No fewer than 20 people have been confirmed dead in the 21-storey building that collapsed on Monday on Gerrard Road, in the Ikoyi area of Lagos State.
The building crumbled around 2pm when workers were on the site.
PUNCH Metro had reported that 10 people were feared dead when the incident happened, as many others were still trapped in the rubble, including the Managing Director, Fourscore Heights Limited, Mr Femi Osibona, who owned the building.
The South-West Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency, Ibrahim Farinloye, on Tuesday, said a total of 20 bodies, including that of Osibona’s personal assistant, had been recovered.
The state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, around 8pm on Tuesday, also confirmed that 20 corpses had been recovered.
Nine people were said to have been rescued alive.
Our correspondents learnt that three of the rescued victims had been released to their families, while others were being treated at the Lagos Island General Hospital, Marina.
We observed as agitated family members of some of the victims protested against what they described as the slow pace of work at the scene.
The aggrieved families and sympathisers urged emergency management workers to allow members of the public to help in the recovery process to increase the chances of saving more lives.
They claimed that they were not allowed to identify the bodies recovered to know if their loved ones had been found or were still trapped in the rubble.
One of our correspondents noted that during the protest, 10 men were selected to enter the premises to assist the responders.
They were later chased out, an action that aggravated the crowd.
PUNCH Metro learnt that a member of the National Youth Service Corps, identified only as Zainab, was among those trapped in the rubble.
Her family members, who refused to speak to journalists, were seen bemoaning their fate.
Journalists were also not allowed to enter the premises of the collapsed building.
The General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, Mr Gbolahan Oki, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, said the owner of the building got approval for 15 storey-building and not 21.
He noted that inferior materials were used for the construction, saying appropriate actions would be taken.
But the state deputy governor, during a visit to the scene on Tuesday, said the collapsed building was approved for 21-storey building three years ago.
Hamzat disclosed that the building was sealed for four months in 2021 when the state government noticed some anomalies in the construction.
He said, “The operation, as you can see is going on and we will not leave until we are able to account for everybody. We are responsible for the people of the state; our focus is on saving lives.
“As a matter of fact, this place was sealed for about four months sometime last year from July to November because our agency came in to do structural tests and saw some anomalies and shut it down and said those things should be corrected.
“They were making corrective actions when this happened. At the time this happened, they were not really constructing, but investigations later will show what really happened.
“This particular building that collapsed was approved for 21 floors three years ago not 15 floors, it’s the construction that failed, apparently.”
The deputy governor noted that the actual number of occupants of the uncompleted building at the time of its collapse was unknown.
The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Tuesday, ordered the indefinite suspension of the LASBCA GM over the incident.
Sanwo-Olu, in a statement by the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotoso, said the government had also set up a panel to probe the tragedy.
The governor 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, Mr Gbolahan Oki, an architect, be suspended from work immediately. The suspension is indefinite.”
He said more equipment and personnel had been deployed in the site to save more lives.
The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, during a visit to the scene, said anybody found culpable would be made to face the law.
He said, “It’s a major incident and an unfortunate incident and there’s a rescue operation going on.
“We need to strengthen regulations that are necessary when certain constructions are going to take place.