Chukwudi Akasike, Port Harcourt
The Rivers State Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. John Bazia, told the Commission of Inquiry investigating the cause of the collapse of a seven-storey building that the tragedy occurred because 700 bags of cement were stacked on one of the floors of the structure.
The building collapsed on November 23, 2018, killing 17 persons while 31 others were trapped in the rubble. The survivors were rescued by volunteers, security agents and health workers.
Speaking at the inaugural sitting of the Commission on Thursday, Bazia explained to the five-man panel established by the state government that the weight of the bags of cement on the second floor of a building that was still under construction might have forced it to cave in.
The commissioner stated that his source of information was reliable, adding that a worker on the site informed him about the number of cement that were stored in the building.
“I was informed by one of the workers on the site that 700 bags of cement were kept on the second floor. This load (bags of cement) may have caused it. It is not good to keep such a heavy load in a building that is still under construction,” he stressed.
He, however, explained that those that were alive were rescued, adding that most of those who were not at the basement of the building died instantly because they were on some of the floors of the structure when it collapsed.
Also testifying before the Commission, Dr. Reason Onyia, who told the Commission that he had stepped aside as the Commissioner for Urban Development and Physical Planning, added that the ministry revalidated the approved plan made in 2014 for the affected building.
He said this became necessary as a result of the disappearance of the file of the building plan.
According to him, “We couldn’t get the file of the approved plan for the building in the ministry. So, we had to revalidate the approved plan in 2018 following requests from the developer.
“We suspect that the movement of the ministry from Moscow Road to State Secretariat could have led to the disappearance of the file.”
Onyia explained that the plan of the said building was duly approved registered in the ministry, even as he stated that he decided to leave his position so as to pave the way for a thorough investigation of the collapse of the seven-storey building.
In his submission, the state Commissioner for Health, Prof. Princewill Chike, explained that some of the corpses retrieved from the rubble were identified by their family members.
He specifically said that 12 out of the 17 bodies were deposited at the Ashes to Ashes Mortuary of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital.
Earlier, Chairman of the Commission, Justice Adolphus Enebeli, pointed out that the panel would recommend punitive measures for anybody found culpable in the Port Harcourt building collapse.
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