Relatives of trapped victims and some officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) have lamented over the approach of the Lagos State Government towards identification of the victims and how it has handled media relations since the incident. 

These were disclosed by some of the relatives and the officials, who spoke with Nairametrics analyst who visited the site of the collapse on Thursday, November 4.

While some relatives of the victims lamented over the postponement of the identification of corpses recovered by emergency workers, the officials of NEMA disclosed that the state government has instructed them not to speak with the media on developments at the site, as they were clearly told that the state government is in charge and only body allowed to speak with the press.

What the relatives are saying about identification of victims

Edward Godwin, father of an 18-year-old male victim, who was still traumatized, explained that he was not allowed to identify his son’s body despite the governor’s assurance.

He said, “I honestly needed to see my son. I have been to the general hospital to check those injured, but my son was not there. I thought I would be able to see him today, but I’ve not been able to see my son.”

Another parent, who did not identify herself, told our analyst that she had been to the state morgue as well but was not allowed to identify her sister’s son.

She said, “The governor promised that we would be able to see the corpses recovered on Thursday and check if our loved ones were there. But when I went there today, I was not allowed to see anything despite telling them that the governor said we would be able to check today.

“I want to know if the boy is still alive or dead. I have not told my sister about what happened because she’s not staying in Lagos and I want to know if he’s dead or not before telling her. The government should just allow us to see if our people are there or not.”

“My younger brother is here; I spoke with him last on Sunday but someone called me that something happened and I came here yesterday.

“Someone told me he was among those rushed to the hospital and I went to the general hospital and showed someone his picture and he confirmed that he was brought in unconscious. But since yesterday, I’ve not seen him or sure of the hospital he was taken to,” Florence, another parent lamented.

What NEMA is saying about the development

An official of NEMA told Nairametrics in an exclusive interview that contrary to the hierarchy of power, the state government has instructed the officials of the national agency not to speak to the press.

He said, “We have been instructed not to speak with the press on developments here without a convincing reason. Contrary to the reported 32 deaths, over 40 deaths had been recorded.”

But Governor Sanwo-Olu, Commissioner defend actions

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, while addressing journalists on Thursday, explained that the state Ministry of Health was in charge at the site.

He said, “Let’s understand what the chain of command is. This is a Lagos State site and so the Lagos State’s chain of command and control is from the state Ministry of Health; they are the ones that have taken corpses to the morgue so they are accountable and the people that are moving corpses here are staff of the Lagos State Ministry of Health; the staff that are leading rescue here are staff of LASEMA.

“A dead body is not what you hide; it’s what you take to the morgue and it’s only when it’s accountable from here to the morgue that we have a proper register of it.”

On reasons families were not able to identify the corpses of their loved ones, Sanwo-Olu said autopsies had not been concluded.

“The coroner inquest takes their turn and the certification by the pathologists are currently going on. We’re pushing them to ensure they can work very quickly to make, if not all the bodies, but some of the bodies ready by Friday.

“That is the deadline we have pushed them to so families can come and look and identify the bodies and at the appropriate time take their body away,” he added.

In an exclusive interview with Nairametrics, Gbenga Omotosho, the Commissioner for Information, said that the independent panel, which was inaugurated by the Governor, would investigate the collapse, as they have been given a seal of office.

He said, “They have all the powers in case they want to summon, ask and engage anybody whatsoever in the course of their investigation to be able to give a thorough objective and transparent advice and recommendations coming out from the investigation panel and they have 30 days turnaround to do their work because of the importance and urgency.”