The owner of a two-story building that fell in Abuja on Wednesday night must be immediately identified and arrested, according to Nyesom Wike, minister of the Federal Capital Territory.
At least 39 people lived in the building, of whom two were officially pronounced dead and 37 were rescued and transported to different hospitals.
The structure was one of the earliest multi-story structures in the neighbourhood, and it can be found at Lagos Crescent, Garki Village, in the Garki District of the nation’s capital.
While it caved it caved in around 11pm on Wednesday amid heavy downpour, rescue operations were initially very slow over the night as there was no immediate access to an excavator and rescue efforts were purely manual.
Speaking at the scene of the incident, Wike who noted that original residents of the area were designated for resettlement, however wondered why for years, the FCT Administration could not carry out such resettlement.
While he applauded the rescue efforts, Wike said; “It is unfortunate that we woke this morning to the very disturbing news of this building collapse. It is not what we contemplated. Let me thank the agencies particularly NEMA and FEMA that have supported us to rescue not less than 37 lives. It is unfortunate that we lost two lives. I will appeal to the Permanent Secretary to make sure that funds are raised to pay the hospital bills of those who were rescued so that we do not lose any more person, and this should be done immediately.
“Secondly, these are the things we have been saying, nobody knows whose turn it will be, therefore when government says it will take actions in areas we believe there are illegal developments or buildings that do not comply with the standard codes, it is not as if anybody has any personal vendetta but for me it is for us to do the right thing.
“I don’t know why it has taken long that the FCTA has not resettled them and so we will take immediate action to see that the indigenes of these place are resettled and then government has to plan out this place.
“When government says take building plan, it is not to suffer anybody but to make sure that everyone is protected. Cities are planned to forestall this kind of occurrences. Imagine buildings without approval. I will ask that we must identify and arrest the owner of this property. It is very important.
“Government will, of course, take over this area and make sure no further development is carried out here. I want all the stakeholders here to please work with government in the interest of everybody. No one has come here to say I like A, I don’t like B. I know sometimes government’s decisions may not be too comfortable with the people, but in the long run, it is in the interest of the people. Now we are all gathered here and none of us is happy we are here. These are the things we are trying to forestall. Again I sympathize with those who lost dear lives, while government will pick up the bills of all those in the hospital. We will also support the rescue efforts and ensure that they get to the last level and rescue everyone still trapped in the rubble”.
On his part, Director General of FCT Emergency Management Agency FEMA, Dr Abbas Idriss said 37 persons were rescued at the scene of the collapsed structure.
He said the victims were evacuated to various medical facilities in Abuja.
“Thirty Seven persons have so far been rescued and evacuated to hospital, others reportedly still trapped. Rescue team and others are on ground. Rescue operations on but slowly due to ongoing rain”. They are making frantic efforts at getting an excavator to remove people from the rubble”, he added.
The DG commended the efforts of all stakeholders working hard manually to rescue trapped persons, including members of the community.
It was gathered that the victims were taken to various hospitals including the National Hospital, Asokoro, Nyanya, and Garki District Hospitals, Alliance hospital and Zenith hospital.
Also speaking, Director, Department of Development Control, Mukhtar Galadima, explained that the building had no planning approval because the area is meant for resettlement.
“The building is located within the Garki indigenous settlement. The building had two suspended floors, one used for commercial activities while the other floors were used as residential accommodation. The building caved in yesterday (Wednesday) and 37 persons were rescued
“The status of the place is that it is not a planned area so the development had no planning approval. In fact, the area is meant for resettlement from here to Apo resettlement town”