By NBF News
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Saddened by the increasing cases of building collapse in the Federal Capital Territory, the FCT Minister, Senator Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed has directed that a panel of enquiry be instituted to unravel the circumstances surrounding the ugly development.

He has also called for the auditing of all buildings under construction within the FCT. The panel, which would comprise experienced professionals including engineers, architects, surveyors and other relevant stakeholders, is to be inaugurated this week by the minister.

The decision followed last Wednesday's collapse of an uncompleted multiple storey building at the bustling Gimbiya area of Area 11, Garki 2, Abuja, in which 21 people died and nine others were injured.

Bala Mohammed also ordered a comprehensive audit of all buildings under construction and abandoned structures with the aim of removing those that are structurally defective or unsuitable for human habitation.

While commiserating with the families of those who lost their lives in the incident, he vowed that violators of building plans and regulations in the FCT would be duly prosecuted. Furthermore, the FCT administration called on residents to shun the practice of living or sleeping in uncompleted buildings as doing so constituted a highly hazardous act.

'Despite all the pressures for residential accommodation in the Federal Capital City, it is in the interest of all for their safety not to habour or allow persons to live or sleep in buildings under construction,' the minister charged.

At about 5:00am last Wednesday, August 11, a four-suspended-floor building collapsed on Plot 1007, at No. 2, Ikoli Street, Off Gimbiya Street, Garki II, Abuja. Arising from the incident, 21 persons lost their lives while nine were rescued alive, some of them still hospitalized over serious injuries.

Findings by relevant FCTA officials indicated that the building plan for the plot was originally approved for three suspended floors, while the developer illegally added an extra floor. Structural integrity of the building had questioned its stability and the relevant department of the FCT administration had indeed gone ahead to remove the roof and the extra floor added to the building.

Further investigations revealed that all the victims were squatters who had illegally made the building, marked for demolition, their abode. Rescue operation was carried out by men of the FCT Fire Service, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA); the Nigerian Red Cross; the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC); The Nigeria Police; the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Nigerian Army. Earth moving trucks and cranes belonging to Julius Berger and Gilmor Construction companies were involved in the rescue. Survivors were taken to the National Hospital for treatment and their medical bills underwritten by the FCT administration.

Following the building's failure of structural integrity test, all its occupants were advised to move out from the building as it was unsafe to live or sleep there. It was learnt that the legal unit of the Development Control Department was at the stage of commencing the prosecution of the property developer at the Urban and Regional Planning Tribunal as at the date of the collapse of the building.

The building was not demolished immediately after it failed integrity test because a legal process needed to be followed since the building had an original approved building plan, which was, however, allegedly altered unlawfully by the developer.