Three persons were confirmed dead and about four others including a security guard and construction workers were reportedly trapped on Saturday after a three-storey building under construction on Akanbi Crescent, in the Yaba area of Lagos collapsed.
It was learnt that a worker, identified only as Sunday, was rescued from the rubble.
The incident, which occurred around 3.30 pm, was coming barely three months after a 21-storey building in Ikoyi, owned by the late Managing Director, Fourscore Heights Limited, Femi Osibona, collapsed, trapping over 50 persons.
More than 40 persons, including Osibona, his personal assistant, Onyinye Enekwe, and friend, Wale Bob-Oseni, were killed.
A preliminary report had blamed the Ikoyi incident on violation of the approved building plan initially designed as eight storeys and poor quality of concrete materials.
Some residents and eyewitnesses, who spoke to one of our correspondents on the Yaba building collapse, also fingered compromise in the quality of the materials.
Sunday, one of the survivors, explained that the building had shown signs of distress and he reported it to his boss.
He said the boss told him and other workers to ignore the signs and keep working.
He stated, “Even today (Saturday), as we were working, the building was shaking, but our oga (boss) said we should continue (working).
We even agreed that after today, we would not come back here again to work.
I thank God for saving me from this mess, but my phone is still inside.”
A 16-year-old, who identified himself only as Shan, said he had gone to buy food for one of the construction workers and was about to enter when it suddenly collapsed.
He told Sunday PUNCH that about five people were still trapped in the rubble but two corpses were later recovered.
He said, “I went to buy food for someone that was inside.
When I came back and wanted to go in, the building suddenly collapsed.
Other people are inside there. They are up to four or five.. I thank God for my life.”
An eyewitness present, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a part of the building had collapsed sometime last year.
He said, “This was similar to what happened last year when they started erecting the building.
A section of the building caved in and destroyed some cars parked by the fence.
“The Lagos State Government was invited and they came, but I don’t know whether they told them to stop work or not.
After a few weeks, work continued and nothing has been done by the authorities since then until today (Saturday) when the building just crumbled on the workers.”
Another eyewitness, who identified himself only as Samuel, said the incident happened so fast.
He stated, “I was upstairs so I could see as the building crumbled.
Before then, I could hear some chatter from the building; probably by the workers. I am sure they are still under there.
I just pray they are not dead by now because no substantial effort has been made to rescue them.”
Late arrival of emergency responders
Our correspondent observed that emergency responders did not arrive at the scene until after one hour when they came without any equipment to carry out excavation.
An aggrieved resident identified only as Tola told Sunday PUNCH that the Lagos State Emergency Managemnet Agency arrived at the scene late.
Worried residents scrambled through the rubble to rescue victims while others protested late arrival of cranes eventually brought in by LASEMA around 5 pm.
“They should go. They are not doing anything. They are not helping the situation.
We could hear someone shouting for help from the rubble but the victim could no longer be heard after a while, Sunday PUNCH gathered that the building got approval from the Lagos State Building Control Agency in 2020.
Stop-work notice served on building twice – LASBCA
Meanwhile, while speaking to journalists, an official of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, Gbolahan Oki, who declined to give his name, said the agency had on two occasions told the builders to stop work.
He said, “We had told them two times last year to stop work.
I wonder why most Nigerians don’t listen to authority.
Part of this building as we learnt then collapsed before and we told them to stop.”
As of the time of filing this report, Monday and other construction workers were still trapped in the rubble.
The Commissioner of Special Duties, Seyi Oladejo, was seen at the scene assessing the situation.
LASEMA Director General, Dr. Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, however said the agency deployed heavy duty equipment to the scene immediately after it received a distress call.
The agency said three corpses had been recovered as of 11pm on Saturday.
The South-West Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency, Ibrahim Farinloye, said the agency was alerted to the incident late.
He said, “Before the alert came, we gathered that it had happened much earlier.
We were hindered by the traffic on the road and other factors.
I can confirm that about five people are in the rubble. Two have been rescued now and the rescue process is ongoing and we are hoping we get on top of the situation soon.”
Experts decry negligence, warn against more collapses
Commenting on the tragedy, professionals in the real estate sector said incidences of building collapse, especially in Lagos were indicators of lapses in the supervisory and monitoring roles of LASBCA.
The immediate past President, the Building Collapse Prevention Guild, Mr Akionla George, said more building collapses were imminent if the agency failed to live up to its responsibilities.
He said, “In my opinion, if LASBCA put up a stop-work order and professionals have gone there to say something is not right, if some people decided to go on with impunity, the consequences are always there to suffer.
The consequences of building collapses are always severe.
I have always said that many buildings will still collapse because there is a building procurement procedure that must be followed. A lot of buildings are out there waiting to collapse unless you do integrity tests on them.”
On his part, the former national President of the Nigerian Institute of Building, Mr Kunle Awobodu, stated that he recently warned some LASBCA officials to buckle down on their mandate to stop the recurring building collapse in the state.
He said, “Coincidentally, I was at the session of the coroner inquest (on Ikoyi building collapse) on Friday where a senior LASBCA official was in the witness box being cross-examined over the lapses of the agency during the construction of the collapsed 21-storey building.
After the session, I was talking to the LASBCA officials that their job is a risky one and they need to take it more seriously because another building would collapse. All of them shouted ‘God forbid, no building will collapse again.’
“That was just yesterday (Friday) and look at what happened today (Saturday).
When an assignment is given to an agency to eradicate the menace of building collapse, it should not be considered as an assignment that should be handled by officials of the agency alone because of the large size of Lagos and the rapidity at which construction works are being carried out.”
Awobodu said there was the need for grass roots monitoring of building construction projects by professionals in the locality, adding it was likely no professional builder was engaged to ensure the quality of the construction work at collapsed Yaba building.
He added, “If a professional builder is there, he should be held responsible. There is a need to rejig the agency.
For some years now, we have studied this problem and we have solutions to them but unfortunately, we are not in a position to administer all those methods of checking frequent collapse of buildings.
This is another sad day for us. As an advocate against built collapse, when a building collapses, it is a minus on our evangelism.
“After the Ikoyi building, this was the fourth building that collapsed in Lagos.
The way out is for the government to use the approach that the BCPG has been advocating for years.
When a building under construction collapses, it portrays negligence of the monitoring officials.
People should be held responsible for building collapse. I really appeal to the government to wake up.”