Building Collapse In Nigeria Leaves 20, Mainly Children, Dead
Tragedy has struck Nigeria’s largest city and capital of commerce, Lagos. A school building collapsed leaving a confirmed 20 killed and 45 survivors. The collapse happened Wednesday, March 13 and has left the surrounding neighborhood stunned. The horrid event took place in the Ita-faaji area of Lagos Island located in the downtown commercial center of the city and more broadly the country.
After rescue efforts throughout Wednesday, carried out by the Nigerian Red Cross and local officials, the efforts were called off on Thursday claiming that there were no more bodies to be found. This, however, is being disputed by locals, as reported by Reuters, who spoke to a local businesswoman Bukola Bejide and she said “It is more than that. I’m thinking there are people who are still under the ground.”
The locals claim there were over 100 children in the building but, officials disagree with the claim and have called off the search. Besides the rubble, the collapse has left the families of those affected destroyed by the tragedy. One story is of a man named Sunday Adeyemo who lived in the building and had sent his daughter to the school located on one of the floors of the building. He went off on his morning routine only to return and find out that the building had collapsed and that his 7-year-old daughter Taiwo had been found dead. Barely being able to bring out words he said, “I’m totally devastated”.
Unfortunately, building collapses are by no means uncommon in Nigeria in the past five years alone there have been two instances in which 70 or more people have been killed by them. Most notable is the incident in 2016 in which 100 people were killed after a church collapsed and another incident in 2014 in which 70 people were killed after the collapse of a church guest house. This is just but another horrible tragedy in a trend of failing infrastructure across the country. The recently Re-elected President Muhammadu Buhari has stated that one of his main concerns is that of infrastructure and that major improvements have been made.
In the wake of the collapse, the government has allegedly worked quickly, and controversially, to “address” the poorly maintained buildings in the area. They have reportedly begun marking entire buildings for demolition and reconstruction giving the landlord and renters less than 24-hours notice. The Lagos local government sent out workers and engineers and have begun marking numerous buildings in the area with an X meaning it was unstable. These buildings are filled with families and people all of whom are now being evicted.
The actions by the local government are a direct response to the collapse of the building on Wednesday. However, the move has drawn widespread criticism. The building reportedly had been “renovated” less than a year ago and had been given a new coat of paint, though residents still complained about how poorly the construction of the building had been. It had been marked for demolition months ago, but the landlord allowed the tenants to stay illegally. In addition, the building was meant for residential purposes and the government has said that the school and shops were operating there illegally, to begin with. Regardless, the tragedy remains.
The local government’s initial response has also drawn major criticism as there are reports that the rescue teams arrived an hour after the collapse happened. In addition, the rescuers were experiencing shortages in oxygen and water. A local Human rights group has said the following “Calling it the height of criminal dereliction of duty which should attract immediate prosecution for the murder of all the officials of the Lagos state Urban Planning Department,” a major accusation against the government.
The reality remains that 20 people, many of them children, are now dead. Their bodies were pulled covered in dust from the rubble; family members wailed and mourned at their loss; neighbors were outraged and demanded action. The government absolved itself of blame and took controversial radical action. Regardless of where the blame should be placed, those are 20 people and children who will never see the light of day again. Tragedies like this must stop, nobody should live in fear amid shelter.