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Saturday, November 27, 2021

The collapsed Ikoyi high rise: A fresh perspective on a national tragedy

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By Oludare Mayowa

At the last counts, the dead bodies retrieved from the high rise building which collapsed last Monday along Gerard road Ikoyi hit 40, with only nine people rescued alive from the rubbles of the 21-storey building. That was the tragedy that befell the nation last week, which represents the highest number of people to die in a collapsed building in the country in recent time.

The promoter of the high rise tower, Femi Osibona, his friends and some of his clients, including tens of workers on site at the time of the incident also lost their lives in the rubbles of the collapsed building.

At first we were told that the government approved 15 floors for the property which the promoter, Fourscore Tower unilaterally increased to 21-floors. However, the presence of the Lagos State deputy governor, Obafemi Hamzat sow doubt on the mind of people when he debunked the claim and stated that the approval given was for 21 floors.

Soon, a letter from a consultant engineer who claimed to be the initial supervisor of the project emerged both on the social media and then the traditional media, claiming that he withdrew his service from the project because he could not guarantee the integrity of the building beyond the first four floors.

Also, there was speculation that the promoter, Osibona who unfortunately died in the tragedy was fronting for the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who also happened to be the late Osibona’s cousin.

It was stated that the property belong to the Vice President and that Osibona was merely fronting for him.

From all indications, the claim has also been punctured by the vice president and Chief Ade Ojo, who the report claimed sold the land to Osinbajo.

It was also learned that the property was once sealed sometime last year by the state building control agency on suspicion of poor quality job. A video footage went viral on social medial showing someone been arrested by police from a site, which was claimed to be the site of the collapsed property.

The arrest was said to be as a result of the resistance of the promoter of the property to allow government officials to carry out inspection of the property in accordance with the state regulations of property development.

The authenticity of the footage has not been verified and all claims in the video remain matter of conjecture and in the realm of speculations.

From all indication, it would be premature for anyone to come to a rash conclusion that the promoter cut corners to achieve what eventually became a death trap for him and many others. Same should also not be said that the government institution responsible for the supervision of such project failed in their duty to ensure compliance with all rules and regulations.

Though it is tempting to blame the dead man, Osibona for attempting to cut corners in a bid to maximise profits and also slam the public servants who could have ensured that everything went on well on site, the most reasonable thing to do is for all to wait for the panel constituted by the state to investigate the causes of the disaster.

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While it is safe to say categorically that something went wrong along the line; what that was should, however, be left for the probe panel to unravel and bring to the surface for all to see and learn from.

As much as I am tempted to follow the herds to condemn the promoter, because that is what we are used to see in this clime and the failure of the regulatory agency to do its work as common with public servants, I equally have my doubt on the way the building came down.

Though I am not a professional in the field related to building and civil or structural engineering, but the manner the building came down seemingly look like it was a systematic demolition rather than an accident as it is done for such high rise considered defective in developed countries.

As a reporter, I have visited many sites of collapsed building in time past and by experience, what was seen at the Ikoyi tower look different from what ‘we are used to see’ under such circumstance.

I could recall how the government of Lagos State deployed experts from South Africa to help demolish the burnt wreckage of the Nigerian Industrial Development Bank (NIDB) building on Broad Street, on Lagos Island some years back.

The building came down in pile immediately the expert brought in to conduct the demolition press the remote control after they had perform the require steps necessary for the demolition exercise. Other collapsed building I have seen have a way they came down either partially or in a form that indicate that they were not mechanically brought down.

Though this is the first time such high rise of that layer has collapsed in the country, nonetheless, all efforts should be made to get to the bottom of the issue that led to the collapse of the building.

It’s essential that the probe panel must carry out thorough job to ensure that no stone is left unturned to unravel the cause of the collapsed to serve as deterrent to whoever maybe remotely connected to the tragedy.

The implication of the collapsed building is that it would have a wider effect on how the outside world assess Nigeria property industry and the competence of Nigerian engineers, both civil and structural, in handling such magnitude projects in the future.

Beyond the outcome of the probe panel report, the government should immediately step in to conduct integrity test on all adjourning property to ensure that the impact of the collapsed building has not done any damage to them.

Nothing should be done to cover up any form of negligence either on the part of the promoter of the project or on the part of the agency responsible for monitoring and supervision of such projects in the state.

It is when this is done that the country can first redeem its image and then put in place necessary precaution to prevent the reoccurrence of such incident in future.

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