Vanguard (Lagos)

3 June 2012

Nigeria: Death in the Church!

Ibadan — For those who died when a church building under construction in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, collapsed, they woke up on Wednesday, just like any other day but little did they know that the day would be their last and a painful one for others to remember.

About 13 of them went with enthusiasm to the site of the New Covenant Church, Sagbe, Ojoo, Ibadan where they worked with all their strength thinking that at the end of the day, they would pocket their wages to fend for their families. They actually worked, but as they were waiting to receive their wages, it was death that came in such a sudden and painful way.

After cleaning up when work was over, there was downpour and they had to take shelter in the church under construction. Suddenly, the deck gave way and heavy concrete fell on them.

The collapse of the building was so deafening that people living opposite the church ran out thinking it was an auto crash on the ever busy Ibadan-Oyo Road.

By the time they came out, cloud of dust had enveloped the whole area and they saw two survivors struggling to come out of the rubbles with their legs trapped. Others were under the heavy concrete. Before help could come their way, they were dead.

*Rubbles at the site of the collapsed church building, claiming lives

An eyewitness told Sunday Vanguard that immediately after the collapse of the building, three persons were brought out dead.

The pastor of the church, Pastor Olaoluwa Oluwasegun, and his wife betrayed emotions when they got to the scene.

According to an aged woman living opposite the church, the pastor's wife fainted when she discovered some people were still trapped under the rubbles. His husband stood motionless and had to be led by the hand away from the spot.

There were conflicting reports about the casualty at the site. While some claimed that five people died and two others were injured, a survivor said thirteen of them were working in the church and that only three survived.

The survivor, Mr. Wole Sokunbi, said, "We were 13 people working on the building when the rain started and we were waiting under this building to collect our daily allowances from pastor, the foreman. We suddenly heard the collapse of the building. Only the pastor, myself and one of the women fetching water for us survived".

However, many other people claimed that only five people died. Governor Abiola Ajimobi, after getting the report of the collapse around 1 a.m., denied himself of sleep. He came to the place with his wife, Mrs. Florence Ajimobi, who did not believe her sight.

His Special Adviser on Media, Dr. Festus Adedayo, said, in a statement: "Governor Ajimobi, in the early hours of Thursday, led other top members of his administration on a rescue mission to a church building under construction which collapsed at Sagbe in Akinyele Local Government Area of Ibadan.

"Four of the construction workers were said to have died instantly while two others who were trapped inside the building were in coma and had been rushed to an undisclosed hospital in the city.

"Gov. Ajimobi, who arrived at the scene around 1 a.m., on Thursday, in company of his wife, Florence, the state Commissioner for Works and Transport, Alhaji Yunus Akintunde and other top government officials, described the incident as terrible and disheartening."

Ajimobi heaped the blame on the contractor handling the church building, saying he failed to use quality materials with the intention to cut cost.

"If the contractor had not compromised quality, this incident would not have happened," the governor said.

He further lamented that the ugly incident happened despite repeated warnings that people should ensure quality in everything they were doing, including building construction. Ajimobi then ordered thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the building.

A woman narrated how it all happened. "They had finished working for the day. They had cleaned up and were waiting for the contractor. Then, the rain started. It was then they took shelter under the deck.

Then, suddenly, we heard a loud bang. Two of them who are Hausas tried to escape but the iron rod held their legs. But, they were quickly rescued and taken to the hospital."

A member of the church, Mr. Oyegoke Francis, described the incident as unfortunate. He prayed that God should give those injured quick recovery.

Residents of the area commended Ajimobi, Federal Road Safety Corps, policemen and other security agents for their prompt response. As a result, it was gathered that others who could have died were rescued.

Those injured were said to have been taken to an undisclosed hospital in the area while five corpses were evacuated to the morgue. Two of them were women while the remaining three were men.

When Sunday Vanguard got to the scene, the bricklaying equipment were scattered all over. Items found at the site included head pans, bricklayer's knife, pairs of shoes, women wrappers, and shovels.

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