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Ikoyi building collapse tragedy

Ikoyi collapsed building continues to generate interest among Lagos residents and Nigerians in general.

The dust raised by the collapse of 21-storey luxury apartment building in Ikoyi, Lagos is yet to settle and may take long to resolve for many families whose loved ones were directly involved.

A week after, gloomy-looking relations were still laying siege to the Gerrard Road building site, searching for their family members believed to have been working inside the building when it caved in on November 1. The rescue teams were still at work, removing the pile of concrete, as the distraught families still hung unto fizzling hopes of finding survivors.

Other families had either been paying visits to the morgue for identification and preparations for funeral of the deceased or the hospitals to care for the injured.

As of the last count, 42 persons had been retrieved from the rubble dead, while 15 were rescued alive.

Among the dead was Femi Osibona, the owner of Fourscore Heights Limited, the company developing the 360 Degrees Towers.

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had declared three days of mourning to underline the weight of the tragedy.

Losing a family member is sad at any time, but this is particularly painful, considering the manner in which the deceased lost their lives.

Many of the deceased victims were young hardworking citizens, who left their homes in the quest for livelihood. Many of them were artisans, belonging to a class whose contributions to building a better society is hardly recognised and whose families have little or no succour in instances of accidental deaths and injuries, such as happened in Ikoyi. The Ikoyi building collapse is quite unfortunate and we commiserate with the families of the victims.

In circumstances involving life and death, the lessons are for the living. And there are indeed lessons in the Ikoyi building tragedy, the most important being the ephemerality of life.

The owner of the ill-fated edifice, who had spoken authoritatively about successfully constructing homes in the United Kingdom, United States of America, United Arabs Emirates and South Africa in appearances on the television and videos, never possibly contemplated that the Lagos project would consume his life and the lives of many others he had engaged for the job.

READ ALSO: Nine of those trapped in collapsed Ikoyi building structure rescued alive, three discharged  – Lagos govt.

The story of a friend of Osibona, Wale Bob-Oseni, who stopped over at the site on his way to the airport to board a plane for a trip to the United States is also sad and painful. Wale’s driver, standing near a car, was all tears in video shot moments after the building collapse, agonising that his boss he was conveying to the airport was under the rubble. Wale’s body was recovered along with his friend’s five days after the rescue mission at the site.

Another dead victim was a friend of Osibona, Samuel Iwelu, who came for a wedding in Abuja and was to fly back to his base in the United Kingdom later that day.

Others were also unlucky. One of them was the 26-year-old lady, Onyinye, reported to have just been employed by the property developer as his assistant. Her wedding ceremony was reported to be just a month away. She did not survive the collapse.

Similarly, a national youth service corps member, Oyin, got redeployed from Boko Haram war-ridden Borno State to Lagos, only to end up crushed by the collapsed building.

There were also lessons in the experiences of others who survived the tragedy by providence. A young man, who was at the site for a job interview a few hours before the collapse was pained by his rejection only to learn that the people he had been with moments earlier were dead under the debris or struggling for survival. Such transiency and vagaries of life!

Nevertheless, the best lessons to be learnt as a nation are those that ensure disasters, such as witnessed in the Ikoyi building collapse are prevented from reoccurring. There have been insinuations that the developer was greedy, cutting corners and disregarding building regulations. Unfortunately, Osibona is not alive to defend himself.

There are also allegations of official corruption against building control officials. These too can only be proved after due investigations.

We commend Governor Sanwo-Olu for promptly suspending indefinitely the General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, Gbolahan Oki, and promising that other officials of the regulatory agency would face appropriate sanctions if found to have been negligent in the Ikoyi building collapse.

The setup by the state government of a panel of inquiry made up of building experts to probe the building collapse is also commendable.

While awaiting the outcome of the investigations, we encourage the panel to leave no stone unturned to unravel the reasons for the collapse and make recommendations to avert such mishaps in future.

Beyond the outcome of the inquiry, the Lagos State Government must demonstrate beyond doubt that it is determined to put a final stop to avoidable building collapse incidents and untimely deaths of citizens.