There is no evidence that the Synagogue of All Nations secured regulatory approval to increase the number of floors on its collapsed building, an official has said.
The building was initially a two-storey building used by the church as some form of guest house for visitors. It was being raised to a five-storey building before it collapsed on Friday killing at least 40 people as at Sunday evening.
On Sunday, the Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Olutoyin Ayinde, told reporters at the scene that though investigation is still on-going, there is no proof that the church obtained a permit to add additional structures to existing ones.
“We have no proof that there is a permit,” he said. “We’ve asked the engineering team to meet us and for about two hours now no member of the engineering team has come because we also have questions to ask.”
The commissioner also hinted that the building was not professionally constructed.
“Even if the building doesn’t have approval, it ought to be built professionally,” he said. “We’ve asked for their team and we hope in the course of the week they’d get to us.”
Mr. Ayinde said there is no plan to seal any building in the church premises until investigation into the cause of the collapse has been concluded.
He said he sympathized with those that were injured or lost loved ones in the collapsed building and described the event as sad.
“It’s a sad situation lives have been lost, some lives have been saved. We use this opportunity to express our sympathy,” he said.
The commissioner said the state government would decide on the fate of those affected by the mishap when the total number of victims is known.
“We don’t know how many people are involved. When a final inventory has been done, the ministry of special duties would take a decision on what to do,” he said.
By Sunday evening, the number of dead rose officially to 40 as two more bodies were pulled from the debris of the collapsed building.
The Public Relations Officer of the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, Mr Ibrahim Farinloye, also confirmed this in a telephone interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.
Mr. Farinloye said that 80 per cent of the 130 trapped people that were rescued from the collapsed building were women.
He said two female children, aged four and eight years, were among those rescued.
However, the chances of more bodies being found underneath the rubbles remained high as stench of decomposing flesh pervaded the site.
Rescue and excavation work continued. A PREMIUM TIMES reporter saw excavators, aided by workers with jackhammers, still clearing the debris of the collapsed building.
The Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, arrived at the scene to inspect the collapsed building and rescue efforts at about 2:50 p.m. He was later led into a closed-door meeting with the founder of the church, Temitope (T.B.) Joshua.
While walking to Mr Joshua’s office, the governor observed two floors had been newly added to a section of the church’s main building. He asked Mr Joshua if the church obtained a permit to add the additional floors. Mr Joshua mumbled something incoherently and led the governor away.
Reporters who waited at the entrance of the office hoping to be addressed by the governor were sold a dummy as the governor left Mr Joshua’s office through a back door and briskly rushed into a car in his waiting convoy, then sped off.
Earlier, during church service, Mr. Joshua restated his claim that the building might have been sabotaged.
He played what he claimed was CCTV footage showing a “mysterious aircraft hovering above the building moments before it collapsed.”
PREMIUM TIMES had reported the cleric’s claim that unnamed persons might have tried to kill him and destroy his ministry.
Mr. Joshua told his congregation that those who died were martyrs.