By Kasim Sumaina in Abuja
A yet-to-be identified decomposing body of a young man was on Monday recovered from the collapsed three-storey building in Jabi, Abuja, two days after agencies called off their search and rescue operations.
The decomposing body, according to an eyewitness, was recovered from the rubble by scavengers who converged on the remains of the building to scavenge iron rods as early as 10:50 am Monday morning.
When THISDAY reporter visited the site of the collapsed building in Jabi, he observed that there were armed police officers alongside, officers of the security and civil defence corps.
Relatives and sympathisers trooped to the site when they heard the news of the recovered body. One Ibrahim lamented that government hurriedly called off the search and rescue mission, adding that might have led to the death of others trapped in the building.
But in a swift reaction, Head, Abuja Operations, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Mr. Bitrus Samuel, told THISDAY that the notion of scavengers discovering the decomposed body was not true as the place was cordoned off by security agencies on ground and as such, they couldn’t possibly gain access to the site.
According to him, “First, let me correct this impression that the entire process was called off. The operation is in two phases, the first is rescue, search and evacuation of the injured persons involved in the incident.
“The second phase is the clearing of the debris and leveling of the entire site. This process has been ongoing from the very day to this moment.”
He explained that the operation that was called off by various stakeholders involved was the search and rescue of injured ones.
According to him, “having ascertained that no one else was left. That first phase was called off. But the clearing of the debris and leveling of the site will continue to be sure that nobody is buried under the rubble.”
When THISDAY reporter spoke with him on the phone again on Tuesday for further clarification, he confirmed that indeed a body was recovered on Monday but claimed that the recovery was by NEMA officials and not scavengers.