Building Collapse– Chizoba Precious Okeke, 38, was from Amauzari in Isiala Mbano Local Government of Imo State but got married in 2007 to Mr. Anthony Okeke, a Mbaise man, also from Imo State. The couple with their five children (one boy and four girls) reside at 26 Ukachi Street, off Port Harcourt Road, Aba, Abia State.
Her children’s ages range from one to 11 years. Chizoba used to prepare local beverage drinks called Zobo and Soya milk, which she sold around town in a pushcart. Automatically, the lady became the breadwinner of the family and her parents when her husband who was in the business of sewing car cover seats was thrown out of job and the building which housed his workshop on Weeks Road was pulled down as the state government was reconstructing the road.
On Friday, April 6, Chizoba had prepared her beverage drinks like any other day and went out to hawk them; unlike any other day, she did not come back alive. According to her younger brother, Chinonso Maraizu Samuel, the elder sister had on that day prepared her drinks and as usual, went out to sell them. She took the drinks in her pushcart to Port Harcourt Road and walked across to 160 of the same road to sell some of her drinks to people who were under a half-pulled down three-storey building when the unexpected happened.
Death at midday
In an effort by the Abia State government to expand the Port Harcourt Road, some buildings were being pulled down. One of the buildings being pulled down was a multi-storey, which the contractor handling the project pulled down the pillars of the house and left it like that, without danger warning and that became a trap that cut down Chizoba’s life at her prime.
Narrating how the incident happened, Chizoba’s younger brother, Chinonso said: “My sister had as usual prepared her local drinks and went to the half pulled down house to sell her products to some people under the building. But as the Caterpillar was pulling down the next house, the vibration caused the building under which my sister went to sell the drinks to start giving in. As this was happening, some people who stood afar beckoned on those under the building to run for dear life.”
But just like a tale of moonlight, while others ran for safety, Chizoba was the only one trapped to death.
Chinonso painfully gives a clearer picture of how his sister died: “When the building was giving in, other people under it ran in sideways direction, but my sister ran straight to cross the road towards where she kept her pushcart, with which she carried her goods around; and part of the building fell on her and she died instantly.”
Not only that the lady died, but her death was pathetic as the falling debris cut off one of her legs and shattered the other. “When I came to the scene, I did not see one of her legs and I insisted that the two legs must be complete before I carry her to the mortuary. People helped me to find the leg that was chopped off”, her brother disclosed.
When Sunday Sun visited the scene of the incident, John Igu, one of those who saw it all, recalled what happened. “All of us were under the building when suddenly some people who were on the other side of road noticed it was falling down gradually alerted us. We ran sideways, but the woman that died because of the goods she packed in the opposite direction ran towards that end and part of the structure collapsed on her and she died instantly.”
Igu said there was no danger sign placed on the building by the contracting firm, pointing out that if there was any warning sign, people couldn’t have gathered under the building the way they did before the incident.
Aged parents terrified
Chizoba’s aged parents appear the most hit over her tragic death. Chinonso disclosed that being the breadwinner, her late sister had visited their parents in the village sometime last month and promised to come back on Saturday, April 7, with their grandchildren so that they would stay with them before coming back to the city. To the old couple, the date was one they could not afford to wait for long.
But fate in its crude wickedness, a day before their joy could be made manifest truncated their high hopes with the bizarre news of the death of their daughter. As expected, the news of Chizoba’s death had a telling effect on her parents.
Hear Chinonso: “When our father heard about the death of my sister; he became unconscious and was rushed to the hospital. The irony was that my late sister visited home last month and promised our parents she was going to bring her children to spend some time with them. She was to take her children to our parents on Saturday, but she died on Friday and that is why her death is so painful. She has five children and I really don’t know how this situation can be handled. The children also rushed to the scene, but were taken away by sympathizers. As I speak with you, my old mother is still expecting her back in the village because she promised to come and see her as usual.”
The fate of her children
As Chizoba died leaving behind her husband, five children, aged parents and other relations, Chinonso said: “This is why I am appealing to the state government, good spirited individuals, corporate bodies and even the contractor handling the project to assist in training the five children my sister left behind since her husband is jobless now. My late sister was the breadwinner of both her husband’s and our own families. Because I equally lost my own job some years back and she was the one that was sustaining me.”
Although the reporter could not get the site manager of the firm demolishing the buildings to react on the incident, however, one of the workers who craved anonymity said they only pulled down parts of the building that encroached on the road for the owner to remodel it after, instead of pulling it down completely.
He said the company did not put any danger sign on the building because they were still working within the area, adding that they would have done that if they had moved to another area.
The state government had through the Commissioner of Information, Mr. John Okiyi Kalu released a statement, sympathizing with the family, urging people to stay away from construction sites.
However, most people said that as the contractor failed to do what was expected of it to warn of danger, the government that gave out the contract should equally be held responsible, saying that the government should, therefore, do something more to help the family of the diseased.
Credit: The Sun