Editorial: In Port Harcourt, humanity died

Today is the tenth day that a 7-storey building collapsed at Woji road in the GRA part of Port Harcourt. A yet to be identified number of persons were buried under the rubble of the collapsed structure with little done by both the government and the masses to save them.

Official government figures say 38 persons were rescued alive with 7 extra corpses retrieved from the site. Victims’ relations say a fraction of that number were actually rescued. Workers at the site say over 20 more are trapped under, perhaps dead.

But who do we blame?

The building collapse happened on a day that they were supposed to pay workers at the site. A whole lot of persons converged to receive their pay and the structure fell on them.

The government said it has set up a commission of enquiry to investigate events that led to the collapse, thereby putting the cart before the horse. This is at a time that the commissioner for urban development and physical planning, Reason Onyia, elected to step down, having admitted that he approved the extension of the building from 5 to 7-storey in September 2018. He said that he approved the extension because the building’s documents were missing. But does one go about carrying out a kidney transplant when the tools are not there?

What a sincere government should have done was to be swift with the rescue efforts, ensure that within two to three days, those trapped under those concrete walls are rescued and reunited with their families before the commission of enquiry is set up to unravel the recklessness behind the approval of the structure. The building plan was also said to be missing. That did not happen.

While our fellow compatriots were begging to be rescued, the town went into a political frenzy at a time the people should have stood in protest and call for help on the part of the federal government or other international bodies to send in expatriates who would help with the speedy evacuation of those under the concrete walls.

It happened in Thailand when a football team and their coach were trapped in a cave. It made international headlines, thereby putting the government on its toes. But in our case, there was a blackout in everything, including empathy.

We will remember those who lost their lives because those paid with their taxes to work refused to do their job. We will also remember them as people whom our collective silence failed at their very time of need. In Port Harcourt, there was a media blackout, humanity died and was buried.


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