By Gwiyi Solomon
The disturbing news about Lagos building collapse in Ikoyi and its tale of large harvest of corpses of fellow Nigerians who were trapped in the rubbles for days, with Lagos as well as the central government sluggishly responding to the plight of these victims who die slowly in their predicaments beneath the rubbles speaks volume of a country that glories in the destruction of its assets.
This reader should kindly tell me this is not the Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State we use to know. He is not. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s emergency response in the calamitous and tragic building incident in Ikoyi is not heartwarming; his value for lives of those Nigerians who were (and are) still trapped in the shameful but avoidable situation in Lagos State, is to say the least, not encouraging at all.
Otherwise, I want to be told why a 21-story building that collapsed on Monday on Gerrard Road, in the Ikoyi area of Lagos State, around 2pm when workers were still working on the site, should take Lagos State Government or any other government anywhere in the world one week plus to rescue victims numbering up to 50 who are trapped underneath the rubbles.
The Governor’s suspension of Gbolahan Oki, the general manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), for voicing out that the ‘Owner got approval to construct 15 floors, but built 21’ and his subsequent declaration of three days of mourning over the incident which occurred on Monday, with no fewer than 40 persons already believed to have died, to me, amounts to placing the cart before the horse.
However, what I had expected from a chief executive officer of a state in the mould of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the event of such tragic incident that befell Lagos State, a component unit generally regarded for its Excellence, was his immediate relocation to the scene of the appalling incident, as his presence would have quickened responses from relevant agencies, which in turn, could have resulted in saving so many lives who have now, died under the rubbles. But he chose to handle this National Emergency shabbily.
This is how.
Below is a touching story of bricklayer, Solagbade, who was working on the building before the incident, according to Punch Newspapers correspondent who visited the hospital on Wednesday.
The bricklayer stated, “Waliyu, Ayo (who are yet to be found) and I were asked to plaster an apartment for N40,000. We were about to complete the task when the building collapsed. I initially thought it was the lift installed in the building that crashed until I found myself buried.”
“We didn’t sleep all through Monday night. We saw a small hole where little air was coming in. We couldn’t stand so we had to crawl to the spot to get some air. We crawled on broken concrete blocks.
“Early Tuesday morning, we heard voices of people around the site and started shouting ‘help, help.’ After some time, they responded and told us to be patient. It was God that saved us; it wasn’t our knowledge. I couldn’t believe we would come out alive and see our families again. The developer was also in the building when it collapsed. He was there with some other people.”
Is the story above not too painful a tale? Wouldn’t have Government saved more lives, if they had acted rapidly? I am sure there were more Solagbade (the Bricklayer), under the rubbles who could have been saved, had the government acted swiftly.
Sadly, in recent times, there is nothing cheery or motivating about calling one a Nigerian anymore. Everyday in the enclave, people die in droves with political leaders and relevant stakeholders who are saddled with the responsibility of providing necessary services watching helplessly or insensitively.
Nevertheless, Governor Sanwo-Olu should be told in clear terms that reports of building collapse in Lagos, with precious lives of Nigerians being waisted, is becoming alarming and as such, tainting the image of Lagos And this trend should be halted with everything within his powers.
This reader will agree with me that on 12 September 2014, a guesthouse located within the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) premises around the Ikotun-Egbe area of Lagos State collapsed, with more than 115 people reportedly killed of which 84 were South Africans. And On the 8 of March 2016, a five-story building collapsed while under construction in Lekki District, Lagos, Nigeria with the culprits yet to be prosecuted, or the victims served justice.
Be that as it may, I want it on record that the Nigeria Institute of Architects (NIA), Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other relevant bodies looked the other way when it mattered most and when they could have saved Nigerians. They did and with no apologies.