Lagos State Government will set up an independent panel to probe the collapse of the 21-storey building on Gerrard Road, Ikoyi.
Members of the panel will be drawn from the Nigeria Institute of Architects (NIA), Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) and other professional bodies.
This was made known on Tuesday by Commissioner for Information and Strategy in the state, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso.
According to him, the panel will independently investigate the remote and immediate causes of the incident and make recommendations on how to prevent future occurrence. The investigation is not part of the internal probe already being conducted by the government.
“Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has said the government will surely find out what went wrong and punish those indicted. The Governor, as a first step, has directed that the General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), Mr.Gbolahan Oki, an architect, be suspended from work immediately. The suspension is indefinite.
“More equipment and personnel have been deployed in the site to save more lives.
“Nine persons – all men – have been pulled out of the rubble alive. They have been taken to the hospital. Unfortunately, 14 others were brought out dead – as at 2pm.”
“Mr. Sanwo-Olu thanks all first responders and those who have joined the rescue efforts, including construction giants Julius Berger, Chinese Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) and theNational Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
“A help desk is to be set up at the site for people seeking information about their relations who may have been involved in the incident. The media are hereby notified that the government will be releasing information whenever the need arises to avoid any sensational reporting of the unfortunate incident,” he said.
Omotoso said the Deputy Governor, Dr Kadri Obafemi Hamzat, was today at the site to encourage rescuers and comfort relations of those trapped in the rubble. Dr. Hamzat left the site for the Lagos Island General Hospital to see the survivors.
He stated that government will embark on further foundation and borehole acidic level tests to ascertain the impact on the collapsed building. These tests, particularly the borehole acidic level, is important for the entire Gerrard Road and adjoining areas.
“We wish to state that there will be no cover-up in the search for the truth in this incident. If anybody is found to have been indicted, he or she will face the law.
“It is important to restate that all developers and property owners are required to adhere strictly to all Building Codes and Planning Regulations to ensure the safety of lives and property. Those who ignore such regulations, breaking seals and defying enforcement, will surely be prosecuted.”
Meanwhile, the Deputy Governor, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, said at the scene on Tuesday that the government will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that they got to the bottom of the matter.
Hamzat, in company of cabinet members, said 10 bodies were removed from the rubbles after an overnight search and rescue operation by a combined team of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), with the support of construction giants, Julius Berger and China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC).
Actual number of people trapped in the collapsed uncompleted structure remains unknown at the time of the Deputy Governor’s visit, but Hamzat said some of the workers interviewed gave the figure between 24 and 28.
Three of nine persons evacuated alive have been discharged from the hospital. The victims were being treated at Lagos Island General Hospital in Marina.
The Deputy Governor said: “Our search and rescue operation is ongoing to remove those possibly still trapped under the rubbles. Our focus right now is to get people out alive. This morning, we took out two people alive and they are responding well to treatment in the hospital.
“Totally, we have evacuated nine people alive and three of them have been discharged. We have also sadly taken out 10 dead bodies. We believe there could be more people trapped in the building but all our efforts are focused on rescue.”
Hamzat condemned what he called “needless gathering” of people who had nothing to do with the rescue operation at the scene, stressing that their presence was distracting those involved in the search efforts.
“What is currently happening at the site of the incident is a search and rescue operation. It is not so good to have a lot of people at the site. Sometimes, the rescuers require silence to be able to hear the voices of those who may still be trapped. The operation is ongoing and we hope we will be able to rescue more. We will not leave the site until we are able to account for everyone in the building,” Hamzat said.
The Deputy Governor disclosed that the collapsed structure had been sealed off by the State Government last June because of low structural integrity test and demanded the anomaly be corrected before the construction could be allowed to go on.
Hamzat said the project manager was being expected to report back to the Government on details of the correction before the incident.
The Deputy Governor assured the public that the full investigation ordered by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, would yield an outcome that would lead to the next line of action.
Hamzat, in company of Commissioners and Permanent Secretaries, visited the Lagos Island General Hospital to see victims being treated.