Collapsed building: Survivors still homeless, personal effects litter site

A week after a block of flats collapsed in Jakande Estate, Oke-Afa, Isolo, Lagos, the survivors are still homeless, while personal effects still litter the site. Again, the residents are apprehensive of impending demolition, reports SAMUEL AWOYINFA

A week after a block of three flats collapsed at M-Zone of the Jakande Low Cost Housing Estate, Oke-Afa, Isolo, Lagos, in which two occupants died, survivors of the unfortunate incident are still homeless, while victims’ personal effects still litter the site. The incident happened on Wednesday, November 21, at about 12:30a.m.

The two people who died were Toyin and Bukky Cokers, daughters of a widow who was also injured in the incident. Household furniture and clothes were still visible among the rubble. The estate was built less than a decade ago, precisely in 2003.

One of the survivors, Mr. Olalekan Daramola, his pregnant wife, and three children are still homeless, and they appeal to the local and state governments, as well as well-meaning Nigerians, to come to their aid.

Daramola, who hails from Akure, Ondo State, says he now sleeps in his bar, situated close to the road, within the estate; while his wife and children squat with a family friend.

Pointing to a T-shirt and one other shirt hung at a strategic point inside the beer parlour, he said, “These are the only clothes I could take while running for my life. This was after I had evacuated my wife and children to safety. I and my family members are still homeless. While I sleep inside this shop, my wife and children are squatting with one of my friends. So, the family is scattered.”

Daramola said he and his family escaped death by a whisker on the fateful day. He said he moved into Flat 5 of the two-storey building (Block M20) on Church Street in 2004.

He said contrary to what was earlier reported that the occupants of the building had been given notice to relocate because it was already cracking, no one gave them such notice.

Stating his defence, he stresses, “no one will see death coming and still wait for it. No one gave us any notice.”

As hard as he tries to put the sad incident behind him, the reality of his homelessness is frustrating.

He says, “To get another accommodation now is a problem, because I don’t have the kind of money agents and landlords are demanding. They want us to pay N450,000 rent. Some demand as much as N300,000 for a year’s rent and another N150,000 for agreement and agent’s commission. Others are asking for two years’ advance payment at N300,000 per annum; while another N100,000 goes for agreement and agent’s commission. So, I am appealing to local and state governments and even good-spirited Nigerians to come to my aid.”

However, it is not only Daramola that is still in a quandary. Many of the residents who had their blocks of flats marked with red ink and seal tag were apprehensive on Thursday, as they were not sure whether the buildings would be pulled down or spared.

The buildings were marked by the men of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, and they bore the mark “LASBCA.”

When officials of LASBCA visited the estate on Wednesday, the landlords and tenants showed their apprehension and anger.

A man who says he had bought Flat 1 in M-16 Block, Mr. Folarin Ibrahim, notes that it was wrong for LASBCA to have given them 48 hours to vacate their homes after the incident, without first carrying out integrity tests on the buildings which they marked.

He explains that another insult heaped on them was the payment of N2,000 demanded from the tenants and flat owners to fast-track the visit of engineers from the relevant agency to come and do the integrity test.

He vents his anger the more, “Though not everyone paid that money, I learnt some people complied. That was wrong, because the estate was built by the government. There should have been regular monitoring before everything degenerated to this level. We deserve better treatment and not this shabby treatment.”

His neighbour in Block M-15 Flat 3, Mr. Jude Okei, was also livid with anger. He rages, “Government must apologise to us, because they or their contractors built these houses. This particular block where I am staying was said to have collapsed while they were building it in 2003, but they rebuilt it in 2005. Now, they have marked the same building as being defective. The building is just seven years old. Who is to blame?”

It was observed that there were two blocks of 12 flats built in 2010 for some of the widows of the military officers that died in the plane crash in Ejigbo, Lagos, years ago, which were also marked as defective.

One of the tenants in one of the buildings, M-11, Mr. Benjamin Omogene, says the building was inaugurated on April 1, 2010 by the deputy governor of Lagos State, Mrs. Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire.

He explains that immediately the building was marked, he called his landlady on the telephone and informed her.

He states, “Her response was that it was not possible. She called the necessary agency that was in charge of the building and they sent in their engineer. The engineer checked the building and concluded that it was bad finishing by those who did the tiling of the bathrooms that made water to form moisture on the walls.

“He had said that what needed to be done was to do the tiling properly and that the water seeping through the walls would stop.”

Omogene also harps on the need for the state government to reinvigorate the monitoring and maintenance arms of the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation.

Another tenant, Mr. Samson Akerele, whose flat was in a block of accommodation that is already sinking and which has been marked as defective, also has a tale of woe to tell. He has been trying to raise N370,000 to rent another accommodation, but he has not been able to.

“It is not easy to raise N370,000, though I have started talking to friends and relations. Before, I was only looking forward to paying rent for the year, and then this happened,” he moans, as he pleads for assistance from the government.

The residents of the estate were still expressing fears at press time that their homes might be demolished at the end of the day, because almost 15 buildings have been marked as defective and needs to be tested, with about just four left.

SUNDAY PUNCH gathered from one of the residents on Thursday that the executives of the residents’ association had compiled the names of all the people in the blocks and flats in the estate.

The source states, “I don’t know what they want to do with the names but the names of everybody have been compiled by the executives. It is like they are talking about relocating the people.”

Our correspondent made efforts on Thursday to speak with the officials of the LASBCA, LSDPC and even the state government, but they were all unavailable.

The female public relations officer of LASBCA who did not give her name said she could not speak, as she was not officially empowered to do so. She said, “It is only the general manager who can speak on the issue. Give your contact and I will arrange an interview with her as soon as possible.” She has yet to do so.

At the LSDPC, one Mr. Martins, the PRO, was said to be on leave, while other members of staff in his office tried to reach him on his telephone, but his line was in call diversion mode.

Again, a male member of staff who did not give his name, took our correspondent’s contact, and promised that they would get in touch with him. But both officials never got in touch with our correspondent as at the time of filing this report.

The Commissioner for Information, Mr. Aderemi Ibirogba, was also unavailable, as he was said to be touring some project sites with the governor.

However, sand samples were said to have been taken from the defective buildings on Wednesday for proper examination and testing by officials from an unnamed agency of the state government, which has a laboratory in Magodo area of Lagos.

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