The body of Rabiu Hussaini Dogon-Driver’s six-year-old daughter, Hajara, was the first to be removed from the rubble of the collapsed one storey building housing a school in Bukuru, Jos South LGA of Plateau State on Sunday. The distraught father who lives not far from the Abu Naima School said, “Hajara brought me water to drink around 4pm and after that I told her to join her four siblings to go to the Islamiyya, but it was my last moment with her.”
Rabiu said he had gone to visit a friend when he saw people rushing to the area and was told that the school where his four children received Islamic lectures had collapsed.
“I rushed there and found many people trying to rescue children from the rubble but I could not find my kids, later I found the oldest and a few minutes later the other one was also found unhurt. By evening, all my children except Hajara were safe and I knew in my heart that she was no more, I knew she was dead”, he added.
Though Hajara was removed first, it was not until 8pm that her parents discovered her corpse at a nearby hospital.
“My relatives had gone round hospitals in Jos city but could not find her until we went into a nearby clinic and on sighting her toes, because she was covered in dust, one of our relatives identified her and she was buried this morning (Monday),” he said.
Muhammadu Danyaya said three of his sons were in the school when the building collapsed. One died while another sustained injuries.
“They were not supposed to go to school that day because they had been chased away for school fees but that morning, the principal saw me and asked me to send them to school and I did,” Danyaya said.
His eight-year-old son, Musa, died in the rubble while another, who was 11 years sustained injuries. “I heard a loud sound and saw the dust but I didn’t know it was at the school until I saw people running towards the area. Thank God I got there in time to rescue my two other sons but I was too late for the other one because he was buried in the rubble for about two and half hours,” he said.
“I found my oldest son in the rubble, his legs were trapped. We were able to use a shovel to rescue him. My youngest was still on another part of the first floor of the building and as that part was crumbling, he jumped and I was able to grab him,” he added.
Members of the community who chatted in groups yesterday said there had been complaints in the past to the school proprietor on cracks noticed in the building but he did not budge.
Meanwhile, six people have been confirmed dead while 25 others are presently receiving treatment at the Plateau Specialist Hospital.
Governor Simon Lalong who visited the scene yesterday lamented the loss of lives and assured that all agencies of government saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that all public buildings are fit for use would henceforth move into action.
Lalong, who sympathised with parents of the deceased and the Bukuru community, said a committee would be set up to investigate the incident. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said yesterday at the scene that rescue operation had ended. It confirmed the death of six persons, including a female teacher. NEMA Assistant Chief Planning Officer for North Central, Mohammed Suleiman, said among the hospitalised were 21 females and three males.
The Secretary, Bukuru Elders Committee, Alh. Baba Bala Mohammed, speaking on behalf of the community, said though reports indicated that the school structure was sub-standard, members were forced to send their children there because there was no alternative.
“The PSUBEB nursery and primary school was closed by the Jonah Jang administration in 2008. We made appeals, wrote letters and the community even offered to provide teachers, but the government has still not reopened the school. That is why parents send their children to such places,” he said.