By TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA
“I HAVE been their pastor for several years and I know them on a personal level. They were more than wonderful people; very nice, intelligent and friendly. They relate well with everybody; but the major problem was their mum. She was so protective of the girls and made sure they are always locked indoors because of the sudden death of their father few years ago.
“Despite consistent counseling, she always made the children feel they have spiritual enemies, especially among neighbours, which was why she failed to heed the warning of her flat-mates that the building was about to collapse.”
This was how Pastor Joseph Adebamowo of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, described the death of two sisters, Toyin and Bukky Coker, after their building – Block M20, Jakande Housing Estate, Oke-Afa, Isolo, Lagos – collapsed in the early hours of Wednesday. Their mother, Mrs. Coker, who was pulled out of the rubble unconscious and was immediately rushed to the hospital, is already well and stable, according to hospital sources at the estate’s health centre.
The building, Block M20, according to eyewitnesses, started showing cracks and signs of sinking over a year ago. Occupants in Flats 2 and 4 managed to escape barely minutes before the building collapsed. Tenants in Flats 2 and 6 had reportedly moved out some months ago, only for the owner of Flat 2 to lease the flat out to new occupants.
After the incident, youths in the area began a rescue mission. Mrs. Coker in her unconscious state was said to be the first to be brought out from the debris at about 3am and was immediately rushed to the estate PHC. Bukola’s body, in her nightgown, was reportedly brought out at about 5am, while that of Toyin came an hour later, stone dead.
THE collapse of the two-storey building at Isolo has raised calls for urgent structural weakness test to be carried out on the housing estates in Oke-Afa, Ipaja, Epe, Lekki, Iba and Agege built over three decades ago. Some of the buildings had become structurally defective. The communal nature of ownership and the relax supervision by estate owners had compromised the maintenance of the buildings.
However, president of the Jakande Estate Residents’ Association, Oke-Afa, Alhaji Abdulganiyu Olabanji Taiwo, said there were defects in the construction of the building. “After the building collapsed, we noticed that the foundation was very poor, 8mm of blocks was used for the decking and the mixture of sand and cement was nothing to write home about.
“It is unfortunate we have to lose two promising children, but we are baffled with the antics of the Lagos State Building and Control Agency (LASBCA), the agency set up to build and manage these buildings. They promised to be here today (Friday) to conduct integrity test on the buildings, but we were told the test has been rescheduled to next week Wednesday.
“Our position remains that any building that fails the test would have to go, while those that pass the test would remain. But those affected will have to be relocated because the building was sold to them by government.
“The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) was supposed to be with us at the meeting on Wednesday when this incident happened but unfortunately, another building collapsed at Dolphin Estate that same day.
“If it was a private building that collapsed, everybody would have rained curses on the developer, but what becomes of the property built and supervised by government with the multitude of qualified engineers that approved this building. We want our people to be relocated and given another building because this place was sold to them outrightly.
“They sent a text message to cancel the appointment, how are we sure they are coming on Wednesday? The governor must swing into action and wade into this matter. It must not be left for the civil servants to handle alone because we don’t understand them anymore.”
Chairman of the affected zone, Benson Nwandoko, told The Guardian that the affected occupants had written three letters to the government agency for over a year to be relocated. “Up till the building collapsed, there was no response,” he said.
THE low-cost housing estates was a fallout of the 1978 campaign tour of Alhaji Lateef Jakande, first executive governor of Lagos State during which he encountered the squalor and poverty many people lived in then. He discovered that most people within the low-income bracket did not have access to comfortable houses.
Deeply touched by this, Jakande on assumption of office in 1979 initiated a housing policy meant to take care of those who ordinarily would have been unable to build their own houses, particularly the civil servants. By 1980, the first of the housing estates in 16 locations was commissioned at Amuwo-Odofin. Each of the estates was a community of high-rise buildings made up of two and three bedroom flats.
Three decades after, this gesture has been abused and the vision that brought it into existence appears to have petered out. A visit to the estates will make one weep. The picture that confronts one is that of total decay, dilapidation and complete neglect. The estates are fast becoming slums with many of its residents, most of whom are retirees, now finding it difficult to maintain them.
Cracks are very visible, plastering failing, and roofs are leaking. Flooding in these estates has done enormous damage to the buildings, especially in some parts of Isolo and Agege. Dirt, filth, acute shortages of basic social amenities and infrastructural decay has crept in on the once vibrant estates.
Not even the residents’ decision to form associations with a view to tackling maintenance challenges could provide enduring answer to the degradation of the estates. Some residents’ association even partner with private firms to renovate or ‘reno-paint’ the structures, but that still seems far from the expected solutions.
According to a resident of Oke-Afa estate, Ademola Ogunwale, the present state of the Jakande estates is a shame to the occupants. “It is a total affront to the legacy of an administration whose leader is still alive. They look more like a refugee camps than an estate. Government cannot be held responsible for this.
“When my mum bought this place, we did a lot of work and fixed so many things before moving in. It was an outright purchase and once the keys have been handed over to you, the new owner is in charge of maintenance. Occupants should be blamed for the eyesore those houses have become.
“The state government can intervene by repairing the roads in the estates but the onus is on the occupants of the units to come together and give a facelift to the houses. They owe this duty to the elder statesman who bequeathed the estates as a legacy for posterity,” he said.