By Benjamin Omoike
A six-man independent investigation team has been set up by Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to probe the remote and immediate causes of collapse of the 21-storey building in the Ikoyi area of the state.
The panel has 30 days to submit its report.
Sanwo-Olu, on Wednesday, named members of the probe panel at the scene of the incident, with the list comprising professional builder, town planner, structural engineer and legal practitioners – all from the private sector.
President of Nigeria Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Mr. Toyin Ayinde, is the chairman of the panel, while Ekundayo Onajobi, a lawyer in a private law firm, is the Secretary.
Other panel members are a Structural Engineer, Dr. Akintilo Idris Adeleke; an Architect, Yinka Ogundairo; representative of Institute of Builders, Mr. Godfrey O. Godfrey, and Mrs. Bunmi Ibrahim, a Property Lawyer.
The panel’s terms of reference also include ascertaining whether there was a compromise of the building codes by the developer, his contractor and statutory regulatory agencies.
Already, General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), Arc. Gbolahan Oki, has been suspended indefinitely by the Governor.
Sanwo-Olu was on an official visit to Rome in Italy for the G-20 Summit when he learnt of the incident on Monday. The Governor cut short his trip and returned to Lagos on Tuesday to attend to the emergency.
Arriving at the scene, the Governor met with the victims’ family members, raising their hopes and showing compassion to calm them.
Describing the event as “a monumental disaster”, Sanwo-Olu hinted that mistakes must have been made in the process of developing the collapsed structure. The Governor promised a thorough inquiry into the matter, adding that the full wrath of the law would be brought on anyone found to have compromised.
The Governor charged the investigative team to explore all angles to determine the cause of the collapse.
Sanwo-Olu said: “We’ve promised to be open and thorough in investigating the cause of the collapse. In that regard, I have set up a high-powered professional investigative panel whose membership consists of professionals outside of the Government. The panel members have been given clear terms of reference and we are giving them 30-day assignment to tell us what has gone wrong at the site.
“The panel will be finding out who the culprits are. The investigation will start from the heads of regulatory agencies. Be rest assured that if there are other people that are found wanting in the course of investigation, everybody will face the full wrath of the law. Members of the panel are people of impeccable integrity and I will be signing an executive order to give the panel a legal backing.”
Other terms of reference of the panel include, determining whether there was full compliance with physical planning and building materials laws of the State; determining whether there was supervisory or oversight lapses on the part of regulatory agencies, and making necessary recommendations to guard against reoccurrence of similar incidents.
Sanwo-Olu maintained that it was difficult for the Government to know the exact number of people trapped, noting that none of the people linked to the housing project had come forward to offer information on the manifest.
As at Wednesday afternoon, the Governor put the figure of confirmed fatality to 21, while nine persons were evacuated alive from the rubbles.
“I express my deepest sympathy to the families of those that have been involved in this unfortunate incident. For the bodies recovered from the site, we are currently conducting systematic process of identifying them. Before the end of today or tomorrow, the process would have been completed and family members can come forward to identify them,” Sanwo-Olu said.
The State Government set up a medical base and information desk at the site of the building collapse, urging those whose family members were still missing to offer information on identity. There is also a website (www.lagosmind.org/help) and helpline number (09090006463) for the distress family.
Meanwhile, there are indications that the Lagos State House of Assembly may summon government officials to answer questions in relation to the recent collapse of the multi-storey building.
This follows a visit to the site of the tragedy by a team of lawmakers led by the Chairman of the House Committee on Physical Planning and Urban Development, Hon. Nureni Akinsanya.
Akinsanya, who said the team was at the site on the instruction of the Speaker, Rt. Hon. (Dr) Mudashiru Obasa, told journalists that the delegation would present a report on its findings to the House and those concerned could be invited.
While commending rescue efforts being carried out by agencies of the State government in collaboration with security bodies and private partners, Akinsanya sympathised with families of victims of the incident.
“I sympathise with the families of those affected and I want them to take heart and look unto God for the strength to bear the tragic incident,” he said, just as he prayed that the the tragedy would be the last the State would record.
“We have been on the ground for hours and we have seen what has happened. When we get back, we will write our report.
“Mr. Governor has also spoken and given update. On our part, the House will carry out its own function. I am sure the leadership of the House led by Speaker Mudashiru Obasa will set up a committee or panel to look into the report, invite those to be invited and if we have to amend our laws, we will,” he said.
Earlier, the delegation met with Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat, the head of the Lagos State Emergency Management, LASEMA, Dr. Oluwafemi Oke-Osanyintolu and other government officials at the site of the rescue operation.
Members of the delegation include Hon. Rasheed Makinde, Hon. Rasheed Makinde, Hon. Fatai Oluwa and Hon Femi Saheed.