Collapsed Building in Abuja
By Senator Iroegbu and Paul Obi
Once again, three Nigerians have been killed in a needless death occasioned by the collapse of a building. It would be the umpteenth time that collapsed buildings will hurl hapless Nigerians into early graves. It has happened in many towns and cities across the country. It is sure to happen again.
Wednesday’s incident in Kubwa, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), had all the attributes of a poverty-induced tragedy.
But for the religious obligation of the Ramadan breakfast, which made many of the inhabitants of the uncompleted two-storey building to be out when it caved in at about 3am Wednesday, the death toll would have been higher.
Many of the ‘occupants’ of the building had woken up at that wee hour for their Ramadan breakfast, and so were outside the building when suddenly, they began to hear cracking sounds. The sounds got louder by the minute and before many more people could rush out of the structure, the beams and pillars had parted ways, and within minutes, the habitation of the people had been reduced to a mass of twisted rods, mangled in the dusty rubble of shattered concrete. By the time the concrete dust settled, three people were confirmed dead, with nine others seriously injured.
The building located at 3 Ademola Awosika Road, Kubwa Extension III in Bwari Area Council of the FCT, is said to have caved in due to yet-to-be confirmed reasons.
According to an eyewitness, Yaro Abdullahi, the incident occurred when some of the residents, mostly from the North, went out of the building for their pre-fasting breakfast.
Abdullahi told THISDAY that "more than 30 people were sleeping in the building that night, while most of them went out for their Ramadan breakfast, the building started crashing and before everybody inside could come out, the building collapsed, killing three people while others who sustained injuries were taken to a hospital."
The names of the dead persons are: Habib Muhammed, Bashiru Mustapha and Abdulkadir Goma.
Another survivor who narrated how he escaped to THISDAY, Mr. Ridwa Ali, explained that the collapsed building had been left uncompleted for some years and it served as a shelter for many illegal occupants.
Many of the occupants are those unable to afford the high cost of accommodation in Abuja.
According to Ali who has been living in the area for six years; the affected building housed about 50 occupants, mostly artisans, commercial motorcyclists, water vendors (Meruwa), refuse disposal boys popularly called ``Mai boula’’ and mechanics.
"The building collapsed around 3am and luckily some of us (occupants) in the building were able to escape, and ran for our dear lives immediately we heard cracks from the building," he said.
According to the National Emergency Management Agency's (NEMA) spokesman, Mr. Yushau Shuaib, who confirmed the incident, two bodies were recovered during the rescue operations, while the third victim was confirmed dead later.
Shuaib also confirmed that nine persons, who sustained critical and minor injuries, were receiving treatment at the Kubwa General Hospital as at the time of this report.
He said that rescue operations were still going on to remove debris and to see if more survivors were trapped in the collapsed building.
"I can confirm to you that as of now, our rescuers have recovered three dead bodies while the other nine injured victims have been taken to Kubwa hospital for treatment," he said.
Also commenting at the scene of the incident, the FCT Coordinator of NEMA, Ishaya Chonoko, urged Nigerians to desist from using uncompleted buildings as residence given the impending danger it posed, especially with the continuous cases of rainfall and the attendant floods.
Chonoko said: "The Nigerian public should be careful in taking harbour in uncompleted buildings as their residences, the meteorological agency recently gave hint of areas and locations that will encounter torrential rainfall and floods.”
Meanwhile, the Director Engineering, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Mr. Mayas Adoyi, has said that investigations into the cause of the collapse would be conducted and defaulters would not be spared. Many houses have been collapsing across the country in recent time. Neither the professional bodies nor law enforcement agencies have been able to facilitate the prosecution of owners and contractors of such defective buildings. Too often, the furore over the breach of building standards die with the dust raised when buildings collapse. Nobody has ever been jailed because of compromising standards.
But Adoyi said any engineer implicated in the construction of the collapsed building would be sanctioned as efforts are being made to ensure that building standards are complied with within the FCT.
Also, the Chairman of the Bwari Area Council, Mr. Peter Yohanna, while speaking to journalists confirmed that the collapsed building had been abandoned for many years by its owners after it failed an integrity test for approval. But the inhabitants who knew nothing about the outcome of the integrity test, were not likely to bother to stay away from the building even if they knew it failed the test, given the fact that they were in dire need of accommodation.
"I sympathise with the families of the deceased, and announce that the sum of N200,000 has been approved by the council for the treatment of the wounded victims," Yohanna said.