Nothing prepared the families of the victims of the Ikoyi building collapse, which took place on November 1. Some had woken up early, planned the day with their spouses, parents, siblings, with a promise to return home after the day’s work. But all their plans and aspirations for their loved ones crumbled in the 21-story building.
Yinusa Sodiq, a bricklayer based in Ibafo, whose other engagement elsewhere disrupted his plans of following his immediate elder brother to the site on that fateful day, recounted how difficult it has been for him since the news broke.
“The government should let us know their plans. If my brother is dead, they should let us know and if he’s alive, they should let us know because we have gone through a great deal of stress on this matter,” he said.
As these families deal with their losses, they are now even more frustrated and angry with the bottlenecks and delays involved in claiming the bodies of their loved ones.
As soon as the identification process kicked off, families started providing samples of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The state government had said DNA would be conducted in cases where some corpses are difficult to identify.
Proper identification has started at the Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH), Yaba. A statement released by Gbenga Omotosho, Lagos commissioner for information, confirmed that families were coming forward, intending to claim the bodies.
“Twenty-nine families have come forward to submit samples for DNA to identify bodies that they wish to claim. In cases where identification is clear and there are no arguments, the bodies will be released to the families from this week.
“A committee to supervise the identification and release of the bodies has been set up. It comprises senior officials of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice.” the statement reads.
The investigation had been launched earlier, and it is expected to look into what could have caused a wing of the three-tower estate in Ikoyi to fall like a pack of cards. The finding is gathering pace with the outcome expected to be made public.
Two Weeks After…
Two weeks after the incident at Gerrard Road, families and friends of the deceased recount their experiences since the news broke.
Titilayo Ajayi, a wife to one of the victims, popularly known as T-Money, sits at the centre of their uncompleted building, surrounded by her children, who are probably too young to have a clear picture of what had gone wrong, but old enough to know that their father is not home and might not be home soon. She holds her bible firmly with heavy, teary eyes. She struggles to make long sentences – There is a lump in her throat.
Titilayo said her husband of 13 years left their house in the Ibafo area of Ogun state around 5:30 am on Monday after mobilising more than 30 bricklayers from the area to work with him at the site.
“My husband had worked at the site on Tuesday and returned on Saturday. When he returned, he said there is a lot of work at the site and would require more hands. He started arranging his boys, including my brother’s son. Now we haven’t seen anyone of them except two.”
Yusuf Ahmed, Titilayo’s brother has not seen his 17-year-old son who followed T-Money to the site on that day hoping to make extra money. One of the survivors already told Yusuf that his son is dead.
“Nuru and Waliu survived. They are the only survivors out of the 32 people from Ibafo. When I asked Nuru about my son, he said my son’s body was recovered at the same time he was rescued from the rubble.” Yusuf said.
Yusuf is still hoping to get an official confirmation from state authorities. He has submitted his DNA sample at the IDH after days of checking hospitals and mortuary for his son.
Yusuf and many other families whose loved ones have been missing since the incident say they are in the dark and hoping to find some answers.
But Chiepie Champiere, a citizen of Benin Republic is in a dire situation. He brought seven workers to do plastering work from his country to the site on that Monday morning and left for another site in Ajah area of Lagos, only to get calls that the building had collapsed and none of his people have been seen or rescued.
“My elder brother, my brother’s two sons, my landlord’s three children were inside the building when it collapsed. I transported them from Cotonou to this place for work. I have been to the general hospital and I come here (the building collapse site) every day, I haven’t seen any one of them,” he said.10
“We have gone to the Benin Republic embassy to report what happened. We’ve been asked by the hospital here to present two members from each family of the victims. My brothers are here from the village but my Landlord said he will not come.”
Chiepie is not only caught in the web of the diplomatic procedure attached to such occurrence, but he also appears to have run into trouble with his landlord in Cotonou. He said his landlord is insisting he must bring his children dead or alive.
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