Sunday Magazine

Jabutu: Bread of sorrow at Christmas

Two months after the Ikoyi building collapse in which about 49 persons were confirmed dead, tears of residents of Jabutu in the Papa community of Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State have not dried. In this report, they share their pains, agony and expectations. LADESOPE LADELOKUN visited the community that lost 31 of the victims

My husband took 32 people to site, only two survived –Wife of building contractor

… says he borrowed N20, 000 to transport workers, promising to pay in the afternoon

What do I do with the corpse of my 16-year-old son; he didn’t have a child –Mother

My hubby left with only N200, he was hoping to be paid that day –Widow

 

 

With grief firmly etched on her young face, Adenike Ajayi, 40, had not shaken off the shock that enveloped her since the news of her husband’s death hit her that day in November.

 

She had yet to come to terms with the fact that the man she once described as “loving, caring and a complete family man” had been snatched by the icy hands of death. Having worked with his half a dozen workers a week before he died without pay, her building contractor husband, now the late Mr Temitope Ajayi, popularly known as TMoney, had sought financial assistance from her to transport 33 residents of Papa community -mainly from the Jabutu area, in Ibafo, Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State to Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos. He was a contractor on the ill-fated building, where construction work was ongoing in the now crumbled 21-storey building.

 

That incident left scores dead and families with sorrow, tears and gnashing of teeth. In a cruel twist of fate, TMoney’s promise to pay the debt owed his wife dissolved under the rubble of Ikoyi high-rise on Monday, November 1, 2021 – the same day the promise to pay his N20,000 debt passed his lips.

 

“He said I should lend him N20,000 to transport himself and 32 others to Ikoyi. He promised to pay me the following day. And, the money in question was not even mine. But he sounded sure that he would be paid on Monday. So, when he left some minutes before 7:00 am on Monday, I called him around 11:00 am and he confirmed to me that he was already at Ikoyi.

 

But subsequent attempts to reach him via phone hit a brick wall. It was in the evening that I got to know through the kinsmen of the two people that survived that my husband and others were trapped under the rubble. The survivors had wounds. But they have gone back to their villages,” she recalled.

Adenike- moved to tears- further explained that apart from promising to settle his debt, he had also pledged to pay his children’s school fees that were already in arrears. She wondered how she would shoulder the responsibilities that were once his. “He left seven children for only me to take care of. I don’t even know where to start.

 

Things are definitely not going to be the same again. As of the time the incident happened, we had outstanding school fees to settle. But the children were only allowed to sit for their examinations because of the incident. I’m sure we will be expected to pay in January when they resume. I don’t know where help will come. I only look to God for help,” she said. Commenting on the initial reaction of some families of the victims, Ajayi said it was completely disappointing.

 

The mother of seven said: “Lamentations like “where is TMoney’s wife?” “Her husband took our husbands and sons away”, rend the air.” The widow explained that it took the intervention of the other members of the community to get the families of the victims to reason that she also lost her husband and he did no evil by inviting their loved ones to work.

 

“They asked if my husband came back alive. Before his demise, it was his style to invite his neighbours to work with him. He did that for over 10 years. It’s sad that the Ikoyi incident was his last,” she added.

 

In a chat with Sunday Telegraph, a close associate of TMoney, who pleaded anonymity described the late building contractor as a lover of people, who wanted the best for his neighbours and community.

 

According to him, before the infamous Ikoyi building collapse, he had on several occasions invited his neighbours to work with him, explaining that it was borne out of the desire to neutralise the effect of Nigeria’s harsh economy on them and help them meet their basic financial obligations.

 

In spite of the gloom and doom connected with the Ikoyi building collapse incident, Mrs Ajayi said she was grateful to God for averting what she called “a double tragedy.” “He wanted his first child, Abbey, to join him but he was away in Ibadan on a visit to his grandmother.

 

Of course, he would have gone with him if he was around. In fact, the last time we spoke, he reminded me that I should inform him to join him at Ikoyi. ”

 

Meanwhile, a source who pleaded anonymity, told Sunday Telegraph that some families who were lucky to have the corpses of their loved ones released to them at the Mainland Hospital, Yaba, Lagos got N250,000 cash from the government. The source, who also lost his close friend, dismissed the sum as paltry, wondering what the families of the victims of the Ikoyi building collapse would do with it. “Nothing is secret about it.

Everyone that had the corpse of their loved ones released to them got N250,000 cash.How much is the money? While I was at the Mainland Hospital, a man came from Imo State to claim the corpse of a victim. Right there, he paid N70,000 to transport the corpse from Yaba to Imo. He bought N30,000 casket, among other expenses. So, how much is the money?”

 

But it was not just the Ajayis that drank from the bitter juice of agony. Until November 1, 2021,Mrs Abosede Fakile and her husband, Idowu Fakile had planned a wedding for their daughter for November 27,2021. But the Grim Reaper had harvested Idowu Fakile before the D-Day, shattering to smithereens the hope of their daughter getting married on the fixed date.

 

The mother of six, who worked as a cleaner in a private school, told Sunday Telegraph that she had stopped work since November 2, when she got informed about crumbled high-rise. She explained that she had lived on the generosity of kind-hearted Nigerians.

 

Narrating her final moments with his husband, Mrs Fakile said: “He never left  home without leaving the phone number of the person who engaged him for work, even that of the wife of anyone that sought his services. But it was not the case on Monday, November 1, when my husband left.

 

A week before Monday, he had left for Ikoyi and promised to return on Saturday. And, true to his words, he came back on Saturday. I challenged him that he failed to give me money and his reply was that he had not been paid. He said he was going back on Monday November 1,2021, assuring me that he would get paid on Monday and send me some money.”

 

“While we were praying on Monday morning, someone called him, informing him that it was time to leave. He said he would send the money around 12:00 pm. So, I tried calling his line around 11:00 am but couldn’t reach him. It was the same story for the whole day.” She continued: “On the second when I got to my workplace, I noticed that people gathered in twos and threes.

 

A voice whispered that, “don’t let her know”. It was when someone from the church I worship moved close to me to inform me that some artisans that left Jabutu and other areas of Papa lost their lives in Lagos that it dawned on me that I was in trouble.

 

On what she wants from the Lagos State government, the Ilogbo-Ekiti-born mother of six said:” We beg the government to release the corpse of my husband. My husband can only rest when he is buried. We hardly sleep. He still walks around. Sadly, my husband had neither siblings nor parents before his death. He had nobody. “Life has been tough for us in the

 

last two months. But for kind-hearted Nigerians, we would have gone hungry on Christmas. It was the worst I ever witnessed. We beg the government to offer assistance to us in good time.”

‘What will I do with the lifeless body of my 16-year-old son?

 

‘ “I don’t like talking about this because three questions from you will make me shed tears.” These were the words of the mother of a 16-year-old victim when Sunday Telegraph approached her.

Mama Toheeb, as she is called, said it would have been better if her deceased son had a child before he ended up under the rubble. Her words: “If he had a child, it would have been a different case. But my eyes shall not see evil. What will I do with his dead body?

The day he left, I walked him to the junction near us and prayed for him. I never knew that would be the last time I would see him. It’s not an experience I would like to remember.

“Whatever the discussion I’m having about my son should centre on how to bring him back to life. If it’s not bringing him back,I don’t want to talk about it.” Like Toheeb’s mother, Opeyemi Adedokun’s father was said to have accepted what fate threw at his family.

According to his cousin, Habibat Kazeem, his father gave up on getting his corpse after five failed attempts. Asked what she knew about the deceased, she said: “He completed his apprenticeship recently. He was a bricklayer. I remember he told me he would like to get married soon. I’m missing him already. He was very kind to me.

 

How N200 led my husband to Ikoyi collapsed building

 

Mr Sesan Akinleye had lost interest in working as a bricklayer in the now collapsed 21-storey building because he was still owed for the services he rendered a week before November 1,2021, his wife, Ewatomi Akinleye, told Sunday Telegraph.

 

According to Ewatomi, he had only N200 on him a day before he left Jabutu for Ikoyi. Because he was cash-strapped, he had to backtrack despite his initial position. Her words: “He told me he would go on Monday and come back on Saturday. In fact, he was reluctant to go to Ikoyi because he said after he had worked for a week, he was not paid.

 

“Then, he got a call from the building contractor that took them to Ikoyi. He told me he was assured that we would be paid on Monday.

 

Although he said he was not willing to leave, he had to rescind his decision because he had only N200 on him. The fact that he was promised he would be paid on Monday made him have a rethink on Sunday.

He even promised to send me money as soon as he got paid.” Reacting to the demise of Sesan Akinleye, the Chairman of Itesiwaju Community Development Association, Mr Kehinde Adebayo, said: “It’s sad that the incident happened.

We can’t pretend that we are not aware that tragedy struck our community. But you must know that there are many CDAs here. I think only one person in our neighbourhood was affected.

 

But no one has informed the secretariat. Not even the landlord. So, we can’t deliberate on it as things stand.” I

 

koyi Building Collapse: What we know so far

 

Reacting to the incident, the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LABSCA) had revealed that the said 21-floor building fell short of building standards.

 

The now suspended General Manager of the agency, Mr Gbolahan Oki, was quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria to have said the owner “got an approval for a 15-storey building and exceeded his limit. I am on ground here and the materials he used are so inferior and terrible.

 

“The materials he used, the reinforcement, are so terrible. He got approval for 15 floors but built 21. “I think he has been locked down.

 

He has been arrested before now,” he said. But, contrary to the claim of Oki, the Deputy Governor, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, had said the developer got approval for 21 floors for the collapsed structure, adding that the building had earlier been sealed for four months.

 

His words: “We are not sure of the number of people inside there. It is not a residential building yet. It is not that we have tenants or a list of people. “As a matter of fact, if you are aware, this location was sealed for about four months sometime ago. It was sealed because our agency came in to do structural tests and saw some anomalies.

So, they shut it down for those things to be corrected. The second building will also be audited in terms of integrity test, and of course, if we find anything, then the appropriate action will be taken. “This particular one (pointing to the collapsed building) was approved for 21 floors, not 15. If you count the second building, it is 14 or 15.

 

The approval was done about three years ago. It is not something new. It is the construction that failed apparently from what we can see. “The state government will embark on further foundation and borehole acidic level tests to ascertain the impact on the collapsed building. These tests, particularly the borehole acidic level, are important for the entire Gerard Road and adjoining areas.

“We wish to state that there will be no cover-up in the search for the truth in this incident. If anybody is found to have been indicted, he or she will face the law.

 

It is important to restate that all developers and property owners are required to adhere strictly to all building codes and planning regulations to ensure safety of lives and property. Those who ignore such regulations, breaking seals and defying enforcement will surely be prosecuted.”

 

However, in a statement signed by the President of Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers (NIStructE),Dr. Kehinde Osifala, the causes of the collapsed 21-storey building could be traced to lack of proper quality control and assurance measures, alterations on the original design of the building that was, according to him, initially planned to be six-storey, but was later increased to 21-storey.

 

“The preliminary investigation also revealed some evidence of structural inadequacy in the construction and that signs of some structural distress had already started to show within certain elements of the building.

 

Some remedial measures were already being undertaken to address some of this.

 

The method of implementation of this was not in accordance with sound structural engineering practices,” he explained Osifala noted that lack of proper quality control and quality assurance measures and processes during the construction was evident as seen in the poor quality of concrete materials and workmanship observed during the examination of the collapse debris. “

All the above findings, which are very significant from the structural engineering point of view, need to be investigated further during the detailed investigation stage so that all factors related to the cause or causes of the collapse can be truly established and the appropriate lessons identified and implemented,” he added.

 

Meanwhile, a six-man independent investigation team had been set up by Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo- Olu, to probe the remote and immediate cause of the collapsed 21-storey building in Ikoyi.

 

Sanwo-Olu, who hinted that mistakes must have been made in the process of developing the collapsed structure, said that the full wrath of the law would be brought on anyone found to have compromised. 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.”

 

At least, 45 people were killed, while 15 were rescued from the debris, according to the Lagos State government. Commenting on the call for adequate compensation for the families of the victims of the Ikoyi building collapse, human rights activist, Barrister Inibehe Effiong, said it has to be shown that government is liable, adding that it is obvious that government has been implicated.

“It has to be shown that the government is liable. But it is obvious that the government has been implicated. The agencies of government were negligent. The government cannot be insulated from blame.

 

Those affected can make representation. Going to court should be the last option. I’m aware the Lagos State government has set up an investigative panel on the matter. They should make representation to the panel.” But a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Liborous Oshoma, disagrees with Effiong.

 

According to him, there is no conclusive evidence that any agency of government is culpable. Oshoma described the allegation that government agencies are culpable as ‘mere conjecture’. “The building was a private building. This is not a government matter.

 

The workers were working on a private project. But the Lagos State government has set up an investigative panel of inquiry. There is no conclusive report that an agency of government is culpable. The allegations that government agencies are culpable are mere conjectures. Some people said approval was given for six, some said twelve. An agency of government said fifteen.

 

The building was sealed when its integrity was discovered to have been compromised. So, who unsealed? Ours is to put pressure on the panel to release its report and raise posers,” Oshoma said.

 

For former Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Onyekachi Ubani, it’s time to sue the Lagos State government. In a telephone chat with Sunday Telegraph, Ubani expressed willingness to seek justice for the victims of the Ikoyi building collapse, describing the N250,000 given to the families of the victims as “insulting”.

 

“Please link me up with the people affected. I’ve been looking for them. We will sue the Lagos State government,” Ubani pleaded.

 

 

 

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