Synagogue Collapse: Fire Fighters Were Delayed from Carrying out Rescue Operation, Says Witness


Akinwale Akintunde

A former Chief Operational Officer with the Lagos State Fire Service, Mr. Musiliu Adebayo, yesterday narrated how the fire fighting team led by him were initially prevented from carrying out their statutory duty at the scene of building collapse at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN).

The witness said though his team got to the scene early enough after a call was put through to the station by one Eze at about 1.17p.m., they were prevented alongside other agencies from joining the rescue operation by the church members, who were doing the rescue with passion until the next day after the intervention of then Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola (SAN).

Adebayo, who is the third prosecution witness in the trial made this revelation before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo while being led in evidence by Mrs. Idowu Alakija, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) in the ongoing trial of Trustees of SCOAN and the two engineers involved in the construction of the collapsed guest house, which led to the death of 116 persons, mostly South Africans on September 12, 2014.

The SCOAN Trustees, the two engineers, Messrs Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun and their companies, Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company and Jandy Trust Limited were last month arraigned before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo on 111-count charge for their involvement in the collapsed building.

The 111-count charge preferred against the defendants by the Lagos State Government borders on criminal negligence, manslaughter and failure to obtain building permit.

Adebayo, who said he retired in September last year after 35 years in service also told the court that he had to mix with the crowds in order to get to the site of the collapse in order to assess the emergency situation but his team was stationed at a distance to enable them count the victims.
The witness said when he finally sneaked in, he observed that there was no flame, no fire and he did not perceive any corrosive odour and with that he could ascertain that the environment his safe for his men and other rescue workers on ground.

He also told the court that while being barred from joining the rescue operation, his team were able to observe that 113 persons were rescued alive while 80 victims were suspected dead.
“I observed there was no flame, no fire, I did not perceive any corrosive odour, the slabs, that is, the floors fell on each other like a pack of cards.”

“None of the victims according to my study there sustained burns. I did not see any dismembered or scattered bodies around.”
Adebayo added that he observed that the victims had injuries associated with collapsed building such as broken chest bones, limbs and other parts of the body.