Owner’s body is found in Nigerian tower collapse that killed dozens

DAKAR, Senegal — The owner of a luxury apartment tower that collapsed this week in Nigeria’s largest city was found dead in the rubble late Thursday as the number of bodies recovered from the scene rose to 43, local officials said.

Olufemi Osibona, managing director of the Nigerian development firm Fourscore Homes, had been inside the 21-story building when it crumbled Monday, killing and trapping dozens in the commercial capital, Lagos.

The high-rise in the upscale Ikoyi neighborhood, which had been under construction for nearly three years, is the latest to fall in the metropolis of some 15 million residents, sparking outrage over a climate of shaky oversight and faulty materials.

Rescuers have pulled nine survivors out of the wreckage so far, the National Emergency Management Agency of Nigeria said, but no one has emerged alive since Tuesday.

Friends of Osibona identified his body at the site, according to a Lagos building official and a rescue team member, who said they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly. Dele Momodu, a Nigerian magazine publisher known to be close to the developer, according to Nigerian media, posted a farewell on Instagram: “Good night, my very dear friend and brother.”

Among the dead were construction workers and the owner’s assistant. Video showed one man asking the teams to search for his brother as he gathered relatives at the scene.

Officials said they were unsure how many people were in the building when it came down. Witnesses estimated dozens. According to Lagos’ state government, it had suspended the chief architect. It also opened an inquiry into the cause of the catastrophe. Nigeria’s president promised change.

But before the building crumbled, regulators and consultants had flagged warning signs. The government had ordered construction on the site to halt for about four months, citing structural “anomalies,” Lagos state deputy governor Kadri Obafemi Hamzat told local media.

He did not clarify why work was allowed to resume recently.

In February 2020, an engineering firm withdrew from the project in a letter to Osibona, saying it could guarantee only the safety of the first three floors, according to text reviewed by The Washington Post.

Witnesses shared accounts on social media of feeling the ground shake. The photos showed concrete, dust and metal in a mountain.

“There has been a sad history of building collapses in Lagos,” said Kabir Adamu, head of a risk consulting firm in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.

Two years ago, a Lagos building where children attended school gave way, killing 20 people. In 2016, nearly three dozen died when a tower under construction fell apart. And in 2013, a three-story structure toppled in the city, killing seven.

Weak or fake concrete jeopardizes projects in the city, Adamu said, as well as a lack of follow-up inspections after buildings are approved. He also said that corruption has played a part in the city’s problems. Developers have been known to take bribes to get permits.

The building that fell Monday was named 360 Degrees, according to an advertisement uncovered by Sahara Reporters — a residence that promised “luxury in the sky.”

It was supposed to open next year, according to the promotion. The units were sold for over $1 million.

Ismail Alfa in Maiduguri contributed to this report.

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