September 29, 2014 – The Lagos State Government has said that it would invoke relevant building control law in the state in pursuing issues related to the collapse building in Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Ikotun-Egbe, a fortnight ago. At least 115 people died in the incident while 131 others were rescued.
Fashola who was speaking when members of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners lead by Commissioner for Physical Planning, Town Planner Olutoyin Ayinde paid him a courtesy call alluded to institution of coroner by the Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Ade Ipaye, stressing that investigation on the cause and manner of the collapse will continue.
“I think we must understand that our government has repeatedly said we will investigate it. We will definitely do so. Last week, the Attorney-General empanelled the Coroner’s Court because that is the appropriate machinery of the government to undertake this kind of investigation, especially when people die in such tragic or unnatural circumstances.
“I think we should just allow that process to go on. I think the investigation will be held if we refrain from any comment about this incident. This is the way that every civilised society proceeds and we must assume that all the necessary provisions of law will be complied with. That is our track record here and nothing less will happen in this case. That is the minimum every government must do.
People must understand that when accidents like this happen, there are many stages to it. Perhaps, we have got used to what was an inappropriate conduct to get to the scene of crime or accident and to pronounce this is what has happened before the investigation has concluded. We are professionals. We are not trained like that. If people are not used to our methods, they must get used to it because that is the way we are going to act. We are going to act methodically. We are going to act in a civilised manner”, the governor said.
He said that investigations are always painstaking and scientific adding that Lagos has shown capacity in this area.
The governor explained that in an incident of this nature, the initial thing to do is search and rescue, followed by recovery stage.
“And then, we recover and protect the site and all the materials that can be gathered from there. It is from the recovery stage that the investigation stage follows”, he said, warning that it is wrong for non-professionals to assume that those involved in an accident are dead without certification from a medical doctor.
“This kind of behaviour must stop. Unless there is anybody keeping dead bodies in his house and private hospital, we are the regulators and all those bodies come to our mortuaries. So, we must account for them as we will. I understand the public interest in this, but we must act methodically. All the materials that are required for the investigation will be referred to the coroner. That is what we talked about this morning really. I did not see it a real town planning issue. It is a building control matter. This is the heart of the matter really in what we have achieved in the 2010 law, clearly separating town planning, urban development, planning work from monitoring construction. That is where some of the problems lie”. He said.
The governor said attributed incidents of building collapse to human errors and individuals trying to cut corners.
“Although the planning permit stage is also a stage in which some problems can be nipped in the bud in terms of design, calculation for load bearing structure and so forth. You could have obtained a permit to build in a particular way and you are building in a manner that is inconsistent with the approval that you have? Are you using the right gauge of steel that you got approval for? Are you using inferior gauge or small gauge? Are you mixing your aggregate and cement according to the approval that you got?”, he queried adding that irrespective of ownership of the structure, the truth remains that professionals breach the rule.
“Government, as an artificial legal entity, is not the one responsible for those collapses. It is individuals like you and me, men and women, who have broken the rules. If the buildings erected by Europeans are still standing seventy or eighty years after they did so, this generation must be provoked to self-examination. Why is Cocoa House still standing and the buildings constructed twenty years ago coming down? All the professionals in this field must wake up and do their work appropriately”, the governor said.