Two construction workers remained trapped Monday night under the rubbles of a building which collapsed at the Wupa District of Monday morning, witnesses and officials told PREMIUM TIMES.
Six other workers, who were inside the building before it went down were however rescued by a combined team of officials of the National Emergency Management Agency, the Federal Fire Service, the Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
Neighbours told PREMIUM TIMES that collapsed building is owned by a firm, Global Success Resources Limited. Multiple calls by this newspaper to officials of the company did not go through as at 9.10pm on Monday.
A witness, who gave his name simply as Ben, said there was a loud crack at about 12.25am, followed by severe vibration as the five-storey building under construction fell and trapped eight persons.
“Some of the workers, especially those who live far away, sleep inside the structure after work. One of the private security guard, Ibrahim, was about entering the first floor of the building when he heard a crack sound,” he said.
“Thinking there was an intruder, Ibrahim turned and pointed his torchlight to check who the intruder was but just then, the building fell.
“We heard the sound of a loud crack followed by severe vibration which shook houses in the neighbourhood. As soon as the building came down, one of the landlords called the emergency numbers and the first responders were the FCT Fire Service.
“The Fire Service arrived at about 12.30am and immediately deployed their equipment to rescue the first five persons. The sixth persons, Timothy, was rescued at about 11.30am, but Sadiq and Kumaden are still trapped in the rubbles.
When PREMIUM TIMES visited the site of the collapsed building, officials of NEMA, Federal Fire Service, FCDA Development Control officials, the Police and military personnel were working nonstop to rescue the two persons still trapped in the rubbles.
According to the witness, NEMA, the Police, the Nigerian Army and the NSCDC converged at the site at about 12.30am and started digging through the rubbles.
Some of the names of those already rescued were given as Ibrahim, Akin, Timothy and Kayode.
A NEMA official, Abas Idris, confirmed that six persons were rescued while efforts were ongoing to bring out the remaining two persons still trapped under rubbles.
“We are able to rescue six persons from the building alive. Their condition was not so bad. Some of them were here with us before we took them to hospital,” he said.
“When we arrived here, we were told the number of people, who were inside the building before it collapsed was eight. One of the persons living in the other building told us. All the rescue agencies here have been working since the early hours of the day.
“We arrived here at about 12.30am and have been trying to see how we can rescue the persons trapped under the rubles alive.”
But as rescue workers intensified effort at bringing out the trapped persons, officials of the Federal Capital Development Authority and the Federal Housing Authority traded blame on what caused the building to collapse.
In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the Acting Coordinator, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council, Safia Umar, blamed the FHA for giving approval for the construction of a building on the plot.
Mrs. Umar insisted that the structure was erected on a flood-prone area, arguing that the development control department of the FCDA would not have approved the building if it was consulted by the FHA.
“The development control department of the FCDA has the statutory right to control buildings in Abuja and you all know that the FHA is being given plots to build houses,” she said.
“Ideally, if a plot is allocated to the FHA, especially in a peculiar place like Abuja, which is well-planned, it should not take the law into its hands by giving building approvals without having the requisite qualifications to supervise them.
“They are supposed to bring their drawings to the development control department of the FCDA for vetting, enforcement and supervision. But unfortunately, we have been having a running battle with the FHA. The FHA wants to wants to be autonomous.
“They want to take laws into their hands. They gave this approval for this building to be erected in a flood-prone area. If they had come to us with their layout, we wouldn’t have allowed any building in this place because it is flood terrain.
“But because they want territorial control, they decided to do that. Former FCT Minister, Nasir El-Rufai, had insisted that the FHA should always liaise with the FCDA in the approval of building plans but they would not keep to that instruction.”
When contacted, the managing director of the FHA, Mohammed Al-Amin, said his agency granted approval for the developer to build car park and one suspended floor but that the developer instead erected a four-storey building.
Apart from violating the FHA’s directive, Mrs. Umar said the developer used substandard materials in the building, a situation she said might have led to the collapsed of the structure.
“After producing the layout, the FHA refused to give our development control the plan and land usage. If we had had that in our custody, we could have stopped the developer from going ahead with this building. They held the layout to themselves so we didn’t know what they were doing here and they had barricaded our staff from coming here,” Mrs. Umar said.
But in a statement issued by its spokesperson, Tunde Ipinmisho, the FHA indicated that the structure was developed as an annex to a shopping mall and entertainment centre.
“The plot of land was allocated to the developer by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) in 2009 in line with the efforts to attract private investment to the authority’s efforts to fulfill its mandate,” Mr. Ipinmisho stated.
“The plan for the mall and entertainment centre was subsequently approved by the authority after it was subject to vetting by the relevant professionals in the organisation. Early this year, the authority’s development control personnel noticed the commencement of work on a structure at the back of the mall which was not covered by the earlier approval.
“Contravention notices were therefore issued to the developer followed by a stop work order. In line with the established protocol, the Authority also gave a final demolition notice on the ill-fated structure.
“The FHA was in consultation with the Federal Capital Development Authority’s Development Control Department for its support in handling the contravention and other similar ones in the Authority’s estates in Abuja.
“A follow-up meeting was scheduled for this week before the structure came down. FHA is working with the relevant government agencies in the on-going rescue operations.”
The statement further noted that the FHA follows established building plan approval and development control procedures and enforce same with contractors and developers working on its sites.
While assuring that the authority would continue to work with relevant agencies of government in enforcing strict compliance with laid down rules, Mr. Ipinmisho said the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola would visit the site of the collapsed building on Tuesday.