Vice President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday rejected social media reports conferring on him ownership of the 21-storey building that collapsed at Ikoyi,Lagos on Monday.
He denounced the reports as vicious,wicked and heartless.
As the rescue operation at the site entered the fourth day yesterday, the Lagos State government said dead bodies from the rubbles are now ready for identification by the bereaved families.
It put the death toll at 38 while 32 others were registered as missing.
Osinbajo in a statement through his spokesman Laolu Akande, described the building collapse as a horrible tragedy.
He expressed sympathies with the bereaved families and the injured.
He dismissed as obviously sponsored falsehood a social media report that he owned the ill-fated structure.
Akande said:”Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, is saddened by the events that occurred in Lagos on Monday, 1st of November 2021, where a high-rise building under construction on Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, collapsed. He condoles with the families and relatives of all those who have died, were injured or affected in the collapse. Prof. Osinbajo considers this painful loss of lives a horrible tragedy.
“Also, the attention of the Vice President has been drawn to an obviously sponsored falsehood regarding the recently collapsed building published by Sahara Reporters on November 4th, 2021, to the effect that:
* The VP owns the land upon which the collapsed building in Ikoyi stood.
* That the said land was sold to him by Chief Michael Ade. Ojo, Chairman of Elizade Motors; and
* That the Vice President, at some point, intervened with the regulatory authorities in Lagos State to unseal the said property.
“Let it be made absolutely clear that Prof. Yemi Osinbajo does not own and has never owned the said land.
“He has also never been involved, in any shape or form, in the development of this or any other land since he became Vice President.
“At no time whatsoever did the VP buy this or any other piece of land from Chief Michael Ade. Ojo, or entered into any transaction for the sale of that land or any other piece of land from Chief Ade. Ojo or anyone for that matter.
“All property and assets owned by the Vice President have been publicly declared.
“Also, the Vice President has never spoken to the Governor of Lagos State or any other official of the State Government regarding the unsealing of the said building on Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, which subsequently collapsed. He has, indeed, never acted to influence any other regulatory action on the collapsed building, or any other building for that matter, in Lagos State.
“The Vice President restates categorically that he has no interest whatsoever, and has never had any interest, either legally or beneficially, in the land, the building or development.
“The wickedness and viciousness of a lie that seeks to utilise a tragedy where so many people have lost their lives, even as rescue efforts are ongoing, and in wanton disregard to the feelings and untold grief of their loved ones for political gain, reveals a dangerous desperation, as well as the heartlessness of the perpetrators of such despicable lies.
“Sahara Reporters were undoubtedly well rewarded for their criminal and inhumane conduct. Typical of a hatchet job and deliberately irresponsible journalism, the publication was not signed by anyone.
“The Vice President has referred this disgraceful publication to his lawyers for prompt legal action.”
Eminent businessman, Chief Michael Ade-Ojo,who was named in the social media report as having sold the land on which the collapsed structure was built, had earlier on Thursday also denied ever owning the land or selling it to Osinbajo.
He said: “It has come to my attention that a publication by the online news website, Sahara Reporters is in circulation, claiming that I owned the land on which the high-rise building in Ikoyi that collapsed earlier this week was built.
“The story titled ‘Photo Proof: Osinbajo bought the Ikoyi collapsed building’ published on November 4, 2021, also claimed that I sold the land to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo shortly after he became vice president.
“Both claims are outright falsehoods. I hereby state that I do not own and never held title to the said property.
“In addition, I did not sell any property to the vice president at any time whatsoever.
“To be clear, I own a property next to the said building, which I have not sold and do not intend to sell to anyone.”
In an update on the incident yesterday,the Lagos State government said dead bodies recovered from rubbles of the building are now ready for identification, and asked families of the deceased to go to the Infectious Disease Hospital (IDH) Yaba for that purpose.
It confirmed that 38 bodies had been recovered as rescue operation entered the fourth day yesterday , while family members had submitted 32 names of those still missing.
Information and Strategy Commissioner Gbenga Omotoso said the bodies would be ready for identification from 4pm yesterday at the IDH, Yaba.
Omotoso with whom were Special Duties and Intergovernmental Relations Commissioner Tayo Bamgbose-Martins and Physical Planning and Urban Development Commissioner Idris Salako, said an autopsy would be carried out on the corpses before releasing them to their families.
He said work was still ongoing and would continue until the government could account for everybody inside the building at time of collapse and certify that nobody is left behind in the collapsed building.
He said: “So far now, we have recorded 38 dead bodies. And as you know, we have nine survivors. Some bodies are ready for identification. So, people can go to IDH, Yaba as from 4pm to identify the bodies of their loved ones.
“For bodies that may be very difficult to identify, we are going to be conducting DNA tests for such bodies to be identified. There are rules for giving bodies to people.
“There are some of the bodies that are in a state that it would be unprofessional for the hospitals to allow people to look at them in that present state and for them to be released the way they are. That is why we have the little delay that we are having. But if you go to IDH, Yaba from 4pm, you should be able to see some of the bodies and be able to identify who you want to identify.
“Yesterday, Mr. Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu said one of the patients at the General Hospital was taken to LASUTH for a test and all that. The patient has been brought back to the hospital and he is said to be doing well. And all the patients who were there are doing well.”
The multi-sectoral search and rescue operation is being led by teams of Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) and National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), with the support of construction giants, Julius Berger, Craneburg, HiTech and China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC).
SON advocates sanctions for standards infractions
The Director General, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Mallam Farouk Salim, yesterday called for strong sanctions for all standards infractions following the collapse of the 21-storey building at, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Salim, in a condolence message to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the agency had visited the site to commence investigation by taking samples of iron rods, concrete mix and other materials for laboratory tests and analysis.
He stressed the importance of promoting voluntary compliance in Nigeria as in other parts of the world, and described the incident as avoidable and one collapse too many.
Section 5 (1) b of the SON Act No. 14 of 2015 charges the organisation to undertake investigation as necessary into the quality of facilities, systems, services, materials and products, whether imported or manufactured in Nigeria.
The Council of Nigerian Mining Engineers and Geoscientists (COMEG) and Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society (NMGS) are of the view that the building collapse was avoidable .
Registrar of COMEG, Prof. Zacheus Opafunso and NMGS President Alabo Charles, said in a joint statement in Abuja said the success of any construction project depends on the underlying foundation soil.
“Soils have myriad of dynamics which can be at play and affect substructures even when foundation type might be right such as seismicity, liquefaction and these dynamics are best studied and investigated by geoscientists.
“In the advent of disasters such as these, study of the subsurface in relations to the phenomenon is of importance and these fall strictly in the purview of geologists.
“We hereby use this medium to appeal and call the attention of all concerned to the relevance of professionals under the NMGS and the regulatory powers of the COMEG in civil constructions.
“It is hoped that the findings and lessons learnt from this exercise will assist the government to formulate a better response to building development and ensure that civil projects serve their full design life in continuous safety.”
NMA to set up emergency helpdesk at site
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) says it will set up an emergency helpdesk to provide support to survivors and relatives of the building collapse.
Dr Adetunji Adenekan, NMA Lagos Chairman, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) said that responding to disaster of such magnitude would need more medical personnel to provide emergency care and mental health support to the survivors, their relatives and rescuers.
He said that the catastrophe had placed a strain on the state’s health system, noting that drastic efforts should be made to salvage the situation.
Adenekan said that members of the association’s Emergency Response and Mental Health Committee had visited the survivors at the hospital and the scene of the building collapse to assess the situation.
“For us as NMA, our duty is to ensure that our colleagues offer them adequate trauma support, and we are also providing mental health support to relatives of the victims of the collapsed building.
“The support will help families and other loved ones confront and overcome overwhelming feelings of grief, fear and anger.”
Civil engineers seek prominent role in probe
The Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers (NICE) wants its members to play frontline roles in the panel to investigate the cause of the building collapse.
Chairman of the institution, Dr Jang Tanko, said the technical knowledge possessed by civil and structural engineers is required to ensure thorough and fruitful inquiry.
He said that some investigations in the past failed to yield the required results because experts in the areas were not given lead roles.
Tanko said that if given the opportunity, the institution would liaise with other professional bodies in the building sector to ensure thorough investigation.
He urged the agencies currently on rescue mission at the site to do their best in order to save more lives.
Group warns against politicising tragedy
Reacting to the situation, a group -Advocate for Good Governance- deplored attempts in some quarters to politicize the tragedy through ‘unverifiable fables.”
Spokesperson for Advocate for Good Governance,Biyi Adebiyi,said: “It is mischievous, if not evil, for anyone to distract the public and begin to manufacture unverifiable fables not supported by reason or facts.
“ Just confabulations tainted with politics with no other intentions but to tarnish the image and reputation of people who have dedicated their lives to the service of their people and the nation.
“We will enjoin the governor of Lagos state and his hard working officials not to be deterred but rather to continue doing the good works this government has become known and severally commended for.”