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Ita-Faaji: Mixed reactions from residents as Lagos begins demolition of distressed buildings

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Distressed houses marked for demolition on Lagos Island yesterday following the collapse of a three-storey building in the area on Wednesday

• 150 Stuctures To Go, Say Officials • ‘House Collapsed On My Grandmother Next Door’
Pained by the unfortunate collapse of a three-storey building at 14, Massey Street, Lagos Island on Wednesday, March 13, where about 20 people, including school pupils, were reportedly killed, the Lagos State Government, yesterday, commenced the demolition of distressed buildings in the area.

The exercise, coordinated by the State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), saw about 150 buildings certified distressed, while the agency has secured court approval for demolition of 80 of such buildings.

This is just as more residents in the neighbourhood, who were lucky not to have lost their loved ones, recount their ugly experiences when the building came down like a pack of badly arranged cards.

Sherifat Mosere, who lives behind the collapsed building at 15, Oke Street, Ita Faaji, lamented that the incident had rendered her 99-year-old grandmother bedridden.

“I stay behind the collapsed building. We have been complaining about the fact that the house was not strong, but nothing was done about it. When the building collapsed, it affected our building, which is a bungalow.

“It also fell on our 99-year-old grandmother, Iya Surulere, who is currently at the General Hospital, receiving treatment.”

Another resident, Oluwaseun Ajayi, who was involved in the rescue operation before the arrival of government agencies, said the building had been marked for demolition twice before the collapse.

He recounted: “We heard a loud sound and on finding out the source of the sound, we realised that it was a collapsed building. Before the Lagos Response Unit arrived, I was part of those involved in the rescue operation and we were able to bring out alive five pupils- two boys and three girls.

“When the agencies arrived, they told us to leave for them to do their job. But I am sure the people that were brought out alive afterwards were very few, compared to the number of people that were already dead.

“The building had been marked for demolition twice before it collapsed. It was first marked in 2013, but before we knew what was happening, it was cleared. It was later marked again, but it was also cleared again.”

A mother of three, simply identified as Iya Sukura, whose three children attend the school, said two were in critical condition, but her first daughter was still trapped, even though rescue efforts appear to have ended.

Yekini Ayoola said his five-year-old grandson, Fawaz, was still trapped in the building, while the father of another survivor, Tony Ikueze, said his eight-year-old Chiamaka had gone to the school on her own.

The father of four said: “She is my last born. She went on her own to school because it was not far from where we stay. I was taking my bath in the bathroom only for me to see the building collapse. When I looked through the window, at first, I thought it was bomb. I can only thank God she survived it.”

The state government, through the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, yesterday, confirmed that 20 people died in the incident, while 45 survivors are receiving treatment at government health facilities, including Lagos Island General Hospital, Massey Street Children Hospital, Onikan Health Centre, Gbagada General Hospital, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), National Orthopedic Hospital, Igbobi and the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).

While disclosing that the bodies of the deceased had been released to their families for burial, Idris and the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who were at the hospital, commiserated with the families and reiterated the state government’s continued commitment to the welfare of residents.

The commissioner noted that of the 45 survivors, 14, consisting of 10 children and four adults, were still receiving medical attention at the Lagos Island General Hospital for various levels of injury.

Medical Director of the hospital, Dr. Ismail Ganikale, added that survivors would be discharged to their families by the weekend.

Idris also denied stories making the rounds that hospitals were charging survivors of the incident for treatment or to retrieve bodies of loved ones.

Speaking with The Guardian, Ganikale described the reports as a wicked lie designed to cause confusion, saying he earlier refuted the allegation based on the clear directive of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to all government-owned facilities to treat survivors free.

He warned that any government official caught extorting any survivor or demanding gratification would be made to face strict disciplinary actions, adding: “Demanding that survivors, who are already traumatised, should pay for medical bills is not only unethical, but also criminal.”

He called on family members with evidence of such extortion to contact the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Titilayo Goncalves, on 08023049478, with authentic proof, promising that action would be taken immediately.

Speaking, Adewole commended the state government for its prompt and effective response, as well as efficient health care management of survivors.

He said: “I am greatly impressed by the promptness of the emergency response of the state and the efficient healthcare deployed to ensure that the survivors of the sad incident are stabilised and kept alive. I recommend that this proactive system be adopted by all states in the federation to reduce mortality during emergencies.”

He also appreciated the state government for granting free medical care to the victims to remove any barriers to prompt, qualitative and comprehensive care needed for the rehabilitation of victims.

“I also appeal to the media and Nigerians to report suspected unregistered schools in an environment not ideal for learning.”

Acting General Manager of LABSCA, Tayo Fakolujo, said the agency was poised to remove all distressed structures that are close to collapse, saying over 150 would be removed in the Lagos Island alone, but would be done systematically to avoid loss of lives.

The exercise, which started early yesterday morning at House No 60A on Freeman Street, Epetedo, Lagos Island, a three-storey building belonging to one Chief Yesuf Fagbemi Odanle, was, however, greeted with mixed feelings.

Some of the residents were happy that at last the state government has started living to its responsibilities, others complained that they were not given adequate notice, as some of them still have their belongings in the buildings at the time of demolition.

A woman simply identified as Iya Tosin, a resident of Smith Street where another three- storey distressed house was demolished on No 47 Smith Street, expressed joy that government had decided to do the needful.

Iya Tosin, whose child was lucky to have been rescued from the rubbles of the collapsed building at Massey Street, blamed developers and government officials for the predicament.

“We are happy over the exercise because most of the developers are greedy and always build at night. They will come and lay foundation in the night and quickly erect the structure within three months,” she said.

However, another resident, who was evacuated from Apatira Street, where about four buildings were demolished, said they were not given enough time to evacuate their premises.

One of the residents, who gave her name simply Iya Moruf was dragging her belongings as officials of LABSCA made to demolish House No 26 Apatira Street, Lagos.

Another resident, Alhaji Isiaka Idris, pleaded for more time to vacate the house, saying they had nowhere to go.

Also, Mrs. Yemisi Oshodi- Glover, daughter of the landlord of the demolished house at No 47 Smith Street, blamed the developer for their predicament.

According to her, the developer was in charge of the building for 30 years and stay for additional eight years without carrying out repairs in disregard to the terms of agreement.

She said the family had to take the developer to court and the judge ordered that integrity test be done to the building, which showed that it should be brought down.

She pledged to go the full haul with the developer to ensure that the family was adequately compensated.

Fakolujo, said over 150 houses will be removed in the Lagos Island alone, but will be done systematically so that no lives would be lost in Lagos.

He said the agency has already secured court clearance for over 80 buildings and was only trying to remove occupants of the buildings before bringing them down. We have started with over 30 removed in the last one year.

“We don’t want to be slammed with outrageous liabilities, but what we are trying to do as much as possible is to remove all occupants from all the structures that have been distressed so that no life is lost in Lagos.

“On Lagos island over 150 houses are to be removed, we have removed over 30 in the last one year,” he said.

The LABSCA boss also stressed that in the past three years, no new structures has collapsed because of the material testing and due diligence by LABSCA through its certification department.

“ For the old structures, we are doing foundation probing for over 70 percent of these old structures that are over 25 years old to ensure that they are still structurally sound”, he added.

Meanwhile the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) has regretted the apparently avoidable disaster of the collapse of a school building at Ita-Faji, Lagos Island, Lagos on Wednesday 13th March, 2019, killing and injuring numerous school children.

“Rising from a Strategic Meeting at the Rights House, Lagos, CDHR considered and decried the level to which developers of buildings and public officers in regulatory agencies have abdicated their responsibility and public duty of care to citizens.
The group said criminal negligence by property developers with the connivance of errant personnel of regulatory agencies has led to numerous avoidable disasters of collapsed buildings across Nigeria.


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