Two of the injured survivors rescued at the site later died in the hospital.
The victims were all construction workers at the site, it was learnt.
The collapse of the four-storey building occurrred around 8.30am as work commenced at the site.
The spokesperson for the National Emergency Management Agency in the South West, Mr. Ibrahim Farinloye, told one of our correspondents that 16 construction workers in the building were rescued alive, while an injured worker died on the way to the hospital.
One of our correspondents at the scene later learnt that another worker died, bringing death toll in the collapse to two.
The construction workers were said to have reported for duty before tragedy struck on Friday.
Governor Ibikunle Amosun, who got to the collapse site at about 9am expressed sadness and took responsibility for the tragedy.
He also confirmed that the 16 persons, who reported at the site in the morning had been accounted for.
Amosun, however, insisted that rescue operation would continue until it got to ground floor.
He gave the assurance that investigations would be conducted into the cause of the building collapse.
According to him, the government has about 20 more buildings around the site. He assured that an integrity test would be conducted on all of them to ascertain their structural viability.
He said, “I take full responsibility of what happened here, not even the Commissioner for Works can take the responsibility because when the glory comes we share it together but if anything goes wrong, I take the blame. But we are going to get to the root of the matter”.
“We can’t leave this place the way it is, because it is better for us to act under caution. We are not that comfortable with the way this place is and that is why we have to get to the ground-zero. We will get there before we leave the site.
“We are going to find out the cause of the collapse. When you look at this building particularly, you will discover that the topography of this side of the building is lower and that is why we have the basement here.
“We didn’t pray for this but we are going to double-check other state projects to determine their structural viability. We are very sad about the fact that we lost lives.”
He had yet to leave around 5pm.
He was there monitoring the rescue operations, with his deputy, Mrs Yetunde Onanuga, the Speaker, state House of Assembly, Suraj Adekunbi, and almost all the members of the state executive council.
We could have been in mortuary by now – Survivors
In the midst of the tragedy, some survivors still have a lot to be thankful for.
Five of them are lying in a state government hospital undergoing treatment at the time of filing this story with varying degrees of injuries.
One of the victims, whose name was given as Noimot Sikiru, suffered severe head injury and she reportedly died while being conveyed to the General Hospital at Ijaiye area of Abeokuta.
The identity of the second victim could not be ascertained as of the time of filing this report. He was said to have been rushed to the theatre for an emergency surgery but died around 6.20pm.
One of the survivors, 20-year-old Seun Afolabi, while receiving treatment in the hospital, writhing in pain, said he was just an apprentice on the site, there was no single sign of the calamity that was about to befall those working at the site before the building came down.
“I was on the fourth floor, collecting concrete and stuffing it into the pillars, when the incident occurred. I just noticed the ground shifting and the building suddenly started going down. I went down with the building but I escaped death by the whiskers. I cannot believe I am alive. My last thought was ‘wow, I’m going to die’,” he said.
But Afolabi suffered an injury to his back and legs. He also has a swollen cheek.
“It was a horrible experience. But I cannot stop thanking God. I thought my family would be coming to claim my body in the mortuary,” he said.
He was on drips when our correspondent visited the hospital.
Another victim, Tolu Adewunmi, is a student of Civil Engineering at the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta. He was on an industrial attachment at the site.
He said he was on the same floor with Afolabi, supervising construction work when the building collapsed. He suffered a head injury but doctors said it was not life-threatening.
For the young man too, his survival was a reason to be thankful.
He said, “I am just a student, I don’t know how my parents would have felt if I had died in the building. When the building came down, I could not breathe properly, or wriggle out. I realised I was trapped. That was the point I realised I was under the rubble.
“I tried to calm myself down and continued to pray that help would come. Every second I stayed under the rubble was like forever. I was later rescued and moved to this hospital.”
One of the survivors admitted at the hospital, Mrs. Kehinde Akeem, was writhing in pains when our correspondent visited the hospital.
She was a labourer at the site. In the midst of her agony, she was filled with thanks to God.
She said, “It is only by miracle that I survived the building collapse. I really thank God I am not in a mortuary by now. Up till now, I cannot explain how the building collapsed. All I could remember was that I found myself under the rubble, and later found myself in the hospital. I am alive right now due to God’s grace.”
A housewife, Mrs. Oluga Oluwalose, who was also one of the survivors, said she became a labourer at the site just to make ends meet.
“I now understand today when people pray that may we never find what will eat us while we are looking for what to eat. I would never forget this bad experience but I would continue to give God thanks for saving me from the mortuary,” she said.
Luckily, only 16 construction workers were said to have reported for duty that morning before tragedy struck.
Most of those who escaped unhurt were the workers, who were on the ground floor mixing concrete and labourers carrying the mixed concrete to the fourth floor.
But those who were wounded were the builders working on the floor or labourers, who had reached the floor.
Angry residents, who besieged the scene as soon as the building collapsed, were said to have descended on the site engineer, and beat him up. Luckily he was able to escape.
The arrival of the state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, saved the situation as the angry mob, who had gathered were dispersed by security men who had converged on the scene.
Men and equipment of the state Fire Service as well as officials of the state and NEMA were mobilised to the scene to carry out rescue operations which still went on till late on Friday.
Farinloye said, there was need to ensure that no more victim was under the rubble.
The board displayed at the site has names of three local contractors as those handling the shopping complex project.
The contractors are: Validus Construction Services Limited, James Town Development and Hakmode Ventures Limited.
One of the labourers at the site, Mrs. Rhoda Kazeem, said they are paid between N2,000 and N4,000 per day, depending on the nature of job done.
She said, “If we only carry concrete mix, we were paid N2,000 daily, but if we carry the concrete mix for casting job, we earn up to N4,000.”