· 77 injured, 121 rescued alive
· Rev. T.B. Joshua: CCTV picks perpetrator
By Bankole Adeshina
Grim details have emerged on the tragedy at the popular Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Ikotun, Lagos, where a guest house under construction for foreign visitors at the church collapsed on Friday.
17 persons were confirmed dead by Saturday and their bodies already recovered, while 77 others were injured, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
But 121 worshippers at the church led by charismatic Pastor T.B. Joshua were lucky. They were rescued alive from the rubbles of the six-storey building.
NEMA’s Information Officer for the South-west, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, confirmed that 17 persons were dead and 121 rescued alive.
The remains of the dead have been deposited at the general hospitals at Isolo and Igando in Lagos. Some of the injured are also there receiving medical treatment.
The building, according to findings, was initially built as a two-storey, serving as restaurant and accommodation for foreign nationals and other miracle seekers from other African countries.
But more layers were being added before it collapsed.
Rescue work was still ongoing by Saturday night as officials of emergency management agencies like NEMA and Lagos State Emergency Management Agency were joined by scores of youths of the church in the rescue operations.
More than five Lagos State Ambulances (marked EPE792AJ, EPE795AJ, EPE796, EPE799AJ) and others were patrolling the site to take the injured to the hospital.
WESTERN POST Correspondent witnessed the evacuation of some female worshippers trapped in the rubbles.
Victims Recount Their Ordeal
A relative of one of those trapped in the building, Mr. Segun Abolaji, cried out at the entrance to the collapsed building when the men manning the gate refused him entry.
“What we I do. My six family members are in the building. I need to go there and see things for myself. You can’t just deny me access. My whole life is in that collapsed building.”
Abolaji showed the picture of his trapped family members to some people at the scene. In the picture were three young ladies, a teenage boy and the man and his wife.
Another victim, Dimeji olatunde, was said to have come to the church from Ibadan last month.
“He came to work as restaurant attendant. Somebody by the name Adeola called us in Ibadan on Friday that the building where Dimeji is working has collapsed. But since I got here (Saturday morning), the person’s telephone number has not been going. And the people have denied me entrance to the scene,” he said.
‘OUR CCTV CAMERAS ACTUALLY CAUGHT THE PERPETRATOR BEHIND THE COLLAPSE,’- REV T.B JOSHUA
In a rare public appearance, the founder and General Overseer of the church, Rev T.B Joshua, apologised to journalists for the hostility against the media men, saying “that couldn’t have been from us. That is not our training; and that was not what Jesus Christ thought us.
“We understand how important the duty of the fourth estate of the realm are to the development of the society. We know that without you (the journalists), the public can be fed with the wrong information. This could lead to the persecution of the innocent people, create panic and confusion in the land.
“Those responsible for this are definitely from the villagers, community and sympathizers who have come to render a helping hand to us. And you know that people show emotions in different ways. So, I’m very sorry on behalf of the church”.
He said it was not for him to point accussing fingers, but the incident may not be unconnected with his disclosure that some members of the insurgent groups were arrested by him at the Synagogue recently.
He also showed to journalists the footage of the video of a straying helicopter caught hovering directly on top of the collapsed building by the church’s CCTV camera on Friday before the incident happened.
The recorded scene was between the hour of 11:40 am and 12:30 pm on Friday.
The helicopter was seen to be conducting surveillance on the building, as it surveys and hover around it intermittently within five minute interval.
At the tail end of the footage, at exactly 12:44 pm, the building caved in, reducing the six- storey building to rubbles.
“I will not say anything further on this. I can make the videos available to all the newsmen, but you have to wait until we give it to the Executive Governor of the State, Mr. Raji Fashola, the Police Commissioner in Lagos, and the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of this zone. That is the protocol and I hope you journalists will pardon me for that.
“However, when I said earlier that some members of the Boko Haram insurgent groups were arrested here in my church, people were saying this man has come again. But ever since then, this is one of the things that have been happening all around us,” he said.
Speaking at the scene of the accident, General Manager of LASEMA, Dr. Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, said, “We responded to the emergency call immediately. And since Friday, we have been working hard to ensure that as many as those trapped under the rubbles are rescued alive. To achieve this, we have deployed sophisticated earth-moving equipment for the excavation operations.
“Although we met some resistance here from the members of the Church, but that is a normal challenge we encounter on duty. This is a disaster. The people are in state of confusion. Their properties have been destroyed; more importantly, they have lost loved ones to the collapse. So, their aggression is understandable.
“However, so far, we have been able to recovered 16 dead and 77 injured. The dead have been deposited at the government General hospitals at Isolo and Igando and the injured too; and they are there receiving free medical treatment.”
Policemen present at the scene of the collapse harassed the journalists and prevented them from doing their jobs.
The affected journalists included Lekan Oyekanmi, a video man with AP, Funke Adesoji of Silverbird Television, reporter for Galaxy Television and Western Post’s correspondent, Bankole Adeshina.
On several occasions, the journalists were prevented from gaining access to the church premises and the site of the collapsed itself.
Championing this resistance were some of the senior police officials attached to Ikotun Division, namely DSP Okechukwu Festus and Corporal Emmanuel Ajayi.