Inquest: Witness calls for adequate equipment of NEMA, LASEMA




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IKEJA – Mrs Fola Soetan, a witness in the coroner’s inquest into the collapse of a building of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), on Tuesday called for more equipment of rescue agencies in Nigeria to manage disasters.
Soetan, the National Executive Coordinator, Life Savers Foundation (LSF), an NGO, made the call in Lagos while testifying before the coroner, Mr Oyetade Komolafe.
The inquest was instituted under the Lagos State Coroner’s System Law No. 7 of 2007 for the purpose of unraveling the cause of the incident.
NAN reports that 116 persons lost their lives to the collapse of the six-storey building on Sept.12.
The witness said that both the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) needed adequate equipment to perform their rescue operations.
Soetan, therefore, called on the Federal Government and Lagos State Government to ensure that adequate equipment was provided for the agencies.
On the collapsed building, the witness testified that youths from SCOAN played a role in the rescue operations, adding that NEMA and LASEMA came blankets, cutters and ambulances.
According to her, these were not enough to dig out people trapped under the rubbles.
Soetan said that she was deeply involved in the rescue operation.
She said: “I don’t know when NEMA officials left the scene on the first day but LASEMA officials left at 10:30p.m. on the second day.
“As at the time LASEMA officials left on the second day, persons were still trapped in the collapsed site.
“The police was present all through the period of the rescue operations, and no security agent stopped us from working.
“To the best of knowledge, nobody was assaulted.”
Corroborating her testimony, SCOAN’s Chief Security Officer, Mr Sunday Okojie, told the coroner that NEMA and LASEMA officials were given prompt access to the site.
Okojie faulted the testimonies of Mr Ibrahim Farinloye, Head of Operations, Search and Rescue, NEMA, and Dr Olufemi Oke-Osanyintolu, General Manager of LASEMA.
The duo had claimed that the NEMA and LASEMA officials responded promptly to the incident and arrived heavy duty equipment but were hindered by security operatives from carrying out their duties.
In his evidence, Okojie said that NEMA and LASEMA were not prevented from rescuing people trapped under the collapsed building.
Okojie, who submitted the unedited Close Circuit Television footages of the incident from Sept.12 to Sept.16 to the coroner, said the recording contradicted the agencies’ claims.
The witness said that from the video, which was being viewed in court, the submissions of the agencies were not correct.
According to him, both agencies arrived at the church premises about an hour after the building collapsed and gained access to the scene in less than a minute.
He said: “ lord, on the first day of the incident, as you can see, nobody prevented them from entering into the compound.
“As you can see from the video, LASEMA came only one bus and no heavy duty equipment as it claimed before this court. It is the same thing with NEMA.”
Okojie said that both agencies came to the scene without an ambulance, adding that the church provided 11 ambulances while the Nigerian Red Cross Society and Life Savers provided one each.
The witness, who is a retired police officer, commended officers of the Nigerian Police for maintaining law and order and preventing hoodlums from gaining entrance into the place.
He further told the coroner that NEMA and LASEMA officials left the scene at about 05:45 p.m.
The inquest was adjourned till Jan. 6 for Okojie’s cross-examination. (NAN)