event that truly really should not be happening in a modern-day city like Lagos.
“It’s on record that we’ve asked the general manager of the building control agency, Architect Oki to proceed on an indefinite suspension. You can rest assured that if there are other people found culpable in the course of investigation, everybody will face the full wrath of the law.”
The governor maintained that it was difficult for the state to know the exact number of the people trapped, adding that none of the people linked to the housing project had come forward to offer information on the manifest.
Speaking on why the families had not been allowed to identify the bodies recovered, Sanwo-Olu stated that autopsies needed to be carried out on the corpses before they would be released to their families.
He said the state government would conduct integrity and non-destructive tests on buildings under construction within the vicinity to prevent a re-recurrence of the incident.