Tears flowed freely from her eye as she tried to tell her story to newsmen.
Mrs. Suliat Kaffo, 46, has recounted how her 49-year-old husband Babatunde, who died in the building that collapsed on Carrera Street in Lagos Island on Tuesday, was only just a few weeks earlier planning for his 50th birthday.
The mother of three remained inconsolable as she again thought even if he were to escape, his ill health was a barrier, thus, he was crushed to death.Her major concern now was how to explain to her kids their father was dead.
“They keep asking the whereabouts of their father. One of them has been saying I should take him to his dad,” she said amidst tears.
She continued, “My children keep asking for their father. They are aged 12, 10 and five respectively, but they all stood vigilant and were praying that their father should be brought out alive, but he didn’t make it. Till now, I’m grateful my children went for lesson that day, else, they would have been with him because he was fond of them. What would have become of me?”
In a soft tone, she recounted the tragic incident also mentioning how her late husband had been planning his 50th birthday party.
“The previous night; that was between Monday night and Tuesday morning, in the midnight, I woke up around 2am to give him his drugs and ensure he was okay, because he was sick. Shortly after, I was about going back to bed, I heard rubbles and the house shook.
“All of us woke up, because that was the first time such was happening. We started praying and then we went back to sleep. It was later we got to know that people on the ground floor also felt it.”
“On the day of the incident, which was the following morning, I was in the shop, which is not far from the house. Given that he was sick, I went home to prepare food for him around 12pm. He asked after his children and I told him they had gone for extra lesson.
“I went to pray, and after that, I wanted to go and have my bath upstairs, but my younger sister who was around advised me to finish cooking before I did that, so I stayed. Shortly after, my first child came back from lesson and said he was hungry, so I told him to go and buy gas. As he left, few metres away, the building came down. It happened at exactly 1:37pm.”
She said the house had shown signs of dilapidation and that the situation got worse when a mini-mast was installed on the pent house. Thus, the building caved in two weeks after.
“He shouldn’t have died, because he fought for the renovation of that house. If he were alive, we would have a better story to share, but now he’s gone. The matter was previously in court and the court ruled that they should renovate the house, but no major renovation was done.
“When my husband saw that nothing significant was done, he went to report at the Lagos Island East Local Government Area. They promised to come and shut the house because it was evident that the house was distressed but they never came.
“In spite of the state of the building, the representative of the developer, Mr. Balogun aka Coaster, brought people who installed the mini-mast on the building. Now that the tragedy happened, we learnt he has run to Ghana and his number is no longer available.”
“When they began erecting the supporting base for the mini-mast, they lied that it was to erect borehole. People went to complain to the lawyer in charge of the property, but he told them to calm down. They even brought a white man. It collapsed just two weeks after they finished the installation. If government does nothing about this incident, by arresting and prosecuting Coaster, my husband would die in vain.”
Suliat recalled how her husband and his brother who had come to visit were found holding hands under the rubbles.
“If government fails to act, my husband would rise to fight for himself,” she added.
“As I’m speaking to you, all the clothes I’m putting on were donations from people. Same thing for my children,” she added.
“My husband was patiently waiting for the agreement to lapse next year so he could manage the property very well. We were planning his 50th birthday. We never knew he wouldn’t be alive to celebrate it. The children have been crying and we have not been able to sleep.”