By TOPE TEMPLER OLAIYA
The conviviality of the Yuletide and New Year season is still very much strong in the air, but it is a numb celebration for residents and traders, whose Boxing Day feasting was shattered by firecracker explosions that devastated the Ojo Giwa, Okoya and Jankara market areas of Lagos Island.
While some are fortunate to count their losses in a few thousands of Naira, many of the victims are starting 2013 with a huge deficit running into millions of Naira.
In fact, Alhaja Basirat Bolanle Ibrahim, owner of a three storey building at No. 41, Ojo Giwa Street, had to be heavily sedated days following the incident that eventually razed 12 buildings, to cross over into the new year alive.
With the effect of the drugs gradually wearing off and reality fully dawning that the building erected 18 months ago and valued at N85 million now lay in rubbles, it’s time to spill the beans.
Ibrahim, a generator dealer, who claims she recently stocked her wares for 2013 amounting to over N20 million, says she would sue the Lagos State government for illegal demolition.
“My building was not gutted by fire, it was demolished to pave way for the building behind mine, which was facing Okoya and was burning in the attempt to stop the spread of fire. I was standing here when the governor ordered that my building should be demolished; they didn’t even allow me to carry my goods.
“Despite giving my approval that only the roof should be removed to create access for the fire fighters and rescue operatives to work, they said if they didn’t demolish my building, there was no way they could quench the raging fire. I was not allowed to take a pin out of the building with goods worth N50 million. I just got a supply order of N20 million and the least of the generators is N25,000.
“All we were told was that they were saving our lives and we should not go near the building, while the emergency officials demolished everything in sight. I am taking the government to court. I will collect my money back because they gave the instruction for demolition. They didn’t stop at demolition, every useable item, including irons, were carted away.”
Ibrahim is not alone in her misery. For Mr. Ozokolie Sunday, a resident of Idumota, December 26, 2012 will go down as a day he would live to regret. Ozokolie owned four shops in the Jankara market. Looking dejected and unable to control his emotions, he told The Guardian that he lost goods worth over N15 million to the disaster. The shops were located at Numbers 43 and 45 Ojo Giwa Street in the thickly populated Lagos Island Business District.
Ozokolie said he was still in celebration mood when news of the disaster reached him. According to him, “I received the information with shock because I was not around.” The trader, who described the disaster as the most unfortunate incident that ever happened to him, explained that he temporarily passed on when the news of the incident was broken to him via a phone call.
Speaking with journalists at the site of the incident, the General Manager/CEO, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Dr. Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, said the agency had to quickly demolish buildings affected by the explosion and make the area safe for people to do business because they do not want to further cause financial distress to so many families.
“We have demolished the area, we are now clearing the debris and enumeration is being carried out by the operations and logistics department of LASEMA. In due time, we will get into matters of compensation. At the moment, we are concerned about giving out financial assistance to victims to cushion the effect of this disaster.
He noted that other affected buildings in the area had been subjected to integrity text by the Lagos State Raw Material Testing Agency to determine their present structural stability status to avoid another disaster in the State. He said buildings examined to be unfit would be demolished while those needing adjustment would be recommended for appropriate and necessary action.
According to him, “our work here is to make the area safe and calm; agencies like the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) have carried out environmental impact assessment of the explosion in the area, while the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) and the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) have been on ground to clear the debris and other waste items from the site.”
Hassan Bolaji, resident of No. 39, Ojo Giwa Street, said money was paid to the state coffers for an integrity test to be conducted on the neighbouring buildings.