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The tragedy at Ita Faji

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LAST week’s collapse of a three-storey building in the Ita Faji area of Lagos in which 20 persons died is the latest testimonial of the constant failure that defines the Nigerian state of affairs. The incident clearly shows how little the value attached to human lives is in the country. It demonstrates clearly that those who run the system have scant regard for the safety of the citizenry. The tragic fate of innocent and hapless citizens also shows the pervasive corruption that dogs transactions in the Nigerian space. The affected building having been previously marked for demolition by the authorities in 2014, it was simply unfortunate that so many souls had to be wasted under its rubble five years later, sacrificed to the tin gods of greed and corruption.

It is befuddling that a school could be sited within apartments inhabited by regular people, and without any consideration of the mutual disturbance that both constitute to each other. A school located in a building with regular tenants going about their daily routines cannot but come to a sad end, and the authorities must be held accountable for exposing the dead and wounded school children to danger. It is quite possible that money changed hands, inhibiting the implementation of the planned demolition of the building in 2014 and thereafter. Against this backdrop, a thorough investigation should reveal the culprits involved in this criminal lapse. The tragedy also shows the carelessness of parents who send their children and wards to schools that are in advanced stages of decay and dilapidation, and where safety is of little or no premium.

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To be sure, school proprietorship requires some level of responsibility for the total well being and protection of the lives of pupils, teachers and other staff. This surely ought to be demonstrated before licenses are issued to intending proprietors. It would seem that due process was ignored in the case of the school in question. The matter must therefore be investigated in order to find out where the lapse originated from and the culprits made to face full sanction. The truth is that unless and until people are made to bear the consequences of their actions and inactions as a matter of inevitability, tragic lapses such as the collapsed building at Ita Faji will continue to recur on a regular basis and the society will be made to bear the brunt of the lapses committed by felons who should be in jail.

We recall with indignation, a similar tragic incident at the Synagogue Church of All Nations in the Ikotun Egbe area of Lagos in September 2014, for which nobody has been sanctioned till now regardless of the lives lost and the reported lack of approval for the collapsed building. As it turned out, on the heels of the collapsed building in Lagos, another building still under construction, this time in the Bode area of Ibadan, caved in.  Artisans working on the site had to be pulled out of the rubble. Again, sharp practices were at play: the concrete mixture used was apparently of lesser quantity. Truth be told, the frequent collapse of buildings is traceable to the failure to sanction culprits appropriately. The government must ensure that the rules are strictly adhered to in the building industry. Officials found to have compromised the system should be sanctioned appropriately to serve as deterrent to others.

The demolition of the buildings previously marked for demolition in the Ita Faji axis has commenced, but the Lagos State government should be much more proactive than it has been. Many of the buildings dotting the Lagos landscape are accidents waiting to happen. The point must be made that the option of living in a country without any standards of propriety is worse than living outside of civilisation. The time is ripe to rein in the felons in the building industry. No one should be made to suffer further morbid consequences.

We sympathise with those who lost loved ones in the Ita Faji tragedy. It is our sincere wish and prayer that they find comfort at this time of need. We also commend the efforts being made to restore the injured to good health and urge that they be redoubled.

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