There must have been tears in heaven-and torrents of it! That is, for the 10 year-old school boy who died on his birthday; the traumatized parents, including one Mrs. Adedayo Adedoyin who lost one of her twin daughters, other voiceless victims as well as the owner of Ohen Private Nursery Primary school, all crushed to cruel death.
The tragedy was caused by the collapse the three-storey building housing the school located at No 14, Massay Street opposite Ojo, Ita-Faaji Victoria Island, in Lagos on that fateful black Wednesday of 13th March, 2019.
It was more like a mind-bending, midnight horror film, full of sorrows, tears and blood that seemingly belonged to the realm of a thespian’s weird imagination. But it was not. The tragedy took place at 10: 20 am and was as real as one’s accompanying shadow, hovering in the silent sun.
In fact, as at late afternoon of that day about 41 persons, including pupils and other residents of the building, were rescued from the rubble by emergency workers. Those that were reportedly injured were receiving treatment at the Lagos Island General Hospital, Massey Children Hospital, Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) and Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).
As usual, groundswells of regrets take over when preventable deaths such as this take place. If only… if only, the school proprietor, (now late) had acted fast when one Bukola Salami, a former teacher in the school had counseled her to relocate it to another place. That was when he noticed the unusual shaking of the school building, as if some mysterious stones were being thrown at it! But then she complained of not having adequate money to do the needful.
That teacher resigned from the school, and saved his life. But the proprietor remained and has unfortunately gone to the Great Beyond with some of her innocent pupils. So sad. What makes it more painful include the facts that it could have been prevented, innocent lives, especially of the younger generation were lost and the culture of impunity underlining the calamity persists.
As media reports have it, that house had been marked for demolition since 2015. But given our crass culture of worsening impunity, nothing has happened ever since. Indeed, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode had this to say about the tragedy: “as you can see, some of the buildings have been marked for demolition but we get resistance from the landlords”.
Yes, you read that right. Nonetheless, he has given an assurance that “we must save lives, those that fail integrity test will be evacuated and demolished”. Hopefully, that may not be the last we will hear about this gory tale.
Yet, tears are not enough. Actions- prompt and proactive ones at that could do the magic and save many precious lives. The concern raised by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara should be instructive.” This is one too many of these building collapses that usually claim the lives of innocent people. It is time for decisive actions to be taken against all found culpable of breach of building standards and that end up in disasters”. Well said.
It is appalling to note that no decisive actions have been taken against previous incidents of collapsed buildings across the country over the decades. Nothing came out of the collapsed multi-storey building at Mokola, Ibadan, Oyo State (1974), Barnawa Housing Estate, Kaduna, Kaduna State (1980) and the mosque building, Osogbo, Osun State(1986). There were similar ones involving the uncompleted two-storey building, Isinkan, Akure, Ondo State (1998), two-storey residential building, Funbi Fagun street, Abeokuta, Ogun State (1998 amongst several others.
Narrowing it down to Lagos, there have been those involving the Industrial Development Building (NIDB), Lagos (2006), a two-storey market plaza in Oshodi, Lagos (2010), killing at least four persons and leaving many others wounded. Others are the three-storey building at 15, Alli Street, which collapsed at about 11.00 pm and fell on a bungalow at number 13 of the same street, leading to its collapse in the same year.
Chief among the terrifying incidents of building collapse in Nigeria is the July 2006 collapse in Surulere, Lagos state where three buildings caved in causing pandemonium among residents and killing no fewer than 28 lives and left 50 others severely injured. Also in Lagos, about 37 people lost their lives in four-storey building mishap at Ebute Meta, same month in 2006.
Another unforgettable tragic collapse occurred precisely on September 12, 2014, where over 100 worshipers were killed in a six-storey building which was under construction in the premises of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos state.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NAMA) and other emergency services were criticized for withholding information about the accident and much remained unclear about the number of deaths and their nationalities.
On 8 March 2016, a five-story building collapsed while under construction in Lekki District, Lagos, Nigeria. At least 34 people were killed. Thirteen other people were pulled from the collapsed building alive.
Going by the eye witness account on the recent school building collapse in Lagos from one Abayomi Olaniyan rescue effort was slow. None of the victims could be saved within the first thirty minutes of the tragedy. Though eventually, assistance came from the Lagos State Ambulance Service, Lagos State Fire Service, Lagos State Building Control Service and the Red Cross, more lives could have been saved if the intervention by the rescue team had come in time.
We must be concerned about identifying the root causes and find lasting answers to building collapse in Nigeria. In a research paper entitled: “Causes and Effects of Building Collapse in Lagos State, Nigeria” Messrs Oseghale, G.E, Ikpo, I.J. and, Ajayi, O. D. the study revealed that the major causes of building failures were bad design, faulty construction, over loading, non-possession of approved drawings, possession of approved drawings but non-compliance, and the use of quarks.
In the two case studies considered, the total direct loss to the building owners was thirty eight million three hundred and eight five thousand, seven hundred and twenty one naira (N38,385,721) at one hundred and ninety seven naira to one US dollars, central bank Nigeria of exchange rate as at 14th March, 2015.
Still on finding solutions, Mr Babatunde Gbadamosi, a real estate mogul and the candidate of the African Democratic Party (ADP) in the recent governorship election conducted in Lagos state, has called for a thorough and objective inquiry into the collapsed school building in Lagos, looking meticulously for practical lessons that can be applied immediately to prevent such further occurrence.
Said he: “A quick review of all buildings used as public spaces of gathering, whether as schools or malls or event centres, on more than one floor, needs to be undertaken by specialist civil engineers.
Furthermore, he has canvassed for special equipment to be used to verify the dead-weight carrying capacity of the upper decks of these buildings. Once that is done, existing buildings can be rated for specific kinds of safe uses that will not cause collapse of this kind. A stitch in time will save nine.