…school was operating illegally – Ambode
Ten bodies, including that of four pupils, have been pulled out from a three-storey building on 63 Massey Street, Ita Faaji area of Lagos Island after it collapsed on Wednesday, March 13.
About 50 other persons had been pulled out of the rubble alive as at the time of this report.
Platinum.ng gathered that the structure, which contained a primary school, came crashing down around 10:00 a.m yesterday.
“More than thirty persons, mostly pupils, were rescued”, said Ibrahim Farinloye, the spokesman of the National Emergency Management Agency (Southwest).
The school occupied the first and second floors, while the ground floor and third storey were residential.
“We were in the market when suddenly we heard a loud boom,” said Yemisi Bankole, deputy head of Itafaaji market. Concerned neighbours rushed to the scene as soon as the building fell and began rescue operations. Men of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) joined shortly after.
“There is a pregnant woman trapped in the building. We learnt she is now dead. A teacher also made a telephone call that she was trapped alongside 15 children. She asked rescuers to pour down water to keep them from suffocating,” Bankole said. She said the building was marked for demolition but had stood because state officials were allegedly receiving bribes.
The General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), Olalekan Shodeinde confirmed that the building was indeed marked for demolition. But he explained that the owner stubbornly pressed on with modifications and let out the structure.
Meanwhile, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode who visited the scene noted that the building was meant solely for residential purposes, and added that many of the structures in the area were structurally unfit and would be demolished.
“The building is not technically a school, it is a residential building that was actually accommodating an illegal school, so to speak, on the second floor,” he said.
“As you can see, some of the buildings have been marked for demolition. We get resistance from landlords. We will intensify efforts to see that occupants of those (buildings) that failed our integrity test are evacuated then we will bring such structures down.”
But pro-democracy and non-governmental organisation, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), came down hard on the state government, calling for the prosecution of its commissioner for housing and urban planning. It also sought an independent audit of all public and private educational facilities in the state.
“This particular case must never be swept under the carpet of impunity. Action must be adopted to get to the root of this menace and fish out other culprits to face prosecution,” the group said in a statement by National Coordinator Emmanuel Onwubiko and National Media Affairs Director Zainab Yusuf.
It questioned why the state has remained a hub for substandard buildings and collapse and blamed corruption for poor dispensation of justice in past cases.
The Pioneer president of the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG), Mr. Kunle Awobodu, on his part, blamed the tragedy on the use of non-professionals in construction. He said that with general elections over, government must rein in unscrupulous developers and pull-down hundreds of defective buildings.
President Muhammadu Buhari also expressed sadness over the incident and charged the state government to stem the tide of building collapse.
In a statement by Spokesman Femi Adesina, he said: “It touches one to lose precious lives in any kind of mishap, particularly those so young and tender. May God grant everyone affected by this sad incident fortitude and succour.”