Nigerians were thrown into shock and mourning last week following the collapse of a three-storey building in Lagos. It was disheartening to see pictures of dead and injured children being taken out of the rubbles. The building which was located at 14, Massey Street, Ita-Faji, though officially meant to be a residential building, was hosting a private Nursery and Primary School on the second and third floors. The building also had a penthouse, shops, offices and a business centre.
The school had an estimated 170 pupils, and most of them were in class when the building fell. Teachers and workers in the business centre and shops were also on ground when the incident occurred. Many people including 12 children were said to have been killed while 50 others were rescued. Residents of the area said the building had shown visible cracks at the back. Some put the age of the building at more than 30 years and it had been in a state of disrepair.
Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who visited the scene, ordered a full-scale investigation into the tragedy. Ambode said he had received information that the building was a residential one, with the school operating illegally within the premises. He said most of the buildings in the area had been marked for demolition but that some property owners in the area defied such notices.
We commiserate with families of victims in the incident, especially parents who lost their children and pray God to give them the fortitude to bear the loss. We also wish those injured quick recovery.
Cases of building collapse in the country is very worrisome and something urgent must be done about it. There have been several cases of building collapse in this country, especially in Lagos State, due to its terrain, but the latest incident is most disheartening on many accounts. First of all, when a building is marked for demolition as in this case, why didnt the authorities go ahead and demolish it? If that had been done, no owner could have rented it out to unsuspecting persons.
Why was a residential building hosting a nursery and primary school? Ambode said the school is illegal. That itself is an indictment on the state's education authorities who are supposed to monitor and shut down such schools. This should be investigated and anyone found to have aided the operation of the school should be dealt with accordingly.
Going forward, parents must be careful about the kind of schools they send their children to. They should carry out due diligence and ensure that the school is registered and that it is fit to train their children. Apart from tragedy such as building collapse, how conducive for learning was a building hosting shops, offices and business centre? We commend the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other persons who worked to rescue the victims but our general response to disaster leaves much to be desired. Following the incident on Wednesday, crowds trooped to the area and made it difficult for rescuers to do their jobs effectively.
It is not for nothing that in the Western world, once there is an incident, the police will barricade the scene. Those in charge of rescue operations should emulate that and citizens should also assist by keeping a fair distance from an accident scene, especially where they cannot offer any help. The government of Lagos State should go after the owner of the house and all his collaborators and ensure that they are visited with exemplary punishment. Each time there is a building collapse, the government of the state involved will issue a warning on zero tolerance of substandard buildings but nothing tangible comes out of it until the next building collapse tragedy occurs.
Building planning authorities all over the country must learn lessons from this terrible experience of Lagos. Steps should be taken immediately to identify all unfit buildings and demolish them without further ado.