By Joseph Ayinde
The Lagos Coroner Inquest heard yesterday that construction of the 21-storey Ikoyi collapsed building began three months before provisional approval was granted by the government.
Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) made this known yesterday while unravelling the circumstances surrounding the November 1, 2021 collapse of the building on Gerard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Counsel for LASBCA, Mr. A. S. Odugbemi, spoke while questioning the Managing Director of Prowess Engineering Nigeria Ltd, Mr. Muritala Olawale.
Olawale is the former consultant structural engineer to the project, who withdrew his services through a letter dated February 20, 2020, following disagreement on the structural works of the project.
Odugbemi, during proceedings, disputed the contents of paragraph 17 of Olawale’s statement on Oath to the Inquest stating that the Managing Director of Fourscore Heights Ltd, the late Femi Osibona, had informed his team that he had received provisional approval for the project’s construction.
According to Olawale’s Statement on Oath, Osibona showed his team a copy of the provisional approval from the Lagos State Government and ordered them to begin construction on the site.
Odugbemi, while disputing Olawale’s claims, said that LASBCA never granted Osibona a provisional planning permit when the team moved to the site to start construction in January 2019.
He said LASBCA granted provisional approval in April 2019.
“Will you be surprised if evidence is provided to you right now that work had started before the provisional planning approval was granted in April 2019?” Odugbemi said.
Responding, Olawale said: “I will be surprised. All the approval processes were being handled by the client (Osibona).
“I cannot answer the questions right now. I need to check my records,” he said.
Olawale also could not give any specific answer to Odugbemi’s query on whether the three high-rise blocks were covered by a general insurance policy as required by law.
He, however, informed the Coroner Inquest that prior to construction, a soil test was conducted at the site by another company contracted to do the job.
“We have submitted the result of the soil test of the site to other panels investigating the collapse,” he said.
Of the three high-rise buildings, Blocks A, B and C, which were situated on Gerard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, Block B, a 21-storey building, collapsed on November 1, 2021 killing 46 persons, while 15 persons were rescued alive.
Among the deceased was Osibona, the contractor of the project.