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Victims of Ibadan building collapse beg to pay their hospital bills

Residents of Bodija housing estate in Ibadan, Oyo state, were roused from their sleep after a four-storey hotel under construction collapsed early Thursday morning.

The building, according to residents and victims, collapsed around 5:40 a.m. and the injured were the craftsmen who slept in the unfinished building. They noted that the casualties could have been higher had the incident occurred during the day when workers were working on the site.

Twenty-two-year-old Toheeb Busari, who was among those rescued from the rubble, was one of the young masons working at the site. They reportedly decided to sleep at the site to save transportation costs to and from their various homes to the site.

But unbeknownst to them, this danger lurked in the building in which they had taken up temporary residence.

Busari is in pain in the emergency department of University College Hospital where he was rushed for treatment. Although he was stabilized on Friday when our correspondent visited him in hospital, his family members were distraught. A woman identified as her aunt drew the attention of a nurse on duty to blood leaking from the victim’s right leg which had not yet been put in plaster of Paris.

The nurse simply asked the woman, “Where are the things you were told to buy?” The woman mumbled a few words in frustration, sobbed, and rushed out of the room to get some money to buy the recommended items.

A hospital official who witnessed the development noted that the contractor was supposed to be there to offset victims’ bills. The victims seen in the hospital prayed in silence or muttered inaudible words.

It is the same situation with Ibrahim Omotola, 37 years old. Busari and Omotola were sleeping somewhere in the building when it collapsed on top of them. Omotola told our correspondent that he was discharged but had to stay in hospital as he could not raise the money to pay the bills. Omotola has bruises on his head and both legs but he was able to work without help. He was the one who took our correspondent to where Busari was.

He said: “I thank God that I am alive and that my situation is not worse than this. The doctor said I was free to go but they can’t release me now because I haven’t collected any money yet to pay the hospital bills. We borrowed money to pay for some of the few things they asked us to pay. But I can’t pay the hospital bills now and that’s why I wasn’t released.

“I haven’t seen the contractor. I will be grateful if the government or anyone can help us. We were just figuring out how to survive before that happened. Toheeb is suffering now. There is no one to collect money to buy necessary things for him. He also needs help like the rest of us. Three of us are at UCH and I think two other people were taken to Adeoyo.

Commenting on the construction work of the collapsed building, Omotola said he noticed shoddy work had been carried out at the site.

He said: ‘We started plastering the hotel three weeks ago. I noticed there were patches there. Some pillars that were originally part of the building were there to strengthen the building. But I didn’t know the building could collapse. We were sleeping when it happened and got trapped. People came and pulled us out from under the rubble. I was the one telling the rescuers where the others were.

Rubble from the collapsed hotel also fell on property and parts of a club near the scene. Clubhouse authorities said they were happy the loss was no greater than what they suffered.

A commercial motorcyclist, ThankGod Joshua, who was sleeping in a building next to the collapsed structure, told our correspondent how the incident happened. Joshua said he and others in the building where he was sleeping heard a loud bang around 5.40am and rushed out to find the hotel under construction had collapsed.

He said: “Around 5.40am I was still sleeping in the compound with my friend when a loud noise woke us up. I rushed outside with others and saw that the building had collapsed and there were people trapped under the rubble. We started to make efforts to get them out. A few people also joined in and we got four out. They were alive but seriously injured. They were bleeding in the face and some of them had broken legs.

“A security guard called the police and they came here. The firefighters also came and we evacuated the injured and put them in a police van and they were taken to UCH for treatment.

Club employee Godiya Madala also told our correspondent that they rescued four people who were sleeping in the unfinished building when the building collapsed. He said the victims were some of the craftsmen working at the site.

Madala said: “We rushed outside as soon as we heard the noise. We were scared because we didn’t know what had happened at first. But when we came out we saw it was a building that had collapsed and we heard that some of the victims were buried under the rubble crying for help and we moved to remove the concrete on them . We saved four, all men. I’m not sure anyone is still trapped under the debris now.

“About six months ago, the building was showing signs of distress. They finished the building and were plastering it when it collapsed now.

Contacted, the South West Zonal Coordinator of the National Emergency Management Agency, Mr. Saheed Akiode, said Saturday PUNCH that agency officials were at the scene of the incident

Ajiode said: “We were there for a search and rescue operation and visited the victims in the hospitals where they were taken. We are trying to see what can be done to help them.

On his part, the Coordinator of Oyo State, Standards Organization of Nigeria, Adetoye Adeyinka, said contractors should always prioritize quality materials during construction.

Speaking to reporters after the incident, he urged contractors to always contact competent and certified agencies to educate and advise them on how to construct standard multi-storey buildings.

Efforts to speak with the State Commissioner for Land, Housing and Urban Development, Mr Segun Olayiwola, were unsuccessful. Repeated calls to his cell phone went unanswered and he had yet to respond to messages sent at the time this report was filed.

However, a civil engineer, Mr. Seyi Adedipe, who spoke to our correspondent about how to prevent a future occurrence, said the cause may not be related to substandard building materials.

He said an investigation should be carried out to determine what caused the building to collapse.

Adedipe said: “The ground must be able to support heavy loads before such a structure can be built on it. When you load it, there will be a settlement and this settlement could cause the building to collapse, regardless of the quality of the materials used.

“Another factor is that there has to be a design before you start building. The design will give, among other things, the specified iron rods to be used and it will give the necessary quality of concrete. It will also give the mix ratio of the concrete. Sometimes some people think that the same mix ration is used everywhere, but that is not the case. The design will have a specific concrete mix ratio. If this is not done, regardless of your expertise, such a building is likely to collapse.

“The overall factor is build quality. If the construction of a building is entrusted to an inexperienced person who has never supervised such a project before, no matter how, he will not have the experience required to know when certain things must be done.

“For example, some people may say they want a building to be delivered within two weeks or a month. But a structural buffer should be allowed to cure for at least three weeks; it’s 21 days. But someone says we can do it in seven days because concrete is pure, if another structural element is put on top of it then this building is bound to collapse.