Ikoyi Building: Mistakes made on all angles – Gov Sanwo-Olu

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Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, yesterday, decried the tragic building collapse in Ikoyi which has so far claimed 21 lives, admitting that “mistakes were made from all angles.”

The governor spoke when he visited the site of the building collapse where emergency workers remained engaged in a rescue operation.

This is even as a document surfaced yesterday which indicated that only 15 floors were approved for the collapsed structure, against the Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat’s claim of 21.

The 21-storey building, which was under construction and located along Gerrard Road, collapsed Monday afternoon.

But as search and rescue operations for trapped victims and bodies in the rubble of the collapsed 21-storey building continued, total bodies recovered hit 22, after two bodies were removed yesterday.

Also, emotions continued to run high as relatives of trapped victims remained near the site, hopeful of rescue for loved ones.

Meanwhile, there are strong indications that the Lagos State House of Assembly may summon government officials to answer questions concerning the collapsed building.

‘Mistakes’
Amid concerns that he did not visit the site the day the building collapsed, Governor Sanwo-Olu explained that he was out of the country at the time.

The governor, who extended his condolences to the families and people whose loved ones were affected by the tragedy, also announced members of a panel of inquiry to probe the collapse.

He promised that those found culpable will be made to face the law.

Speaking on the indefinite suspension of the General Manager of Lagos State Building Control Agency, LASBCA, Gbolahan Oki, the governor said the suspension was just a first step in the quest to hold those responsible to account.

His words: “This is an event that could be described clearly as a national disaster. Mistakes were made from all angles,” the governor said, adding that such an event “really should not be happening in a modern city like Lagos.

“We will say we had to take from the head; from the leadership of that agency, and you can be rest assured that if there are other people that are found in the course of the investigation, they will face the full wrath of the law.”

Violations of National Building Code
Asked if there were violations of the National Building Code in the construction, the governor said: “I will not have the details but from preliminary investigation, yes, there would be violations.

“The simple thing such as not having a manifest on site is a violation of the law in itself. So, several violations would have happened here.

“I think it’s important for me to let you know where I have been in the last one-and-a-half days.

“I travelled out of Nigeria in the early morning of Sunday. I had to travel to Rome to attend the G-20 Summit in Rome.

“There was a side conference by the European Commission for Africa and Asia and I was invited to a speaking engagement, so we had engagement throughout Sunday night and also on Monday.

“Unfortunately, I was on the rostrum speaking on Monday when I got a call on what had happened here in Lagos, and I had to turn back because I was also due to go to the COP 26 Climate Change Conference where I had a speaking engagement but we had to terminate that and made a turnaround back to Lagos.”

Speaking to newsmen after inspecting the level of the recovery operation, the governor said: “Give legal backing to their composition, so that they can start work immediately and turn out a report not later than 30 days.

“The other thing is that we will set up a very strong empathy-driven medical base.

‘No manifest of workers’
“Unfortunately, what we have seen in the last 48 hours is that we do not have the manifest of everybody that was on site which is against the law. Daily, you are meant to have a manifest of everybody working on a construction site.

“Unfortunately, it has also been difficult for us to identify, or anyone to come forward as the project manager or staff of the developer or contractor.

“So we have also been working without having full information; that is the modus operandi of the company.

“That is why we do not know what numbers we are dealing with, what the mix is and what work they were doing there. So it is still complicated.

“So what we do know is that we have been able to rescue nine individuals, six are still in the general hospital in Lagos.

“We have all their names, telephone numbers, their details and three that have been discharged for minor injuries

“That’s what we have today. But unfortunately, we have 21 confirmed mortalities. What is the process?

“We have a desk that has been set up where we want family members to register their dossiers.

“Like I said, we do not have a manifest, so anybody that is missing that they think, came here to work or is a worker here, you write the name of the person, and photograph of the person will be very useful.

“We will also want your name and contact of who is presenting, we do not want more than two family members.

“For that, we have designed a form that will be given to them, that they will fill right here. We are still conducting a search-and-rescue mission.

“We do not know when exactly this search and rescue will be completed, we do not know how long it will take but we have enough men to, indeed, rescue the last person in the place.

“Hope is what is in short supply but hope is what we need right now. So we need to be strong and hopeful that our loved ones are there and they can still have oxygen to breathe. We will continue to do the best we can.

“This is not a typical search and rescue, it is not a typical building collapse, this is a total floor-by-floor, all coming down and there is no pillar in any form that is holding anything.

“There is a lot of comprehensive backroom work that will happen, but you cannot compare this with a construction site that is still alive.

“There are three buildings on-site and what I was told is that there are: 15, 15, 21 floors. As for the owner or developer, it was said he was also on site.

“We haven’t seen him and I do not know if his body has been recovered. I do not know.

“It has also been rumoured that the developer is the builder but I can’t confirm that. These are things that the panel will investigate, confirm and tell us. I cannot be preemptive on that.

“There are life equipment there to detect life, movements and sound in there that they are using.

“When we do not have information, let’s not be speculative. The machines we have there, some are reserved, some are spares, it is only four quadrants that they are working from, so what it means is that at maximum, four machines are working there at the same time, all the others are spares.

“Last night here, I saw them changing the blades of some of the equipment that they were using, so they will get tired at some point in time and change.

Audit of buildings under construction
“I have asked last night for the Ministry of Physical Planning to give me a detailed list of all buildings that are five floors and above, that are under construction in Lagos, where they are, what stage they are that has got approval from us.

“I hope they will give it to me later today (yesterday). These are part of the due diligence that we are going to do.

“We are probably going to be working with a lot of professional institutes, so we can quickly go around these places and see if we can do an integrity test.

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“We need to know early. This thing you are seeing is going to take probably two weeks to get it done, we are in pains, serious pains.

“Officially, there is going to be an autopsy regarding that, we do not just want to show pictures to anyone, it is not professional.

“That is why we need to have a clear manifest of who was here, those we have taken to the morgue for identification by family members so that the closure will be quick and fast.”

Document showing approval for 15 floors surfaces
There was, however, a new twist over approval for 21 floors of the collapsed building yesterday.

An unconfirmed document surfaced showing that only a 15-floor building was approved, against the 21-storey building claimed by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Femi Hamzat, as he inspected the incident scene yesterday.

The now-suspended General Manager of LABSCA, Mr Gbolahan Oki, had earlier announced that the developer flouted the government’s approval of 15 floors by extending it to 21 floors, which Hamzat later discredited.

The document indicated that the state Physical Planning Permit Authority issued the approval.

It confirmed that the approval for 15 floors, three blocks of buildings, was issued to Fourscore Heights Limited of 44b,c,d Gerard Road, South-West Ikoyi on 9 April 2019.

The approval was given for the construction of the buildings meant for residential purposes. The building address was 44b,c,d Gerard Road, Southwest Ikoyi.

The registration number for the approval was 1v2019/DO/033/67 issued on 5 April 2019, while the Development Permit Number issued on 9 April 2019 was DCB/DO/2442 IV.

It was gathered that the suspended GM only resumed at the agency two months ago and that it was during the tenure of the current Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, who served as the Director-General of LASBCA, that the approval was given.

It was also discovered that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had earlier ordered that the buildings be sealed which was done four months ago.

It was also alleged that no due diligence was followed, which prompted the original structural engineers to resign and pull out of the project.

Rescued victims identified
Meanwhile, six of the nine survivors rescued from the rubble are Oduntan Timilehin (26); Ahmed Keleku (19, from Cotonou); Sunday Monday (21, suffered left leg fracture); Adeniran Mayowa (37, hip injury); Solagbade Nurudeen (33, pelvic injury); and Waliu Lateef (32).

Panel of inquiry

Governor Sanwo-Olu also said he would be signing an executive order to give legal backing to the Panel of Inquiry set up to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the accident.

Members of the panel are Toyin Ayinde (Chairman); Ekundayo Onajobi (Secretary); Idris Akintilo; Yinka Ogundairo; Godfrey. O. Godfrey and Mrs. Bunmi Ibrahim.

The governor assured the people that the law will take its full course on whoever was found culpable in the accident.

Relatives, sympathisers search for loved ones
Meanwhile, emotions ran high yesterday as relatives of the trapped victims searched for their missing loved ones.

Some of them were apprehensive, while others resigned to fate.

One of the family members, a middle-aged woman, was seen screaming that her three children were trapped in the building.

The woman, who refused to mention her name, was aided by another relative.

She cried: “How will I start all over? My three children are there. I just want to see them, whether dead or alive.”

Help rescue my son, man begs Sanwo-Olu
Also, a bereaved father, Mr. Jude Ogochukwu, told the governor that his son was among the trapped victims.

Ogochukwu said: “My son is in there, he just started working there about a month ago. What we need is early disclosure, I learned the deputy governor was here yesterday (Tuesday) and he addressed us, directing us to go to Marina General Hospital and other places to check if our relatives are among the rescued ones.

“I came from Abuja. He is 28-years old, I got the information at 10 am yesterday and I rushed here but could not locate my son.

“I have been to Marina General Hospital but they didn’t allow me to check if my son’s corpse was there or not.

“I have been to the general hospital but he is not among those rescued. Do you advise me to stay here till tomorrow in search of him?

Similarly, a middle-aged man arrived at the site with a picture of his missing friend.

The sympathizer, who gave his name as Azeez, said his friend, Segun Oluniyi, was last seen on Sunday.

He said: “Segun, a bricklayer, also eked a living with a commercial motorcycle and was doing this on Sunday when he was last seen.

“When we did not see him the following day, we were worried and started searching for him and in the process, we got information that a contractor came to negotiate with Segun and his friends and all were taken to the construction site to work at the site.

“That was when it dawned on us that he might have been trapped in the building. We are here in search of him.”

Also, a missing victim, identified as Mr. Wale Bob-Oseni, a real estate businessman and Executive Director of African Bureau for Legislative Empowerment, was said to be on his way to the US on Monday, November 1, when he stopped over at the site to see a friend.

It was gathered that he got a call from Femi Osibona, owner of Fourscore Homes, to check out the ongoing development at Gerard Road, Ikoyi.

A former presidential candidate and publisher, Dele Momodu, in his tribute, described Bob-Oseni as an affectionate gentleman.

Momodu said: “Wale was on his way to the US, this is so tragic.”

Search operation continues
At press time last night, the recovery efforts were being carried out by emergency responders of the federal and state government agencies, as well as Julius Berger, HITECH, Craneburg, among others.

Lagos Assembly to summon govt officials

In a related development, Lagos State House of Assembly may summon government officials to answer questions about the Ikoyi collapse.

A team of lawmakers, led by Chairman of the House Committee on Physical Planning and Urban Development, who visited the site, declared this.

Akinsanya, who said the team was at the site on the instruction of the speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, told journalists that the delegation would present a report on its findings to the House, adding that those concerned would be invited.

He said: “We have been on the ground for hours and we have seen what has happened. When we get back, we will write our report.

“Mr. Governor has also spoken and given updates. On our part, the House will carry out its function. I am sure the leadership of the House, led by the speaker Mudashiru Obasa, will set up a committee or panel to look into the report, invite those to be invited and if we have to amend our laws, we will.”

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