7 DEAD IN ABUJA COLLAPSED BUILDING.

An uncompleted four-storey building located at 2, Ikole street, off Gimbiya Street, Garki Abuja,collapsed in the early hours of yesterday killing about seven persons, while over 30 persons were allegedly trapped in the rubble.

According to eyewitnesses’ account, the building, belonging to one Chief Omowale Kuye, of Lagos State which has been under construction for about 10 years, collapsed at 5 am, on Wednesday, when most of its occupants were still sleeping.

One of the occupants of the building who survived by the whiskers, Abubakar Sale said he had been living in the building since 2005, and that more than 50 of them used the building for shelter.

“A lot of people were still trapped in there; some are calling me on phone for help. But there is nothing I can do. A good number of the victims were labourers from far places that have nowhere to stay,” he said.

Rescue agencies which included National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Nigerian Red Cross, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigeria Police and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) as well as FCT Emergency Management Service were at the scene yesterday to rescue the victims.

About six caterpillars and eight trucks from Julius Berger and Gilmor Construction Companies were also involved in the rescue efforts, while the whole area was taken over by spectators.

As at 2.30 pm, about 14 people had been rescued from the rubble and taken to the National Hospital for medical attention.

The collapsed building is the fourth still under construction to collapse in the FCT in the last two months.

FCT minister, Senator Bala Mohammed who visited the scene said a distress call came to the FCT Fire Service at 5 a.m. Nigerian time.

He expressed dissatisfaction over the spate of collapse of buildings in Abuja and stated that the entire circumstance will be investigated and the law will be allowed to take its course.

Senator Mohammed also decried the situation where people would move in to squat in an uncompleted building that had already been certified weak, despite several warnings that they should move out. He however assured that his administration would do everything within its powers to fish out the accomplices for prosecution, while more stringent measures would be put in place to ensure that such incidents did not occur in future.

Reacting to the incident, director of Development Control Department in the FCT, Mr. Yahaya Yusuf who spoke with LEADERSHIP noted that the building collapse was due to non- conformity to the approved building plan by the property developer.

According to him, the building which plan was approved in 2001 was originally designed to be three-storey building, but that the developer had decided to add a fourth storey, which the department noticed and removed.

“This building had an approval in 2001 and it was built with three suspended floors. Only recently, the owner decided to add another floor, which we stopped him on December 12, 2009, but he remained adamant and we gave another order on January 5, 2010 and when he disobeyed this one too, we moved in and manually removed the added floor, together with the roof. He had already put the corrugated roofing sheets but we removed it”.

The director further explained that it was suspected that the building was not strong enough and an integrity test had to be carried out on the building, which it also failed.

“Because we also suspected that the building was not looking strong so we conducted Schmidt Hammer and Structural Stability Test, which was conducted by Calter Integrated Technical Services at the owner’s expense, which the structure failed on the July 22, 2010”.

“After the test, we advised all the occupants to move out as the place was not safe and then we passed all our findings to the legal unit for onward prosecution of the property developer at the Urban and Regional Planning Tribunal and that is the stage we were before the building collapsed,” he said.

Yusuf further explained that ordinarily, the building would have been demolished the moment it failed the integrity test but that a legal process had to be followed, since the building had an originally approved building plan, which the developer however altered.

He maintained that enforcement is not a problem for the department as it was doing its best to ensure that guidelines were adhered to and stop work orders were abided with when issued.

“We carry out removal everyday based on a timetable we have, moving from one district to another, making sure that the same district we left is visited after two weeks to enable us catch up with the illegal developments early enough. But as it is now, we are still grappling with those that were inherited and over time, people will begin to notice the improvement we have brought about. We have also put in place a situation whereby in every building under construction, there is a supervisor who undertakes that if anything happens, he should be held liable”.

In his reaction, Deputy Registrar of Council For The Regulation Of Engineering In Nigeria (COREN), Engr. Salmanza Mshelia noted that over time, it had been discovered that such collapsed buildings were developed by unqualified personnel, and advised Nigerians to desist from using quacks in development.

He added that as a regulatory body, COREN was very interested in professionalism and had been campaigning and holding workshops for people to imbibe the culture of professionalism in the construction of buildings, adding that the body also had inspectors appointed to visit and inspect whatever was going on in the construction industry in the country.

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