Two sisters – Toyin and Bukky Coker – were killed on Wednesday when a part of the two-storey building they lived in at M20, Jakande Low Cost Housing Estate, Isolo, Lagos, collapsed.
Their mother identified simply as Iya Coker was injured.
Three out of the six flats on one of the two wings of the building completely collapsed at about 12:05am.
It was learnt that the deceased and their mother lived on the first floor.
Toyin, was a 30-year-old medical doctor, while Bukky recently finished her national youth service. Both sisters were graduates of the University of Lagos.
One of the survivors, Ahmadu Omoniyi, who lived on the ground floor of the building said he informed Mrs. Coker of the impending danger at about 11.40pm on Tuesday night when he heard the building cracking.
He said, “When I got home on Tuesday evening, I observed that sand and stone were falling off from the walls and the decking. I informed the caretaker immediately. I moved into the apartment in September.
“Around 11pm, I suddenly woke up feeling uneasy. I roused the other two people staying with me and asked them to start packing vital things while I went to Mrs. Coker’s place to draw her attention to the situation.
“When I got to her floor, she answered me from inside saying, ‘God will see us through till tomorrow’. Nobody stayed on the second floor, so, I joined my other flat mates downstairs.
“To my utmost surprise as soon as we removed our vitals documents from our apartment and moved like three steps away, the building collapsed. It was God that saved us because the whole place went down.”
How woman, corpses were found –Neighbour
A resident of the area, Opeyemi Fagun, said the sound of the collapsed building drew neighbours’ attention to the scene.
He said despite starting the emergency operation started the incident happened, Coker could not be rescued until after about four hours.
He said, “We heard the woman saying, ‘please help, please help’ but we couldn’t locate her on time because of the amount of debris that had fallen all over the place.
“We finally located her at about 4am where a wooden cupboard had fallen over the lower part of her body on the bed she slept. Meanwhile, the cupboard prevented the hard core debris from falling on her.”
It was learnt that calls placed by residents to the number of her two daughters after their mother had been rescued rang out.
Fagun explained that Coker could not also give a comprehensive account of the number of people in her apartment as she seemed to be in shock at the time she was being taken to hospital.
Fagun said, “We kept on searching the debris. We later sighted a leg, which turned out to be that of Bukky under the debris. Toyin’s corpse, which was also buried under the debris was also sighted.
“Both of them were found dead under the debris. We concluded the search and rescue at about 5am after Toyin’s body was recovered. Government emergency officials later started coming around some minutes to six blaring sirens all over the place.”
General Manager of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, said the bodies of the sisters had been taken to the morgue.
When one of our correspondents visited the scene, oficials of the Lagos State Building Control Agency were seen marking the buildings on the M Zone of the estate for demolition.
‘Govt officials ignored our calls’
Survivors of the incident told one of our correspondents that emergency officials, who were alerted to the impending disaster did not come.
A resident, Daramola Victor, told one of our correspondents that about 11.40pm, it was noticed that the walls were about to give way.
He said, “I live in the second wing. But we noticed that the other wing was cracking and we called the National Emergency Management Agency, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency and fire service on the phone. Only the Red Cross came later after the collapse.
“All these agencies are here now acting as if they are doing something useful. They could have saved lives if they came when we called on them.”
He said when he noticed that one of the wings of the building had collapsed, he rushed back into his apartment and evacuated his family.
“I really don’t know where to go now. All our properties are outside. Neither LASEMA nor NEMA is giving us any assistance in this direction,” he said.
State officials lied –Residents
Residents of the buildings at the site that have now been tagged “distressed” and sealed by the Lagos State Building Control Agency, said no effort was made in the past by government officials to test the state of the buildings in the estate.
Earlier, the Commissioner for Housing, Mr. Bosun Jeje, who was at the site briefly, had said the buildings were “inspected frequently by our engineers.”
He said, “This is a responsible government, whenever anything like this happens government always ensures that those who are affected are taken care of.
“Government will offset the medical bills of victims who are receiving treatment in the hospital. As you can see, the buildings have been marked for demolition because they are weak.”
Managing Director, Lagos State Property Development Corporation, Biodun Oki, also said the residents had been given notice to quit the buildings prior to the collapse.
“The markings of the distressed buildings had been before now and even some of them moved out before now,” Oki said.
But residents said the buildings were marked for demolition immediately after Wednesday’s incident. They claimed there was no prior warning from government agencies.
One of our correspondents noticed officials of the LASBCA marking the buildings on the M Zone of the estate at about 9am on Wednesday.
An angry resident, who pleaded anonymity said, “If anybody tells you that they had inspected these buildings before, they are only lying. We had called on the government at different times to compel the owners of the buildings to renovate them but they did not take any step.
“I did the renovation of my own apartment when I moved in. I would have packed out of the apartment if not because I am financially handicapped.
“If government had inspected the houses and said they were “distressed” we would have packed out without complaint. They don’t care about us.”
Another resident, Ibrahim Ade, who corroborated this, said he was angry when he saw government officials sealing other buildings on Wednesday.
He said the inefficiency of government cost the two sisters their lives.
“Go to all the buildings, you will see that they are not in good condition, but government refused to do what was necessary until people died,” he said.
President of the residents’ association, Abiodun Taiwo, also berated the officials for their insensitive attitude to the state of the buildings in the estate.