Helpless Citizens Ignore advice to leave threatened collapsed building environment

On Saturday, August 1, 2020, the Enugu State Government demolished part of a three-storey building on No. 9, Egwuekwe Street, Maryland Layout, Enugu South Local Government Area, which was sinking and ordered the residents of surrounding buildings to vacate to enable an environment assessment of the area. However, the people ignored the directive and carried on with their lives unperturbed.

Residents of the building said part of the building suddenly began to sink about 2 a.m. and left the rest of the structure in a perilous state.

The government thereafter intervened and knocked down the structure. It also asked residents of buildings around the structure to vacate their houses temporarily for tests to be conducted to ascertain the safety of the environment.

Egwuekwe Street is in Uwani axis of Enugu metropolis, about two kilometres away (five minutes walk) from the popular Timber Market. Commercial activities in the area were at a low ebb as most shops were locked with a woman frying “akara’’ (bean cake) close to the scene of the incident.

There are about 10 houses, including uncompleted buildings, as well as some undeveloped plots near the demolished structure.

A resident who refused to be identified, claimed that an underground water channel ran through the street but only people who had lived in the area for a long period could say the exact position.

Some people in the area said once it rained, the street was usually flooded for long periods before clearing out and that flood water sometimes entered some of shops on the street sometimes.

Some residents of the collapsed building claimed it was built over 15 years ago and had eight flats, two of which were on each floor.

Meanwhile, some residents of the nearby buildings told HumAngle that although they were conscious of the danger they faced but there was little they could do to help themselves.

At the site of the building, Mr Ikechukwu Okpala, the Commander, Enugu South Central Neighbourhood Community Policing Committee, said he had been at the site since the incident occurred to ensure that the occupants and hoodlums did not come to scavenge at the site and endanger their lives.

A tenant of the building, who pleaded anonymity, said that the situation had traumatised her as she was squatting in a neighbour’s house while her children were staying in a friend’s house. She pleaded with good-spirited individuals to come to their aid and provide succour to her family.

She said, “I am traumatised, my children are staying with my friends and my husband and I squat with another friend. It is a terrible situation. I plead with government and Nigerians to please come to our aid to enable us secure another accommodation.”

A tenant of the next building, 9b Egwuekwe Street, expressed sadness that after three days since the house caved in, government had not been able to bring down the building completely.

He said since the building collapsed, he hardly slept well at night because of uncertainty.

“It is unfortunate that three days after the incident, government has not been able to bring down the building. We have been living in fear here, not knowing what will happen next,” he said.

Another neighbour, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, told HumAngle that she was relieved that no life was lost but pleaded with the government to act very fast in the area to avoid casualties.

Also, another resident, informed that the landlord, who owned other buildings in the vicinity, when confronted by residents, said that he built all his houses with quality building materials, and that he was surprised that such a thing happened.

Following the incident, the Enugu State Capital Territory Development Authority has marked all buildings close to the affected building for testing and possible demolition.

The Chairman of the agency, Chief Joseph Onoh, said that while investigation was ongoing on the incident, the remaining structure would be demolished to ensure public safety.

Enugu State Commissioner for Works and Infrastructure, Mr Greg Nnaji, had expressed sadness over failure of individuals to follow procedures of constructing buildings.

Some of the occupants of the building, Mr Lazarus Okoye, Mrs Rita Chukwu and Mr Ugochukwu Okorie, said they heard a mysterious sound in the night of the incident but never knew it was the sound of the sinking ground floor.

So far, more than 50 per cent of the building has been demolished by the Enugu State Capital Territory Development Authority.

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