The final death toll in the collapsed building on Kushenla Road, Ikate Elegushi, Lekki area of Lagos State has been put at 34. Most of the victims are said to be foreigners, who were brought in from Benin Republic and Togo.
Giving the details of the operation that involved the National Emergency Management Agency, the Police, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency was LASEMA boss, Michael Akindele, who said 95 percent of the victims were foreigners.
Akindele said the greatest challenge was in calming their relatives down on Tuesday.
He said: “As we speak now, the time is 7:20pm. Search and rescue exercise on the collapsed five-storey building of 12 blocks of flats is hereby concluded and the physical record we have is 13 lives rescued and 34 dead bodies.
“We had full complement of all responders on board to ensure smooth response and recovery. It is a sad story. But, notwithstanding, our job as responders is to ensure that we mitigate such that all necessary actions and sanctions shall be taken by the state government. The greatest challenge we had was on Tuesday and it was because the families of the deceased and those rescued, 95 per cent of them, are aliens.
“We have people from the North and East, but majorly, those that we saw in this complex were not Nigerians. Some are Togolese and others Beninnois. Hence, the understanding and the emotions carried over, as if they can do better, which they will not do. The state government will address the public on the situation of the foreign victims.
“Today, we had a very smooth operation. I must commend the Nigeria Police, RRS, Civil Defence, Red Cross, NEMA, LASAMBUS and all others for a diligent job.”
In his remark, the Coordinator of NEMA in the South West, Yakubu Sulaimon, said rescuers were initially denied access on Tuesday morning, but security operatives brought the situation under control.
Sulaimon said: “We do not have a list of occupants in the building. The state government will take appropriate action on the other buildings marked.”
Meanwhile, the Police in Lagos State has arrested the contractor handling the collapsed five-storey building. The Lagos State Police spokesperson, SP Oladapo Badmus, who made the disclosure to the News agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Lagos, did not disclose where he was arrested.
Badmus gave his name as Odofin Taiwo, adding that he was currently under investigation.
In a related development, the Lagos State Government has expressed its condolences over the death of construction site workers who lost their lives on Tuesday as a result of the collapse of the building.
In a press release issued on Wednesday and signed by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, the Lagos State Government also announced that, based on preliminary reports and investigation, it was discovered that the collapsed building was served contravention notice for exceeding the approved floors and thereafter sealed by the Lagos State Building Control Agency.
It added that it has also been discovered that, in a brazen act of defiance and impunity, the owners of the building, Messrs Lekki Worldwide Estate Limited, the promoters of Lekki Gardens, criminally unsealed the property and continued building beyond the approved floors until the unfortunate incident of Tuesday which has led to loss of lives.
The statement added that, arising from the Lagos State Executive Council meeting decision on Wednesday, the State Government will no longer tolerate the action of unscrupulous owners and builders who challenge its supervisory control thereby endangering the lives of Lagosians.
The State Government has consequently directed the suspension of work at the site and ordered the Lagos State Police Command to cordon it off as it is now a crime scene.
The government also directed further integrity tests be carried out on every other construction project which has or is currently being handled by Messrs Lekki Worldwide Estate Limited in the interest of public safety.
Furthermore, the release quoted the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, as saying that all directors of Lekki Worldwide Estate Limited are strongly advised to submit themselves to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police within the next 24 hours in their own interest or face immediate arrest.
The statement also commended the timely response and remarkable intervention by the combined men of the Lagos State Emergency Authority (LASEMA), the Lagos State Fire Service, Lagos State Ambulance Service (LASAMBUS), Red Cross, National Emergency Agency (NEMA), Lagos State Building Control Agency and the Rapid Response Squad (RRS).
The Lagos State Government also warned that it would no longer be business as usual, stating that any developer either on existing or new building projects who fails to comply with building and construction regulations or attempts to subvert the law will henceforth face criminal prosecution.