By Babajide Okeowo
The Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) has disclosed that the collapsed 21-storey building at Gerard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos was not granted provisional approval before construction began on the site.
The agency told a coroner inquest inquiring into the November 1, 2021 tragedy that construction of the three high-rise blocks began months before provisional approval was granted.
Counsel for LASBCA, Mr. A.S Odugbemi, made this shocking revelation while questioning Mr Muritala Olawale, the Managing Director of Prowess Engineering Nigeria Ltd.
Olawale was a former consultant structural engineer to the project. He withdrew his services via a letter dated Feb. 20, 2020, over disputes on how the project was structurally executed.
At the coroner’s proceedings, Odugbemi disputed the contents of paragraph 17 of Olawale’s Statement on Oath to the Inquest stating that late Femi Osibona, the Managing Director of Fourscore Heights Ltd, 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 commence construction on the site.
Disputing Olawale’s claims, Odugbemi said that LASBCA never granted Osibona a provisional planning permit when the team moved to the site to commence construction in January 2019.
He stated that 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).”
Olawale did not give a 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 panel 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 (21-storeys) collapsed on Nov. 1 killing 46 persons while 15 persons were rescued alive.
One of the deceased was Mr Femi Osibona, the Managing Director of Fourscore Heights Ltd, the contractor of the project.