The high spate of building collapse in Nigeria and the seeming inability of the nation’s policy makers to stem the ugly trend is quite worrisome.
This is more so, considering the huge losses in lives and property each time a building collapsed; besides, there are also the agony, trauma and neglect suffered by the loved ones of those who die in such tragedy.
The nagging question is why the phenomenon of building collapse has proved intractable over the years so much so that over 54 buildings collapsed across the country within a period of four years, according to a report from the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.
In a communiqué issued by the ministry at the end of the 6th meeting of the National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development, with the theme, ‘Building for Inclusion, Growth and Prosperity,’ in Abuja recently, participants put the number of building collapse that occurred in Nigeria between 2012 and 2016 at 54.
The council, made up of commissioners of lands, housing and urban development of all states in Nigeria, directors and the permanent secretaries at the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, ministers of relevant ministries, as well as other qualified stakeholders in the industry, called on the federal and state governments to subsidise the cost of infrastructure in order to make housing affordable in Nigeria.
To address the cases of building collapse in Nigeria, the council resolved that the Nigerian Society of Engineers should liaise with the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria to investigate and identify those involved in the 54 building collapse cases.
The council encouraged state governments to appoint only qualified planning professionals to undertake physical planning consultancy and requested all tiers of government to ensure improved budgetary provisions for the preparation of master plans and other categories of physical plans for the development of urban and rural areas across the country.
The council also appealed to states and international organisations for support and collaboration to combat slum as well as undertake proactive measures to promote urban renewal and slum upgrading.”
On its part, Building Collapse Prevention Guild, BCPG, an organisation championing an end to incessant building collapse in the country, has called on state governments in Nigeria to embrace BCPG as a way of reducing the menace of building collapse in the country to the barest minimum.
Spokesperson of the organisation, Otuoke Augustine, commended the state of construction industry in the country which, he said, has improved tremendously from what it used to be in the past, judging from the quality of construction, the quality of technology deployed and the quality of professionals now being used, many of whom are well trained and very experienced.
He said in spite of this significant improvement, there have been attendant problems which can be referred to as natural challenges that go with development. Some of these problems are quacks in the industry playing crucial, vital and sensitive roles that ordinarily should be played by professionals in the industry.
On challenging issues of building collapse across the country, he said government at state level is not playing its role adequately in ensuring effective control and sanity in the industry. He said BCPG’s operations in Lagos state have been very effective because of the willingness of the state government to embrace the body as partners to find solution to the rampant incidents of building collapse in the state and generally improve the lot of the industry in the state.
He pointed out that over the years, BCPG has recorded a lot of success, disclosing that one of such achievements is that it has assisted in training artisans by way of organising workshops, training and seminars for artisans in the industry to ensure safety and adherence to building standards.
The second achievement, according to him, is that BCPG has been carrying out enlightenment programme on vital issues in the industry such as issues of regulation, policies as it affects the industry in general, adding that the organisation has been sensitising the government at various levels and relevant regulatory agencies as whistle-blower to discover distressed buildings in order to avert catastrophic consequences in the building industry.
“Specifically, the recent building collapse in Rivers state could have been averted if things were done properly and professionally. Buildings don’t collapse by accident; basic and necessary things are usually done wrongly, and by the wrong people to necessitate and facilitate a building to collapse.
“This starts from the inception of a project which is procurement of building permit, construction by qualified and certified professionals, adherence of these professionals to quality and standard of construction methodology as demanded by the project type, use of standard and quality materials as well as regulatory control by appropriate control agencies to ensure compliance.”
While we commend the collaborative efforts of the various stakeholders in the building industry to curb the high incidence of building collapse in the country it is pertinent to underscore the urgent need to strengthen the nation’s legal frameworks as well regulatory machinery in order to achieve the desired objective of ending building collapse in the country.