16 June 2007

Nigeria: Building Collapse Victims Mourned

FEW days after the death of his 33-year-old son who was a victim of the recent collapsed building in Ibadan, Senior Evangelist Ojo Alli of the Celestial Church of Christ, New Airport, Alakia, in the capital city of Oyo state, still battles with the pains and reality of the demise of his son.

Even though he is a Christian who believes in the resurrection of the saints, Rev. Alli could not hide the trauma he was going through when narrating how the incident happened to Saturday Vanguard.

As a furniture maker, the victim, Mr. Temitayo Ojo, had mapped out what he would do in his workshop the following day. But unknown to him, death had, unfortunately, concluded all plans to snatch him away that night.

After dinner, he went to bed, obviously expecting the dawn of a new day for him to embark on his job. But it was not to be. The storey-building in which he lived, caved in. On that day, the cloudy sky had given way to a heavy downpour which continued unabated for several hours.

God had been merciful enough to alert the occupants of the building through a young girl who came out screaming shortly before the collapse of the building that someone was stoning her. It was the pieces from the cracking walls that were certainly falling on the little girl which she, in her innocence, likened to someone stoning her.

However, the unsuspecting older occupants dismissed the alarm of the girl as a mere childish trait. She was told to go back to bed. The girl was later found dead with her head compressed by the heavy debris that fell on her while sleeping.

One of the seven survivors of the accident, Mr. Solomon Emmanuel, who is still lying critically ill at South East I, University College Hospital, Ibadan (UCH) said he was sleeping when he heard that the house was collapsing.

"When I finished the day's work, I ate and went to bed. But it was not long after I went to bed that I heard a loud noise (suggesting) that the house was about to collapse. I quickly ran out, but I was too late. I was caught in the rubbles as the penthouse fell on us. That was all I knew until I found myself in the hospital."

Even if he was too late in coming out unscathed, he recognises that he was better off than those who died.

"I feel for them (deceased) and their families. I pray that God comforts them. It could have been anybody."

Fate was, painfully, more cruel to Temitayo Ojo, the furniture maker, and the small girl of seven. The former was, perhaps, deep asleep when the building collapsed and he never woke up to tell the story. He had his head mangled as one of the eyes bulged out.

The young girl had not actually died when the house went down. But, in the attempt of rescuers to save her, they removed some debris which later fell on her head, with the eye-witnesses then weeping and screaming. But there was nothing they could do beyond that to save her.

According to a police source, the fire brigade van alerted them when it moved down to Bembo Area in Sango. They thought it was a fire disaster until around 2 a.m. when they brought the corpses of two of the victims.

When Evangelist Ojo, the father of the deceased, Temitayo visited Sango Police Station to pave way for the collection of a death certificate, he spoke to Saturday Vanguard with obvious pains on his son's death, how he got to hear of the accident among others.

According to him, he was to travel on June 8 when he received a call that his son was lying critically ill at the hospital. He thought they were calling a wrong number until they mentioned the name of his son.

His words: "I was to travel on the 8th of June, 2007 when one doctor called me and asked if I knew Temitayo Ojo. When I said yes, he told me to see him because he had a very serious wound. When I eventually got there, I was shown the corpse of my son with his head mangled.

"It's very painful for anybody to lose a dear one under such a circumstance. I mean, he wasn't sick and the next thing you're told is to come to the hospital, and then you rush there praying to meet him alive and for doctors to save his life but the bitter reality that you're faced with is your son's corpse in the mortuary.

"Well, it's happened and there's nothing we can do than to pray for his soul. The government must, however, do something about the state of buildings in the country because the frequency with which buildings now collapse, calls for urgent attention."

What led to the collapse of the building

The one-storey building was one of those ancient buildings built with bricks. But despite the fact that the building was erected on a swampy land, the landlord added a penthouse on it.

Besides, planks were used to deck the building. On the building was a penthouse built with concrete blocks. There was no evidence in the debris that any iron was used to support it.

According to other co-tenants, they had pleaded many times with the landlord, but he never heeded their pleas. The landlord who lives at Apete was said to have gone into hiding.

Oyo govt yet to redeem pledge to victims

After the collapse, the deputy governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Taofeek Arapaja, who represented Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala visited the scene to commiserate with the casualties and their relatives, saying that the government would lend a helping hand to reduce the trauma of the victims.

But as at the time of filing this report, the victims were still expecting the state government to make good her pledge.

According to Solomon Emmanuel who is still at the University College Hospital, his family had already spent a lot of money in their bid to save his life.

He said: "We have spent over N150,000 now. The doctors just told me that I would go through a surgical operation which would cost N18,000. That is apart from drugs and other things to buy. The doctor said that the operation would be carried out on Tuesday and that my people should get ready."

When Saturday Vanguard asked the matron of the first hospital where the victims were taken to at the initial stage, she said that until the patients were moved to another hospital, they were yet to see the promise of the government fulfilled.

It would be recalled that cases of collapsed buildings are now becoming rampant in Ibadan metropolis. Just last year, a three-storey building under construction gave way, injuring causal workers at the site. Also there were cases of collapsed building at Inalende and Oniyanrin areas of the city.

As a result of this ugly development, the Nigeria Institute of Architects (NIA), Oyo State chapter at one of such cases expressed concern that most of the buildings being constructed in Ibadan metropolis fell short of normal standards and that something urgent must be done so that the lives of the people would not be endangered.

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