The National Executive Coordinator of the non-governmental organization, Life Savers Foundation (LSF), Mrs Fola Shoetan, has revealed that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) are not adequately equipped to manage disaster situations in the country.
Testifying before the court investigating the cause of the collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Mrs Shoetan, who was present during the entirety of the rescue operation, expressed sadness that the statutory respondents had no idea how to handle the crisis at the site of the collapse.
“LASEMA, NEMA and my agency were overwhelmed such that it was the youths at The SCOAN who told us what to do and where to drill which helped rescue a large number of people alive,” she told the court presided over by Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe. “Even NEMA and LASEMA didn’t come with any heavy duty equipment; they were merely onlookers and spectators.
“They were busy chatting on social media. I was angry and have evidence when people cautioned them on Facebook during the rescue operation that instead of saving lives, they were busy posting pictures on the internet. While I was there, I didn’t leave for five days because of the gravity of things on ground but these people came and went daily. I am bold to say that they were confused and mere onlookers during the rescue operation.”
She therefore called on the President Goodluck Jonathan led administration and the Lagos State government to ensure that adequate training and equipment are provided for the agencies in order for them to effectively contain emergency situations.
According to Shoetan, “I don’t know when NEMA officials left the scene on the first day but LASEMA officials left at 10:30pm on the second day. As at the time LASEMA officials left on the second day, persons were still trapped on the collapsed site.
“The LASEMA General Manager, Dr Femi Osanyintola did not co-operate well with other responders and I kept telling him that. What he did most of the time was to hold meetings with his team from the state.
“The police I can confirm were present throughout the period of the rescue operation. No security agent ever stopped us from working and, to the best of my knowledge, nobody was assaulted.” Her testimony contradicted earlier claims from NEMA and LASEMA officials that they were prevented from gaining access to the site and treated aggressively by church staff.
Earlier, a witness who is one of the surviving volunteer workers of the church involved in the unfortunate incident, Afusat Oladipo, had told the coroner that moments prior to the collapse of the building, she had noticed a strange flash of light accompanied by a thunderous bang. Her account corroborates those of other witnesses who had previously spoken during the inquest. Their accounts all suggest the possibility of an explosion.
Meanwhile, Chief Magistrate Oyetade Komolafe has adjourned proceedings to January 6, 2015.