The Abia Government has inaugurated a panel to probe the collapse of a three-storey building in Umuahia.
The General Manager of the Umuahia Capital Development Authority (UCDA), Mr Enyinnaya Nwokonta, made the announcement in an interview in Umuahia on Friday.
Nwokonta, who is member of the panel, was speaking in an interview with a correspondent of newsmen .
He said that the panel, inaugurated by the state’s Commissioner for Lands and Survey, Mr Suleiman Ukandu, was headed by the state’s Director of Town Planning, Mr Ikechi Amaefule.
According to Nwokonta, the panel has four days to submit its report.
He said that preliminary findings of the UCDA showed that the building, located at No. 86 Nkwere Str., Umuahia, was built with sub-standard materials.
The manager said that he was at the place in response to distress calls from residents over cracks on the wall of the building when the building caved in at about 6.55 p.m.
“The building collapsed in our presence barely five minutes after we ordered all tenants to vacate without further attempt to salvage their belongings.
“This happened at exactly 6.55 p.m. when we heard strong cracking noise and immediately, the entire building went down.
“When this happened, we saw that the rods and other materials for the pillars and beams were sub-standard for a three-storey building.”
The UCDA boss said that his insistence that no tenant should go into the building paid off because no casualty was recorded.
“No fewer than 15 people would have been trapped in the building, if we did not bar the tenants from going in to remove their valuables.
“Thank God that no injury or death was recorded,” he said, commending residents of the area for making distress calls to him.
“When different calls were coming in, I quickly mobilised my people and we went straight to the place.
“When we arrived at the place, we saw that the building had cracked and was sinking.”
He said that the agency had yet to establish contact with the caretaker of the property, said to be an Owerri-based legal practitioner.
He said that the commissioner had issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the caretaker to show up.
Nwokonta said that government might intervene in the evacuation of debris, should the caretaker fail to show up.
He warned that government might revoke the Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O) of the building, if government was left to clear the debris.
“We have brought a contractor to assess the cost of removing the debris. Government and the landowners ought to collaborate to evacuate it.
“But if they fail to show up, government will go ahead to remove it but they stand the risk of losing their C-of-O,” Nwokonta said.
He advised property developers to engage professionals and stop patronising quacks to avert the danger of building collapses.
“If you engaged an expert to develop your property, you have the right to prosecute him, if the building fails or collapses.”
He alleged that quacks always had the tendency to cut corners by using sub-standard materials in order to make extra gain.
“This is the reason we have rampant cases of building collapses in the country,” said Nwokonta.