Two weeks ago, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) experienced another incident of building collapse, leading to the death of three persons, while several others sustained degrees of injuries. DAVID ADUGE-ANI writes on the incident and the issue of abandoned buildings in the territory.
Recently, the FCT department of development control had reasons to warn owners of abandoned structures in Abuja to complete them or risk demolition. Deputy Director, building inspectorate division of the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), who disclosed this to newsmen, added that the threat is based on the dangers posed by abandoned structures scattered in various parts of the territory. According to recent statistics, it is estimated that there are about 436 abandoned buildings in the Federal Capital City (FC) alone.
It was gathered that these abandoned buildings have become nuisances to neighbours and even passersby, because apart from the risk of collapsing and injuring people, some them have been converted into residential houses, hotels, clubs and drinking joints. A fortnight ago, a three-storey shopping complex, under construction, in Jabi district of FCT collapsed, killing three persons, while others sustained various degrees of injuries.
Our reporter gathered that the building had been abandoned for over 15 years by the owner who recently mobilised workers to continue the construction of the structure. In its response to the incident, the Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC), an arm of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), said that it would soon commence investigation to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the three-storey building in Jabi district.
Speaking after touring the site of the collapsed building, the coordinator of AMMC, Tpl Umar Shuaibu, explained that the outcome of the investigation would be made public, while necessary measures would also be taken to prevent future occurrences. “We are going to commence our investigation now and where there is any lapse, you are going to be informed and we are going to take adequate measures in order to prevent future occurrence.” Shuaibu however, advised the general public to stay away from the site of the collapsed building, warning that security agencies have been instructed to arrest those who flout the directive. He continued: “What happened is an unfortunate incident.
This incident of building collapse happens all over the world not only in Nigeria. No matter how perfect you think you are, it is only God that is perfect. But there is still room for improvement.” Speaking with LEADERSHIP Friday few weeks before the incident, the director, department of development control, Mukhtar Usman Galadima, had disclosed that the department would soon commence massive integrity tests on buildings in parts of the FCT to ascertain their integrity status.
Speaking during the demolition of a three-storey building under construction, at 3rd Avenue in Gwarinpa district, Galadima expressed the fear that many buildings, both completed and under construction, in the FCT have integrity questions. “In fact, as we speak, the department has decided to embark on massive integrity tests on buildings. This is because we have observed that a lot of buildings in the FCT lack integrity to the point that even when you stand outside such buildings, you can see that their integrity is questionable.” Galadima disclosed that the exercise would be conducted in collaboration with Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria (COREN) and other agencies to reduce likely cases of building collapse in the FCT.
He also advised developers in the FCT to always engage real professionals, not quacks, in their designs and to obtain their development permits before commencing constructions. In an interview, a fellow of Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Engr Yakubu Ali Garba, revealed that the Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria (COREN) is seeking an approval from the national assembly and other relevant government agencies to enable it arrest and prosecute non professionals in building construction in the Nigeria.
Garba disclosed that the council had sent a bill to the national assembly to allow COREN prosecute non-engineers involved in building construction, adding that the council has equally signed a MoU with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) to arrest and prosecute nonprofessional involved in building construction.
He noted that the act, establishing COREN, mandates it to penalise members, involved in unprofessional duties, adding that the act also allows the council to arrest or prosecute quacks, infiltrating the profession. Garba, who is also a member, engineering regulatory and monitoring committee, Abuja inspectorate, also observed that many developers prefer to use quacks in their building constructions and warned that buildings would continue to collapse, as long as Nigerians don’t adhere to the use of professionals in building constructions.
“Many Nigerians don’t even know how to erect buildings. They prefer to engage quacks in their building projects. We have a lot of engineers roaming the streets, without jobs. We believe that the quacks are more concerned with the money they are getting and not doing the job.” Reacting to the incident, the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON), called for the arrest and prosecution of those who are directly involved in the Jabi building collapse.
ARCON president, Arc (Sir) Dipo Ajayi, who made the call, observed that the incident clearly shows that developers and various institutions, hire unregistered persons posing to be architects/consultants and foreigners to carry out projects in Nigeria thereby subjecting the unsuspecting public to great risk of loss of life and property.
Ajayi stated that in order to mitigate such an incident, the council has set up the ARCON Projects Registration Number (APRN) system, which is a mandatory registration number to be issued to all architects practising in Nigeria, for each of their projects, to certify that these projects are designed, handled and executed by Nigerian citizens fully registered to practice in Nigeria. He explained that APRN is intended to combat the scourge of building failure and collapse through the elimination of quackery, adding that it would also ensure that only fully registered and financially current architects/ architectural firms prepare, produce and submit designs for planning/implementation approval and receive such approvals when they are given.
The ARCON president also stated that architects and architectural firms, who are registered with the council, are to submit architectural building plans for approval/ implementation and are responsible for the supervision of their designs. Ajayi disclosed that the council would soon set up an enforcement and compliance unit, to ensure that only registered architects handle architectural projects in the Federal Republic of Nigeria in consonance with the extant laws.
The measures, according to him, are meant to complement the content and spirit of the National Building Codes, which stipulates that only professionals with the requisite knowledge and expertise of the building process are engaged to carry out building projects. He added, in a statement, that the council is equally working in concert with other interest groups to get the built environment properly policed to avoid or reduce to the barest minimum, the issue of building collapse and its attendant effect on the developer and the national psyche.