I need help to walk again after tank tragedy –Cleaner

Thirty-seven-year-old mother of one, Olaoye Funmisho, reeled in pain at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, on Thursday as she spoke with our correspondent.

Funmisho became a hospital patient on Sunday, August 21, 2022, after a tank scaffolding of a two-storey building under renovation at Lady-Lark, Bariga, Lagos State, collapsed on a bungalow beside it. The incident claimed the lives of two boys including Funmisho’s son 13-year-old Ayomide Adedeji, 27-year-old Oluwatosin David and a lady residing with her, 30-year-old Kudirat Azeez, who survived with a minor injury.

She told our correspondent, “I didn’t know when I got to this hospital. I remember that I was inside the house eating with others while my son was sleeping. Here I am unable to stand up. I was told that I would need to undergo surgery running into millions of naira. How will I survive this?.”

The woman who worked as a cleaner accommodated two people; David and Kudirat, who were in search of jobs in Lagos.  Prior to the incident, the former had secured a job while the latter was still in search of one.

But the incident had taken a toll on Funmisho who is battling a fracture on her spinal cord, hands and leg.

Narrating her ordeal to our correspondent, the Osun State indigene expressed fears of getting back on her feet as a result of the fractures due to fund paucity to offset the hospital’s bill.

She said, “I returned from church fellowship in the evening with my child and two others living with me. I was eating and my son was asleep on the bed. That was all I remembered, not until I woke up and found myself at this hospital.

“They told me that the tank belonging to a two-storey building behind our house fell on our house. I was told that they wanted to fix my spinal cord, my two hands and leg. They have named a certain amount of money and I don’t know where to get it from. I was told that if I undergo surgery, it’s a probability that I will be able to work again. Nigerians, please help me. I want to come out of this situation.’’

Funmisho is also unaware that her son and David died in the incident. Her family is trying to raise some money for the surgery.

Also speaking, her brother, Oyeshina Makinde, called for intervention from the government and Nigerians, saying that over N4m was required for other medical interventions on her.

Makinde said, “Despite the money spent running into over N3m, the operations and other things we are told would cost N4m. We need help to revive her so that we don’t lose her as we have already lost her only child.  In fact, we couldn’t tell her that the child had died because we don’t know what could happen. The ward councillor sent by the Local Government chairman told us that the council chairman promised to give us N500, 0000.  We need help from the government and well-meaning Nigerians.’’

He added that he visited the scene of the accident and discovered that the person who bought the house which was once a bungalow, renovated it, raised it to a two-storey building. David and Adedeji

He stated, “They built the scaffolding for tanks on top of a soak away which ground was not strong enough. They placed three tanks on it even though no one was occupying the house yet. The tank fell on the house occupied by my younger sister.  Her case is complicated. The doctor discovered too that she sustained a head injury.’’

Also, Funmisho’s eldest sister, Mrs. Olowookere Omowunmi, said they attended house fellowship together, noting that she was shocked when she was alerted to the incident.

Omowunmi said, “We went to a house fellowship together. But I went to church for a meeting while she and others went home. I was at the church when they called me around 8pm on Sunday about the incident. When I got there, I noticed that two tanks fell; one fell on them inside their room and the other shattered the other parts of the house. My sister was immediately rushed to a hospital. The two boys that died were rescued. It was at the hospital  they called and told me they had died. One is her only child and the other boy was 27. We have been running up and down. The bills are in millions. I don’t know how we can handle this. They have done some surgeries and they said they would have to do more.’’

She further said that despite over N3m spent by the family, they were told that there was still more money to spend.

The woman noted, “The doctors told us that if we don’t do the surgeries on time, it can lead to infections that may cause amputation of her hands and leg. I don’t want this for her because she has suffered so much.”

She called on the government and Nigerians to come to the aid of the family, adding that the family had already expended what they had on Funmisho.

She expressed worry over how Funmisho would continue to survive after the incident with her surviving dependant, Kudirat.

Kudirat, currently living with one of their neighbours, is recuperating after sustaining a mild injury from the incident.

She told our correspondent that she was expecting Funmisho’s return home before she knew the next step to take. The lady who is a secondary school graduate added that she hoped to get a job to support her sister.

She said, “We were inside the house eating when suddenly we saw that the water tanks fell on us. I only sustained a minor injury but my aunt has serious injuries. Some neighbours came and rescued us and they rushed my aunt to the hospital. I have been living there for three years and she has been good to us.

“Please we need help. I don’t have a job and with this situation I know I will be the one with her when she returns from hospital. She may not be able to work and I will be with her but I don’t have a job.”

Also expressing concern, Funmisho’s Pastor, Timothy Adewuyi, said that there was a need to also plan beyond money for the surgeries. He added that though the church had raised some money, it was more than it could bear.

He stated, “The information came to us on Sunday night around past 8pm. We were told that something happened to one of our members, so we rushed down there and we saw the situation. The four victims in that room are members of our church.

“Funmisho was immediately rushed to a hospital by neighbours. We followed them there, the church has been responsible for the initial first aid given to her. The truth is that the bills are heavy bills. The church has been able to help in a little way and it’s still raising support. However, I think what is required is much more than what the church can carry.

“We appeal to the well-meaning Nigerians and the government to come to our aid in this matter. It is not just only for this initial treatment, but for the fact that after the surgery, she will need to recuperate which will take a longer time. We don’t know the after effects of the damage to her bones. Those are the things on my mind.’’

The pastor also sought help for Kudirat, noting that she needed to continue her education and find a job to do.

He said, “If we can also find help for the second survivor to further her education, we will be glad. She only attended secondary school and because she couldn’t further her education that’s the reason she was staying with her sister before the ugly incident. If there is an opportunity to help her further her Funmisho or an opportunity to help her secure a job that can help her, it will be a good one. By the time her sister is out of the hospital, the survival of her sister may now largely depend on her.’’

Noting that though they believed in miracles, Adewuyi added that medical experts’ explanation noted that after the surgeries, Funmisho might not be like she used to be.

He said, “If that’s the case, that means the casual work she was doing to sustain the family before the incident she might not be able to do it. There is no doubt that she will need somebody that will be able to help her to be able to take a new life and be reoriented towards the new lifestyle for her to survive.’’

Meanwhile, father of the late David, Aina has demanded justice for his son’s guardian, Funmisho. Kudirat

The 59-year-old father stated that he wanted the appropriate thing done to support her in the situation that the incident had put her in.

Aina stated, “What I want now is for the right thing to be done, which is what will favour the guardian who is currently hospitalised. She is paralysed in both hands; she also suffered an injury in her spinal cord. She can hardly move but has been talking.”

In his reaction to the issue, a legal practitioner, Malachy Ugwumadu, described the incident as an avoidable situation caused by the failure of regulatory bodies to carry out due diligence before approving the construction.

He stated, “This is an avoidable disaster. There is a need to go to the root of the level of compliance to the building regulations and standard. Since we have become a nation that cut corners, standards and regulations are avoided and by large the innocents become the victims. This is the question of compromise by regulatory bodies that are supposed to be signing off under due diligence in relation to standard of operation that needs to be complied.  If one wants to be rigorous in thinking, one can see how our national life is literally collapsing.’’

Ugwumadu further said that before using building materials for house projects, there were standard checks, adding that it appeared that those things were no longer complied with resulting in incessant building collapses.

He added, “There is a need for the proper things to be done to avoid these kinds of situations.”

Also, spokesperson for the Nigerian institute of Building, Godfrey Chukwurah, noted that 70 per cent of buildings in Nigeria were built by quacks.

He said, “We only got a preliminary report on that stanchion collapse. The preliminary report shows that the tank was overloaded. The structural stanchion which is the columns and the H beams were not sufficient in size and thickness for the load that was imposed on it. What would have happened is that when the tanks was fully loaded, the down toppled and unfortunately oftentimes they build these structures close to other buildings, so when the tank toppled because of its proximity to the other building, it collapsed on the bungalow there causing casualty.’’

He further said that the primary cause of the incident was overloading because of the use of smaller stanchions and loading of more tanks, stating that if they loaded only a tank, the tragedy could have been avoided.

Chukwurah stated, “My advice to clients, property buyers and developers is that they should always engage professionals in every activity of constructions be it the house itself, auxiliary services, and others because there is a chance that they may cause causality. But if you engage a professional, they will be able to advise you. For instance, for those tanks, there is a calculation they ought to have made for you to ascertain the capacity that such a stanchion will be able to take. And to the prospective tenants or home buyer, they should also seek the assistance of professionals particularly when buying to help you. Do on-the-spot assessment of the property which you seek to invest in through purchase or rentals. They will help you professionally. It’s unfortunate that about 70 per cent of the structures we have in Nigeria are built by quacks and not professionals.’’

He also advised prospective homeowners not to use quacks to make design and execute projects, stating that many clients think that engaging a professional was more expensive.

The building expert stated, “Unfortunately, 90 per cent of the structures built by quacks are more expensive to maintain, so it’s more expensive not to engage a professional.’’

He further said that if a prospective homeowner bypassed a professional builder to patronise quacks because of the former’s fee, he or she would end up spending more on maintenance to salvage buildings handled by quacks.

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