...Wike Orders Investigation, Arrest Of Property Owner
...As Woke Warns Against Playing Politics With Incident
There was a very huge crowd of people at the site of the collapsed seven-storey building on Woji Road, Phase Two in Port-Harcourt last weekend as people made spirited effort to rescue those who were trapped under the rubbles of the collapsed seven-storey building.
Those at the site could be seen talking in groups on what might have led to the collapse of the seven-storey building and the condition of those trapped under the rubbles of the collapsed building and while there were some who said that the building might have collapsed because of poor quality of materials used in the construction, there were others who said that the contractor probably did not use qualified engineers.
In the midst of these, however, the Chairman of the Rivers State branch of the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Arch Asomba Egbuonu, has expressed the view that personnel in the Rivers State Ministry of Urban Development and Physical Planning in charge of approving building plans should be rejigged so as to ensure professionalism. He stated this when he spoke to our reporter on the collapsed seven-storey building on Sunday.
According to him, those in charge of building plan approval and development control processes in the Ministry of Urban Development and Physical Planning are not “professional” architects and engineers, saying that they are only “town planners” and are not trained to “approve” architectural drawing or “look at, study, vet and approve” structural drawing and electrical or mechanical drawings.
“The State government has to get it right and ensure that the approval process and the building and development control processes are rejigged. Right now, what we have there is a situation whereby only one profession is there looking at approving drawings done by architects, drawings done by structural engineers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers and all the other service engineering team. That is wrong. Those people in the ministry who are doing these are not trained to do this. The proper laws and the extant laws of the country state that all professionals in a building environment must be embedded in the design approvals offices and the building development processes”, he said.
Arch Egbuonu noted that a number of factors might have led to the collapse of the seven-storey building, saying that there was need to confirm if professionals were used in the design stage of the building and if proper soil tests and investigations were also carried out and further said that there was need to also find out if the right professionals were used in the supervision of the building process and if quality materials were also used.
“What happened was that the building sank down under its own weight which means it was a structural failure that could have emanated either from the foundation or even from the super structure of the building”, he said.
Excavator operators were at the site working to rescue those trapped under the rubbles of the collapsed seven-storey building.
Meanwhile, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, had ordered the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Hon. Zacheaus Adango, to set up a commission of enquiry to find out what led to the collapse of the seven-storey building last Friday.
Wike who was at the site of the collapsed building on Sunday said that it was an unfortunate development, which led to the loss of lives.
“It's most unfortunate that we have to lose lives, even if it's one person, nobody prayed for this, but again, that tells you that we must take our jobs very seriously. I have told the Attorney-General to take necessary steps so that all the legal means will be taken to see that we do what is within the ambit of the law”, he said, and called for the arrest of the owner of the collapsed seven-storey building. Wike said that those involved in the approval of the plan for the collapsed building would be dealt with and sympathized with the families of those who lost their loved ones in the collapsed building.
The collapse of the seven-storey building drew reactions from Nigerians and residents of Port-Harcourt who were at the site of the collapsed building. The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, Arch Tonye Cole, who was at the site of the collapsed building on Saturday, described the incident as one of the “saddest things that one can find, especially when the lives of people are involved”.
The APC governorship candidate said that there must have been a structural defect that led to the collapse of the seven-storey building.
“Obviously, there is a structural defect, if not, it would not have collapsed. So, once you have a structural defect, you now have to investigate exactly what happened to lead to that defect”, he said and stressed the need to first save the lives of the people trapped under the collapsed building.
The Chief of Staff, Government House, Port-Harcourt, Engr. Chukwuemeka Woke, had said that the Rivers State Government was sad about the collapse of the seven-storey building and sympathized with the families of those who were trapped under the rubbles of the collapsed building.
He said that the state government had responded promptly to the incident.
“As a government, we responded immediately. Those of you reporters who were here since Friday will agree with me that the Rivers State Government led by the deputy governor had been here and mobilized all the resources available to us, including some contractors working for the State government and some companies operating in the state to carry out this rescue mission and so far to the glory of God, over twenty- something persons have been rescued alive”, he said, adding that the state government would carry out an investigation into the incident.
Woke who appealed to members of the opposition All Progressives Congress in Rivers State not to play politics with the issue of the collapsed seven-storey building, said: “It is important that we send this message out. People who are coming here should come for the purpose of solving this problem and sympathizing with the families and should not come here for the purpose of playing politics. It is unfortunate I want to say this. You were here interviewing a governorship candidate of All Progressives Congress and even when a victim is rescued out, he did not even stop the interview to go and identify the person, so that shows that he is here to play politics and not to sympathize with those who are involved . I think that is unfortunate that Nigerians will play politics with everything”.
Others who were also at the site of the collapsed seven-storey building who spoke to newsmen also said that there was need for contractors to use “qualified” engineers and quality materials to prevent any collapse of building and also stressed that soil tests must be done before any foundation for a storey building should be laid.
The collapse of the seven-storey building had brought together members of the Nigerian Red Cross, the Fire Service, the Police, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), mobile clinics and ambulances and members of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
The Commissioner in charge of the Ministry of Urban Development and Physical Planning, Hon. Reason Onya, had refused to speak with newsmen at the site on Saturday on the collapsed seven-storey building and at the time of filing this report, it was said that thirty-eight persons were rescued, with seven dead, and it is believed that some persons are still trapped under the rubbles of the collapsed seven-storey building.