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How Lagos building collapsed on praying grandma, bizman searching for apartment

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FOLLOWING the collapse of a distressed three-storey building which claimed the lives of 10 tenants in the Ebute Metta area of Lagos State, families of the deceased victims have recounted their last moments.

PUNCH Metro had reported that the incident, which happened on Sunday, led to the loss of 10 lives, including a member of the National Youth Services Corps, identified simply as Oluwakemi.

Also, no fewer than 24 persons, who were rescued from the rubble with varying degrees of injury, were either treated and discharged or transferred to a general hospital for further treatment.

Our correspondent, who visited the scene of the tragedy on Tuesday, observed as people, including sympathisers and family members of the deceased, lamented the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

While shedding tears, a woman, Bukola Ibiyemi, said she lost two people – her husband’s mother, Hauwa, and a family friend, Habeeb.

She said, “We were on the next street when we suddenly saw dust around the place where the building collapsed on Ibadan Street. When we got there, I realised that my husband’s mother was there.

“One of the people who followed me to the place went home to call my husband, who informed his relatives, and they all came to the place. My husband’s younger brother, Abu, was rescued alive from the rubble.

“But Habeeb’s corpse had swollen when they retrieved it. They were also able to locate the corpse of my husband’s mother, Hauwa; she was observing salat (Islamic prayers) when the building collapsed and the rubble fell on her back.

“Both Habeeb and mama’s corpses were recovered in the early hours of Monday. Mama has been buried in her hometown in Kwara State, while Habeeb was buried in Lagos. Habeeb was the younger brother of my husband’s friend.”

Taiwo Shobowale, the girlfriend of a businessman, Sunday Samuel, whose corpse was also recovered from the rubble, said she learnt about his death when she visited the scene on Tuesday.

Speaking amid tears, Shobowale said she had contacted Samuel’s family members.

She said, “He (Samuel) said his neighbour, one Alhaji, who was also a tenant had packed out of the building and that Alhaji advised him to find a way to pack out of the house. On Saturday, he travelled to Ibadan to search for a house to rent because he was ready to leave where he was staying but when he returned, he said houses in Ibadan were expensive.

“He then told me to help him search for a house to rent around the Ikotun area as he was expecting money. So, I went there on Sunday and while returning, I received his call around 8.30pm and when he asked where I was, I told him I was on my way home. All of a sudden, the line went off; I dialled the number, but it didn’t connect and I concluded that maybe the network was bad.

“When I got home, I bought data to browse and that was how I got to know that a building collapsed in Lagos. As I saw the building, I knew it was where Samuel lived. Yesterday (Monday), I tried his number but it didn’t connect, so I thought he had a flat battery and would definitely get back to me.

“But when I didn’t hear from him, I had to visit this place today (Tuesday). When I got there, I was told that Samuel was part of the people that died. It was his former neighbour that said he died and people in the area confirmed it.”

As people, including sympathisers and aggrieved members of the community clustered around the scene of the incident, our correspondent observed as scavengers parked damaged property and iron rods away from the premises.

While some people were heard blaming the family who owned the collapsed building for the tragedy, others faulted the Lagos State Building Control Agency for not acting on time.

A trader, Bello Onigemo, said the willingness of tenants to vacate the building before it collapsed was affected by the high cost of securing flats in the state, adding that few tenants were able to leave before the building collapsed.

She said, “Most of the tenants patronised my shop. A lot of them were willing to leave; in fact, we had about two meetings because of it.

“But what affected them was the high cost of securing apartments in the area and particularly in Lagos State. In fact, I know a tenant, Toheeb, who just secured and furnished an apartment in the area, and only rushed in to pick some belongings when the building collapsed and killed him.”

Addressing journalists at the scene of the incident, the Coordinator, National Emergency Management Agency, Ibrahim Farinloye, had said the 10 victims who lost their lives consisted of four females and six males.

The Head, Lagos State Fire and Rescue Services, Margaret Adeseye, said all the first and major responders collaborated to mop up the incident scene, adding that they got to ground zero on Monday.