Ebute Metta collapsed building: Scavengers take over as survivors, residents narrate experiences
• LABSCA demands use of professionals on construction site; building approval, materials testing certificate now mandatory
• To seal sites without workers’ pictures, addresses, phone numbers
It was a field day for scavengers, yesterday, at the site of the collapsed three-storey building at 24, Ibadan Street, Ebute Metta, Lagos, as they rummaged the site in search of things buried in the rubbles.
It was a case of one man’s misfortune becoming another’s opportunity as the scavengers, who are involved in buying and selling of iron and metals, had carted away all the valuables pulled out of the rubble by excavators from Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA).
The scavengers were seen unmolested, pulling out iron rods and iron doors from the rubbles, though they had to pay some youth leaders around before they could take them away.
MEANWHILE, a widow, Lasibat Adams, who survived the collapse alongside her two children; Damilola and Omolara, narrated to The Guardian how they narrowly escaped.
According to her, the children survived because they heeded her instruction to fetch water for her outside. She said: “It’s true that we have been issued quit notice, but we pleaded with the landlord to allow us to stay until June. It is not that we didn’t want to leave but it’s hard to get an apartment, and those we got are too expensive.
“I was told to pay N450, 000 for a room and N750, 000 for a room and parlour and they asked for an agreement and commission of N300, 000 and that’s why I remained in the house.
“I am a widow, I lost my husband 17 years ago. I lost all my belongings in that house, I was only able to escape alongside my children, but I have nothing else.”
For Madam Awawu, who lost both her mother-in-law and father-in-law in the incident, it was a bitter pill to swallow. She was uncontrollable as she narrated how she always visited her late relatives , who moved into the ill-fated building almost three years ago, but was lucky not to visit on the day of the incident.
Another resident, Joy Robert, whose son was a survivor, urged government to clamp down on developers, who use substandard materials in building.
She urged Lagos State government to scrutinise developers and building engineers.
“There are many buildings marked for demolition, but the owners go to government officials to bribe them and people continue to stay in such houses.
“I learnt that the house was marked for demolition two years ago and many of the people, who lived in the collapsed building had left, but the wife of the owner rented an apartment to fresh tenants. They only stop collecting money from tenants after the warning was given by the government,” she added.
But General Manager of Lagos State Building Control Agency (LABSCA), Gbolahan Oki, has said that the agency will henceforth demand that developers must use professionals.
He stressed that developers who fail to get their building approvals and mandatory materials testing certificates will be sanctioned and not allowed to proceed in building construction.
The General Manager also promised to seal any site where names, addresses, pictures and phone numbers of workers, including bricklayers, iron benders are not displayed.
Oki regretted that developers have continued to shortchange the system, despite several warnings, leading to incessant collapse of buildings in the state. He said: “We don’t need to sleep with one of our eyes closed because we are not sure what the builders or contractors have put in place for us to sleep in. The life of an average Nigerian is more important than the money you want to make.
“All constructions must have key professionals on site and materials must be well tested. Before, you start any job on your site you should do insurance, if anything happens to the people on site, you don’t need to worry.
“There are simple procedures that must be met, which also include having building plans and approval on site, which 99 per cent of developers don’t have, that is why the Lagos State government decided to have building officers in every district.”