I shed tears as I write that today makes it 2 weeks and a day (15days) that the 7-storey hotel complex in Woji GRA Portharcourt River State collapsed and River State Government and the workers they deployed to that site are yet to find my cousin, Ekene Morgan Ihionu and the rest of the others trapped inside that rubble.
Why is this operation taking the State Government so long to accomplish? Does it mean that if a Natural Disaster happens in Nigeria for instance, earth quake , flooding etc, there will be no hope for those affected?
We have been on site since Friday the 23rd Nov. 2018, the day of the incident and have kept vigil here in the hope the rescue operations will be 24hours but this has not been the case. For instance, operations was called off as early as 9pm on tuesday (27th Nov. 2018) night and did not resume till as late as 10.23am on Wednesday. On Thursday, operations did not commence till as late as 8.50am! And this trend has persisted.
On the 5th of December, the workers, our River state Government deployed on site stopped work because of shortage of diesel; and my cousin, (Ekene’s elder brother) had to provide them with 150Litres of Diesel, to continue the operation. Why? How did we get here? Why should the family members of the victims provide workers with the resources they need to work with instead of the government?
The stench of death has become palpable at the site and with every passing hour, the chance of survival of the victims becomes slimmer. There is therefore no gainsaying that we no longer have the luxury of time on this mission.
There were 200+ people trapped in that building and after 15 days we can not still say that rescuers have rescued up to 20 victims. I go on the internet and I see figures /numbers of victims so far evacuated and the expertise of the rescue operations and I wonder how they came about the figures as well as expertise?
My question still remains that:
If the president’s/governor’s/ senator’s child was a victim, would this story have been the same?
Can you imagine an Airbus A340-500 fully loaded with passengers crashing in Nigeria and the government keeps mute? That is exactly the number of victims buried in this site!
The Rivers state government with all sense of pride boldly informed Nigerians that the Commissioner for Urban Development and Physical Planning tendered his resignation over this disaster as if this news is supposed to give some solace to the victims’ families at this point. A government that should have been conducting quality control intermittently at that building site; a Building that should never have been approved in the first place !
Up till date, the government has not deemed it necessary to address the victims’ families or update them on plans/progress of the rescue mission. Workers on site have also expressed their sadness on this operation as they continue to work without being fed properly. They maintain that their companies provide them with food only once a day and there are even days that food wouldn’t be provided. They now had to rely on the mercies of Rotary Club Intl to provide them with food and water. How did we get here, I ask again? For 2 days now, the work pace has drastically slowed down because the diggers broke down and they have taken them back for repair! What about stand-byes? Where was there no provisions for stand-byes incase you over-work the ones being used and they pack up? Cranes have been gradually taken away from the site and they have resorted to using excavators again!! Why???
The Federal government has neither made a single statement about this issue nor sent aids, or is the probable loss of lives of over 200 Nigerians not a National disaster? Is this calamity a Rivers State government problem alone? NEMA visited the site and left, claiming they could not do anything as Rivers State does not have an equipped State arm of the agency.
In my last post, I called upon my Town, my Local Government and my State, Imo State, to do something. Should this now be a case of different states or LGAs looking out for their own, that was trapped in there? Why do we not have regards for human life? I guess aside my cousin, we must have forgotten that Pregnant Woman, that was screaming for help on the 24th of Nov. Inside that poor woman, was another life growing, yet had no opportunity to see what this world looked like. How did we get here????
We are demanding accountability from our Leadership; a government we voted into power to help us in times such as this. We are begging for expedited action on this rescue operations. If after 15 days, less than 20 persons out of more than a possible 200 persons has been evacuated, then the government just has not done enough. Intentionally inflating the number of evacuees to deceive the public does not take away the fact that Nigerians are still trapped within this complex. Even if it is just one person that is still trapped, does he not deserve to be rescued if still alive ? Does he not deserve a decent burial if dead; and his family – closure ?
Today, the 8th of December 2018, my family members and others have been asked to go to Ashes to ashes (A mortuary in one of the hospitals in ph) to search for their loved ones just incase they haven’t been able to identify them when bodies were brought out from the rubble. These devastated family members of victims including my own family members have been going from one mortuary to the other since today in search of our loved ones. There were no bodies deposited in Ashes to ashes from that site, the mortuary attendant stated as the dead bodies found were burnt victims from a possible accident . On going to University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), the mortuary attendant confirmed that only one victim has been brought there from the site of the collapsed building and he was brought in on Monday, 26th of Nov. My question is: where have they taken all the other bodies? Why will they refer family members to Ashes to ashes when they knew corpses were not taken to that mortuary from the site? Would it have been a deliberate action to send them away from the site, asking them to go on a wild goose chase? How did we get here??
The security and sanctity of every Nigerian life is a cardinal reason we elected the government in the first place. Why have they decided to let those voices we heard on the 24th of November , crying for help inside that rubble fade away????
We have no plans to foment trouble or to inconvenience Rivers state government and inhabitants, we only want our loved ones back home with us.
Following our outcry on Social and other News media, more technical machinery were deployed. Even though this came late, it was an improvement from the past charade but looks like we are gradually going back to square one as most of those machines are beginning to pack up. The government however needs to know that most of these machinery deployed are still redundant at the site as only one Jack hammer, which is non functional at the moment as it has broken down; one picker, which has also broken down this morning and still undergoing repair, two Excavators ( still on site)and two cranes ( which have now been taken away from site) are operational and very slow.
The urgency of this operations demands that functional and requisite equipment only be deployed to the site to attack the carcass of this building from several fronts. Intentionally bringing or leaving obsolete machinery at the site to give a pseudo sense of progress is totally unacceptable.
The survivors rescued had pointed towards the wing of the building’s basement where majority of the victims are trapped but the rescue team paid them no mind but have continued to work blindly, despite various professional counsel to bore tunnels and access the basement and at least pass food and water to the living. The rescue team has carried on as if nothing is at stake until a few days back when they eventually had a change of heart after continuous persuasion and plea from devastated family members. It was obvious that they had no plans of rescuing the victims alive as The rescue team initially, worked from the 7th floor downwards when they have been severally informed that the victims had converged at the basement for payment before the house collapsed?
Since the past 3 days they have continued to tell traumatised family members that they will soon get to the front basement . It is 3 days now and yet ….
They have managed to bring out 4 corpses from the rubble since the past 3 days.
The Police prevented Volunteers from assisting and it may interest Nigerians to know that the same volunteers whose manual efforts rescued the only live victims were tear-gassed by the Police on Saturday the 24th of November because they became impatient with the slow progress and requested access to manually attack the building with Hammers and Chisels.
The rescue team refuses to acknowledge that in times like this, Practicality rather than Theory becomes the norm. If after 15 days they have not had any success, should they not change plans?
Last week an unusual happening began on site as some group of people stormed there with Mopol officers, loading all the removed irons and rods into trailers and taking them away from site. When confronted by family members, the driver of the trailer told them that they were sent by the River State Commissioner of Special duties . This has continued every day of this week as they come in at night when work has stopped and load their trucks with irons and rods removed from the collapsed building before driving off. My question is : who, really are these men? Where they really sent by the Commissioner for Special duties? What will they be doing with all those trailer loads of irons and rods? It continues to baffle my imagination. How did we get here??
#IhionuEkeneMorgan is a tax payer and has no criminal records in Nigeria or anywhere else. His right to life remains inalienable and where he is incapacitated (such as now) to demand for that right, then every well meaning Nigerian must do so on his behalf.
I urge all Nigerians to join hands with us to keep hope alive and remain prayerful while we continue to demand that genuine and intensified efforts be made to evacuate all victims as soon as possible.
We remain grateful to Nigerians for the tremendous support in sensitizing the world to our plight. We thank all agencies, organizations, companies, groups and individuals that have now heeded the call to save lives. However, we request that this rescue operations be accelerated and given the urgency it deserves.
The safe home coming of our fathers, mothers, siblings, friends and fellow Nigerians is all we are pleading for.
Sir Obi Ihionu (KSJI)