None of the victims of the collapsed Ikoyi building died during rescue operations as evidence showed that they were all dead before the rescue operations commenced.
That’s the testimony of the Director-General/Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr. Oluwafemi Oke-Osayintolu before the coroner’s inquest on Thursday.
The inquest continued at the Lagos court Ikeja premises before the coroner, Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe.
While being led in evidence-in-chief by Adeolu Odugbemi, the counsel to the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), Dr. Oke-Osayintolu, gave a vivid account of how the rescue operations were carried out by responders.
He admitted that rescue operations were carried out by both professionals and non-professionals alike assisting with their equipment.
In explaining LASEMA’s role, he noted that in its years of existence, the agency confronted what he described as a “classical national emergency”.
He explained that the rescue team he directed and gave instructions to – as the incident commander mandated by the Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu – moved into the incident area following a primary assessment, partitioning the ‘building’ into Quadrums 1 to 4 and employing Heavy and Life Duty equipment.
He also said the use of drone and Delsa equipment for detection of life enabled both primary and secondary emergency responders to determine that there was no life in the debris before work commenced.
Under cross-examination, Dr. Oke-Osayintolu was queried by Mr. Ola Adeosun representing Prowess Engineering Ltd on whether the agency’s work in the course of the rescue operation led to the death of some persons underground.
He responded, “My Lord, with my medical background, I have attended to a lot of emergencies within State and Federal, I would say no.”
Speaking about what he called theatre field or the emergency field, the DG LASEMA said: “Where we put the excavator is the first quadrum. We use the Delsa to detect if there is somebody that is alive and I said this type of collapse building, it’s unique itself.
“When it piles on one another there won’t be air going in, it will compress the victim, and the way our response was operated, we divided the place into quadrums. We used a Delsa and drone; I can say that that probability is close to zero.”
Continuing the cross-examination, Mr. Adeosun asked, “Are you telling this court that before moving your equipment, you must have confirmed that there is no person alive?”
The witness replied, “100 per cent yes, My Lord. There was nobody that died in the course of our intervention to the best of my knowledge.”
The collapse of the 21-storey high-rise building, located at Gerard Road, Ikoyi, resulted in the death of 46 persons one of whom was the MD of Fourscore Heights Ltd, Mr Femi Osibona. He was handling the construction of the high-rise.
At the proceeding, the coroner also listened to the conclusion of the testimony of Mr. Muritala Olawale, a structural engineer and the Managing Director of Prowess Engineering Nigeria Ltd.
The witness, tendered documents on the soil test conducted which were admitted by the coroner as an exhibit.
At the proceedings of Wednesday, the 15th of Dec., Olawale had told the coroner that he rendered structural consultancy services to the contractor of the project, the late MD of Fourscore Heights Ltd, Mr Osibona.
Olawale said the initial brief his firm received was for three blocks of four-storey buildings.
He said that Osibona kept revising the brief by adding more floors to the buildings and that his team was only responsible for the first four floors of the 21-storey Block B which collapsed.
Olawale told the inquest that Osibona was the contractor/builder of the project and was also in charge of getting all government approvals for the high-rises.
“I never saw the approved architectural drawings, mechanical drawings, and electronic drawings for the project,” he said.
The structural engineer noted that when he realised that standard construction procedures were not being observed on the site, his company withdrew its services to Osibona via a letter dated Feb. 20, 2020
Further hearing in the inquest has been adjourned to February 4, 2022.