Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has declared three days of mourning in Lagos State over the Ikoyi building collapse tragedy which occurred on Monday.
This is just as he has inaugurated the investigation tribunal that would conduct an inquiry into what was responsible for the collapse of the 21-storey structure that was still under construction on Gerrard Road, Ikoyi. Reports late Thursday indicated that the body of the property developer, Femi Osibona had been pulled from the rubble while that of his friend, Wale Bob-Oseni, is yet to be recovered.
Bob-Oseni, who was to catch a flight to the US, briefly made a detour to see the project on the invitation of the developer but did not walk out alive.
As at the time of going to press, nine people were rescued, and more than 30 have been confirmed dead.
The Governor said all flags are to be flown at half-mast in public and private buildings and official engagements cancelled during the mourning period.
The Lagos State Government in a statement signed by Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso commiserated with all those who lost their loved ones in the unfortunate incident.
According to the statement, “Governor Sanwo-Olu has visited the site thrice to encourage the rescuers and console relations of those who are believed to have been trapped in the 21-storey building. “He was today at the hospital to cheer up those injured before swearing in a six-man panel of Inquiry to find out why the building went down and recommend measures to prevent such incidents.”
The governor who inaugurated the six-man panel of enquiry also signed the instrument legitimising the composition of the panel empowering the tribunal to invite or summon anyone and organisation useful to the investigation.
Members of the tribunal, who were totally drawn from the private sector, took the oath at the event held in the LASWA Building at Falomo, Ikoyi.
“Their duty begins immediately and they are expected to report back within four weeks,” the statement added.
President of Nigeria Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Mr. Toyin Ayinde, is the chairman of the panel, while Ekundayo Onajobi, a lawyer in a private law firm, is the Secretary.
Other panel members 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 real estate lawyer.
Sanwo-Olu, who described the event as a “sad one” for Lagos was visibly in a sombre mood during the inauguration.
The governor said members of the public deserved to know what went wrong.
He stressed that the work of the panel would not bring back the lives lost, but added that it would help to prevent reoccurrence of such tragic events.
He said: “We are gathered here to perform a sad but necessary duty, which is the inauguration of a 6-member Panel of Inquiry into the collapse of the 21-storey building at Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, on Monday. It is a solemn moment for me personally, but this is an important assignment. Indeed, the generation coming after will not forgive us if we don’t do the right thing on this incident.
“The inauguration of this panel shows sincerely that the state government is interested in unravelling and get to the root cause of what happened to the building, so that everyone concerned, including the government, will learn from the very unfortunate incident.
“Lagosians and the world will be watching and waiting keenly, with the full expectation that the immediate and remote causes of this tragedy will be uncovered,” he added.
Sanwo-Olu identified with distraught families of victims trapped under the collapsed structure, expressing the belief that the outcome of the investigation would assuage their pains and worries.
The oath taken by the tribunal members, the governor said, empowers them with adequate privileges of government powers to conduct independent investigation without fear, favour, interference and restrictions.
The governor believed the tribunal members would bring their expertise and professionalism to bear in unravelling the infractions that brought down the building.
“What this tribunal will be doing over the course of the next few weeks will have important implications for building safety and for emergency response, not just in Lagos, but in the entire country.
“It will also go a long way towards ensuring that the families of the innocent victims of this avoidable tragedy experience some sort of closure and get justice,” Sanwo-Olu said.
Ayinde said Lagos was in its “dark period”, given the record of fatalities from the site of the building collapse.
He pledged on behalf of members to discharge the duty with all sense of responsibility and in line with ethics.
“We accept at our own liberty and with humility the important assignment the State has placed before us. We will go ahead with a sense of dedicated responsibility. This exercise can only make the expected difference if we all agree to place value on Nigerian life.
“As members, we promise to be guided by professional standards and hope that we will chart a new course that will guarantee the safety of lives of Nigeria citizens,” Ayinde said.
For the third time within 72 hours, Babajide Sanwo-Olu was at the site of the Ikoyi building collapse to see how the search and recovery operation was being conducted, and also to boost the morale of the emergency responders on site.
The governor expressed satisfaction with the rescue operation, commending the first responders for their efforts. He also met with some of the distressed family members at the site, cheering them and raising their hopes, while the rescue efforts progressed.
Sanwo-Olu was in company of his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, at the site for over three hours.
The actual number of persons still trapped in the collapsed building remained unclear as at Thursday afternoon.
Sanwo-Olu, while giving an update to the press, disclosed that family members had submitted 19 names of those still missing, saying the ongoing corona inquest on the bodies evacuated from the site was expected to be concluded today (Friday), after which families would be invited to identify them.
He said: “Yesterday (Wednesday), we opened a register for people that have missing persons or loved ones whom they believed must have been at the site before the collapse.
“As I speak here, it is only 19 names of missing persons that have been registered. Some of them have pictures, others do not. This list would help us to get information on manifest of those at the site.
“As at this afternoon, we have recovered a total of 32 bodies. We are conducting a corona inquest on the bodies and by tomorrow (Friday), we hope the exercise would have been concluded. That is the deadline we gave to the corona, so that the families can come and identify the bodies recovered so far.”
Earlier on Thursday, the Governor visited Lagos Island General Hospital where survivors of the building collapse are being given medical attention.
One of the nine people rescued alive, Sanwo-Olu said, has been moved to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja for advanced medical examination, “but he is not in a life-threatening situation.”
Three survivors were discharged two days ago, he disclosed.
The governor said he had ordered structural integrity test on two high-rise structures in the premises where the 21-storey collapsed. The action, he said, was necessary to safeguard the lives of emergency workers on the rescue operation.
Sanwo-Olu appealed to journalists covering the incident on speculative reporting and sensationalism, asking them to confirm any unclear details about the search and rescue operation from the official channel of communication. The governor was reacting to inconsistent figures of fatality being spread by the media.
He said: “Ministries of Information, Special Duties and Health are fully on ground at the scene. Among these key ministries, members of the public can get answers to any information not clear to them.”
The multi-sectoral search and rescue operation was ongoing as at press time. The effort was being led by teams of 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).