Tears flowed yesterday at the site of the collapsed 21-storey building in Ikoyi, Lagos.
Family members of victims besieged the place, some carrying photographs of their people believed to be trapped inside the rubbles.
Rescue workers had a hectic time keeping them away so that they could do their work.
As of 9pm, yesterday, more than 24 hours after the incident, 21 bodies had been pulled out.
Nine people were rescued alive as hope dimmed for the unspecified number of people still trapped under the heap of debris.
The developer of the building is believed to be inside the building at the time it collapsed.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu took drastic measure yesterday by suspending the head of the agency in charge of supervision of buildings under construction.
He also named a panel to probe the incident with a promise to make the probe transparent.
All Progressives Congress (APC) National Leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu gave his support to the plan by the governor to investigate the collapse of the building.
Some survivours and those who missed being trapped in the building relived their experience.
The 21 bodies and nine persons rescued were confirmed by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said last night.
Scores, including a female National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member, Sanni Oyindamola Zainab, the developer, Femi Osibona, three foreign nationals and other members of an inspection team, are still feared trapped in the rubble.
Zainab, whose parents and other relatives were among early callers at the scene, was said to have been posted to the North, but sought redeployment to the Southwest, following insecurity in the North.
Her colleagues who were heard discussing among themselves, said they would have been victims, but for the fact that they were off work on Monday when the building caved in.
Among the recovered dead yesterday evening was a woman believed to be the Personal Assistant to Osibona.
The Nation gathered that the collapsed building, which was one of three 360 degree residential accommodation being developed by Osibona, consisted of blocks of flats, mostly sold to intending occupants.
It was learnt that the inspection team feared trapped were intending buyers who were being lured by the developer and his crew before the incident occurred.
But, tension, anguish and frustrations were rife at the scene as hundreds of people stormed the place in search of their loved ones.
Both old and young women wailed uncontrollably, just as men took out their frustrations on reporters and rescue workers because they were not allowed entry into the disaster spot. They also felt rescuers were not fast in rescuing the victims.
Although the tension began since Monday evening, following the over two-hour late arrival of emergency workers, it heightened as relatives decried the absence of information desk. They complained that no one had told them the hospitals or mortuaries to go and search for their loved ones, adding that they were also denied access into the premises to look for their relatives feared trapped.
As early as 8am, a crowd of helpless relatives had gathered outside the gate and wanted to lend a hand in the rescue.
Their demand, it was gathered, was borne out of the fact that only NEMA officials, security operatives and a few others continued search and rescue operations overnight as the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) Director-General Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu, allegedly pulled his men out around 2am.
The crowd, which refused to entertain questions from reporters and threatened to break any phone or camera focused on them, claimed they were angry because those trapped underneath the rubble were still alive and communicating at the wee hours of Tuesday and may have been saved if more hands were on deck.
Apparently, some of the bodies kept in the ambulance in front of the scene have started to decompose as the entire place has started smelling.
Also, a relative to one Samuel Uwelu, said to be a friend of the developer who came into the country for a wedding, was at the scene with his photograph, crying and begging anyone who has seen him to let the family know. Uwelu, according to him, was in Abuja when he was called by Osibona to come and see the site. He, thereafter, honoured his friend.
An engineer, Ife Martins, was also feared trapped as he was said to be having a meeting with Osibona and two other engineers before the collapse.
One of his workers, who said he spoke to him on Monday, said he could have also been in the building, but for the fact that Martins asked him to go and inspect another project.
He said: “Monday was about a month that my boss, Engineer Ife Martins, joined them here. Around 1:04pm, he posted a picture to us of this building that he was working. He was downstairs having meeting with the owner of the property. He and two engineers were in the meeting. He was part of those on the ground floor. It was during lunch time. But the owner came and so, they were having the meeting.
“I was also working here when he called me and said I should go and inspect another project that we have not far from here. At the moment, I do not even know where my foreman and others are. About seven people I know were inside when I left the site, but only one has been brought out.
“Engineer Ife Martins is the first born of his parents. I don’t know how his mother will take this news. They are currently hiding it from her because she lost another son in 2017, two years ago, and her grandson recently.
“They have taken her to the family house to break the news to her that he is in this building. I have hope he will come out alive.”
Security operatives on crowd control mission tried for several hours to persuade aggrieved relatives, but when it became more rowdy, about 12 young men were allowed into the building to assuage them. They were however, sent out about five minutes later because their presence was not helping much.
Similarly, the wailing women were also allowed into the facility to calm them down and that reduced the tension outside.
Corroborating earlier accounts of artisans brought from different parts of the country, a bricklayer, Dragon, who survived the incident, said, at least, 30 new workers were brought in on Monday morning to commence work
He said: “Almost 30 new faces came here yesterday to begin work. In fact, I know up to seven of them; two of my apprentices, a guy also brought his brother for apprenticeship and even my foreman. Yet, only one of them was brought out.
“My foreman, Christine was brought out dead. I was in the building before but my boss called me to go check out another building of his and that was why I left. But, my brother and friends are still trapped there.
Read Also: PHOTOS: Rescue works continue in collapsed Ikoyi building
“These people are not working. They even refused to let us assist to make the work faster so we can even save a lot of people.”
He alleged that the state government had in June, last year, inspected the building but they claimed everything was okay.
“The government brought one machine to inspect all the pillars and they said there was no problem with it. They checked everything and said no problem. But if the house did not have problem, why did they use iron to support it? I don’t even understand this country,” Dragon lamented.
Lagos suspends LASBCA boss, sets up probe panel
Lagos Deputy Governor Obafemi Hamzat, Inspector General of Police (IG) Alkali Usman, Chief Dele Momodu and other dignitaries have visited the site.
The deputy governor confirmed 10 fatalities and nine rescues, adding that two of the injured had fully recovered and discharged from hospital.
He also dismissed reports that approval was given for 15 and not 21 floors, clarifying that government approved the construction of 21-storey, three years ago.
Hamzat said: “This is now a search and rescue operation and our mission is to get people out of here. This morning, we took out two people and they are doing well in the hospital. Totally, we’ve taken nine people out and they are in the hospital and some have been discharged and we’ve sadly taken out 10 bodies (at the time).
“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 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 test and saw some anomalies and shut it down and said those things should be corrected.
“The other two buildings will also be audited, in terms of integrity test and, of course, if we see anything, appropriate actions will be taken. 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.”
IG Usman assured that investigation would soon begin and whoever was found culpable would be brought to book.
“It is an unfortunate incident that happened and there is a rescue operation that is going on. In the end, the police and other safety agencies are part and parcel of safety corporations, particularly in maintaining and controlling crowd.
“We also have other support that we can give to the safety operation officers. I am here to sympathise with all that are involved and also encourage those who are doing the safety operations to go about it professionally while we provide adequate security for them to do their job.
“That is why I am here. I think we need to strengthen regulations that are necessary when construction of site is going to take place. It is not that we don’t have it. We just need to strengthen them.
“Specifically, regulations that require such massive buildings, what is to be done, who is supposed to take charge of leading such construction? There are professionals that are required to be part and parcel of the building like structural engineers, civil engineers… I think it’s supervision that needs to be strengthened.
“Naturally, if anybody is found to have compromised, there should be some sanctions. There is going to be an investigation, but the investigation will encompass professional touch.
“In any investigation where expert opinion is needed, police will incorporate an expert. If you’re investigating a case of homicide, you need to bring a doctor. So, in such an investigation, there’s going to be involvement of professional competence,” he said.