The six-man independent investigation team set up by Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to probe the remote and immediate causes of the collapse of a 21-storey building in Ikoyi has 30 days to submit its report. Sanwo-Olu disclosed this on Wednesday as he named members of the probe panel at the site of the incident.
However, it was all tears yesterday as the body of Nifemi, the personal assistant to Femi Osibona, the owner of the building, which collapsed in Ikoyi area of Lagos on Monday, was recovered.
But Managing Director of Fourscore Heights Limited, Osibona, who was trapped under the rubble alongside Nifemi and Wale Bob-Oseni, his friend, were yet to be recovered 48 hours after the incident.
A source said, “The dead body of the PA (Personal Assistant) to the owner of the collapsed Lagos building has been recovered. The police orderly of the owner says Osibona is trapped in the rubble with his friend, Wale Bob-Oseni.”
Bob-Oseni is also a property and real estate dealer like Osibona.
A father whose son’s body was recovered cried uncontrollably at the scene.
At the time of this report, 23 people had been confirmed dead since the building located on Gerrard Road collapsed. Rescue efforts were still on-going, as families and friends of those trapped in the rubble quailed and hoped for good news.
Nine persons were evacuated alive from the rubble.
Members of the probe panel announced by Sanwo-Olu comprised a professional builder, town planner, structural engineer, and legal practitioners – all from the private sector.
According to a statement signed by Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, President of Nigeria Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Mr. Tayo Ayinde, is the chairman of the panel, while Ekundayo Onajobi, a lawyer in a private law firm, is the secretary.
Other members of the panel are a structural engineer, Dr. Akintilo Idris Adeleke; an architect, Yinka Ogundairo; representative of Institute of Builders, Mr. Godfrey O. Godfrey; and Mrs. Bunmi Ibrahim, a property lawyer.
The panel’s terms of reference include ascertaining whether there was a compromise of the building codes by the developer, his contractor, and statutory regulatory agencies.
Already, General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), Arc. Gbolahan Oki, had been suspended indefinitely by the governor.
Sanwo-Olu was on an official visit to Rome in Italy for the G-20 Summit when he learnt of the incident on Monday. The governor cut short his trip and returned to Lagos on Tuesday to attend to the emergency.
Arriving at the scene in the wee-hours of yesterday, the governor met with the victims’ family members, raising their hopes and showing compassion to calm them.
He described the incident as “a monumental disaster”, hinting that mistakes must have been made in the process of developing the collapsed structure. The governor promised a thorough inquiry into the matter, adding that the full wrath of the law would be brought on anyone found to have compromised.
Sanwo-Olu said, “We’ve promised to be open and thorough in investigating the cause of the collapse. In that regard, I have set up a high-powered professional investigative panel whose membership consists of professionals outside of the government. The panel members have been given clear terms of reference and we are giving them a 30-day assignment to tell us what has gone wrong at the site.
“The panel will be finding out who the culprits are. The investigation will start from the heads of regulatory agencies. Be rest assured that if there are other people that are found wanting in the course of investigation, everybody will face the full wrath of the law.
“Members of the panel are people of impeccable integrity and I will be signing an Executive Order to give the panel a legal backing.”
Other terms of reference of the panel include determining whether there was full compliance with physical planning and building materials laws of the state; determining whether there was supervisory or oversight lapses on the part of regulatory agencies; and making necessary recommendations to guard against reoccurrence of similar incidents.
Sanwo-Olu maintained that it was difficult for the government to know the exact number of people trapped, noting that none of the people linked to the housing project has come forward to offer information on the manifest.
He said, “I express my deepest sympathy to the families of those that have been involved in this unfortunate incident. For the bodies recovered from the site, we are currently conducting systematic process of identifying them.
“Before the end of today or tomorrow, the process would have been completed and family members can come forward to identify them.”
The state government set up a medical base and information desk at the site of the building collapse, and urged those whose family members were still missing to offer information on their identities. There is also a website (www.lagosmind.org/help) and helpline number (09090006463) for the distressed families.
The multi-sectoral search and rescue operation was ongoing at press time. The effort was led by teams from Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), with the support of construction giants, Julius Berger, Craneburg, HiTech, and China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC).
Those rescued from the rubble were Oduntan Timilehin, 26; Sunday Monday, 21; Adeniran Mayowa, 37; Sholagbade Nurudeen, 33; Waliu Lateef, 32; and Ahmed Kanleku, a 19-year-old Beninoise.