The National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, and the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, are not equipped to manage disaster in the country, a witness at the ongoing coroner inquest into the collapsed guest house of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, told the coroner on Tuesday.
The witness, Fola Shoetan, the National Executive Co-ordinator of Life Savers Foundation, LSF, told the Chief Magistrate, Oyetade Komolafe, that youth from SCOAN played a major role in the rescue operations.
She said statutorily, responders are not supposed to move away from a disaster site.
According to Ms. Shoetan, “I don’t know when NEMA officials left the scene on the first day. But LASEMA officials left at 10:30pm on the second day. As at the time LASEMA officials left on the second day, persons were still trapped on the collapsed site.
“The LASEMA General Manager, Dr Femi Osanyintola did not co-operate very well with other responders and I kept telling him that. Even though he is very hard working and always around at the collapsed site, what he does most of the time he is around is to hold meetings with his team from the state.
“The police I can confirm was present all through the period of the rescue operation and no security agent ever stopped us from working and to the best of my knowledge nobody was assaulted.”
She urged the Federal Government and the Lagos State government to ensure that adequate equipment are provided for the agencies in order to effectively contain emergencies.
Officials from both the federal and state emergency agencies, a few on site witnesses and a journalist accused church officials of preventing rescue workers from rescuing victims.
But denying this in his testimony before the court, SCOAN’s Chief Security Officer, Sunday Okogie, said both NEMA and LASEMA officials were not prevented from rescuing people trapped under the collapsed guest house.
The CSO who submitted the unedited Close Circuit Television, CCTV, footages of the incident from September 12 to September 16, 2014 to the court, argued that the recordings contradicted their claims.
Mr. Okogie said that both agencies arrived at the church about an hour after the building collapsed and gained access to the scene in less than a minute.
“My Lord, on the first day of the incident, as you can see, nobody prevented them from entering into the compound. But as you can see from the video, LASEMA came with only one bus and no heavy duty equipment as they claimed before this court”, Mr Okogie said.
“The same thing with NEMA. They came ill-equipped for the job of digging out those who were trapped under the rubbles.”
Mr. Okogie further told the court that NEMA and LASEMA officials left the church at about 05:45 pm, when several persons were still trapped.
“For the first three days, that was how they were operating. They will resume at about 8:00 am and leave in the evening like they were on duty in the office.”
The magistrate adjourned the inquest till January 6, 2015 with the continuation of the CSO’s testimony while rescheduling the testimony of the Ministry of Work for January 7.