Trading Blame

News Introduction: 
Authorities of the Navy Holdings Limited and families of victims of a collapsed building in Gwarinpa, Abuja trade words over compensation of the families of the deceased and the injured. - By Chris Onokpegu

Nearly two months after they were crushed in the rubble at 1st Avenue in Gwarinpa, controversy has continued to trail their death. Sa’adu Ila Daura, Ahmadu Lawani and Shittu Sani who were allegedly hired to help pull down the building said to belong to Navy Holdings Limited died when the three storey building collapsed on them on January 28 this year. Five other persons sustained injuries in the disaster.
The death of the trio has evoked anger from a cross section of the society who decried the crude manner adopted by the engineer to pull down the building. The families of the deceased are also crying blue murder and neglect by the navy. 
In a press release dated March 9 and signed by one Abdussamadu Usman “uncle to Sa’adu Ila Daura (deceased) for himself and on behalf of the family members of all the deceased persons,” the people accused the authorities of the Nigerian Navy and the chief executive officer, CEO, of Navy Holdings, Rear Admiral Itunu Hotonu of “gross insensitivity and breathtaking contempt towards the feelings and plight of the members of the families of the deceased persons and the injured. We are shocked that Rear Admiral Itunu Hotonu, whom we know as a mother would so recklessly threat us and the injured persons with brazen ignominity (sic).” The bereaved families said that they had waited patiently for comforting reactions from the Nigerian Navy since the incident occurred. They claimed that neither Rear Admiral Hotonu, the authorities of the Nigerian Navy nor its director of information, Commodore Kabiru Aliyu who they accused of initially trying to cover up the death, has visited the families of the deceased to commiserate with them while those injured “have been left to their own design,” noting that “in Nigeria, even when you kill someone’s goat mistakenly, you seek out the owner and make amends.”
Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed had, at the time the accident occurred promised to probe the cause of the collapse. The bereaved families said they were still waiting for the setting up of the probe panel as promised by the minister. They are therefore calling on the attorney general and minister of justice to prosecute Rear Admiral Hotonu for culpable homicide and the Chief of Naval Staff to initiate disciplinary action against her.  
One HN Ogoli-Egbune who appears to be lawyer of the deceased families in a telephone interview with this magazine, threatened court action against the owners of the building for neglecting the families since the incident occurred. He claimed that the victims negotiated for N110, 000 to manually pull down the building but collected only N35, 000 before the accident happened. Ogoli-Egbune said the outstanding amount was yet to be settled let alone paying compensation to the family for the loss.
But the navy has said there is no iota of truth in the claim. The CEO of Navy Holdings Limited, Rear Admiral Hotonu told this magazine that she took over the welfare of the victims on humanitarian grounds even though she did not have a direct contract with them. The contract to demolish the building was said to have been awarded to one Engineer Leo who later hired the victims to execute the job. She presented some documents as evidence that those injured were given adequate treatment. 
Investigations showed that some of the victims were taken to Julius Berger Clinic in Abuja for treatment. Defence Headquarters, DHQ Hospital while the others were taken to the intensive care unit, ICU of the National Hospital, Abuja. Rear Admiral Hotonu said she paid N80, 000 cash for first aid treatment and other miscellaneous expenses immediately the accident occurred. The sum of N609, 600 was paid to Julius Berger by Navy Holdings for medical treatment offered to the victims and N200, 000 to DHQ for patients treated in its hospital. The CEO said another N200, 000 was paid to National Hospital, Abuja for patients in its intensive care unit, ICU. Some of the treatments included surgery, anaesthesia, x-rays, drugs and infusions, laboratory investigations, two pints of blood for transfusion, x-matching, catheter, haemostypic and epigram and transport intubated.
Hotonu also said she visited the patients in the hospitals and as well sent her nurse to visit the various hospitals on daily basis to ensure that the victims were given adequate treatment and denied knowledge of N110, 000 contract sum.
A source told this magazine that families of the victims were asking for N600 million as compensation.


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