At the entrance of Hyderi Manzil, a four-storey building in a congested southern Mumbai neighbourhood, was a notice painted in white: “If the building collapse, the trust will not be responsible for loss of life.”
Arshi Syed, 34, points to one of the many holes in the walls of the corridor, outside her one-room house.
“The structure is so weak, rats have eaten into it,” she said. “My family and I stay awake at night, especially during the monsoons, in case the building is ready to fall.”
But despite the risks, along with 21 families, Syed continues to live in the building in Dongri, a predominantly Muslim locality.
Over the past five years, 234 people have lost their lives while 840 have been injured due to building collapses across Mumbai.
A recent report by IndiaSpend, a non-profit organisation tracking data across India revealed that there are 14,207 buildings that are vulnerable to collapse in the city.
Like Hyderi Manzil, they are more than 50 years old and could fall due to age-related instability and a lack of maintenance.
“Residents don’t want to leave,” said Vaishali Gadpale, spokesperson or the Maharashtra Housing And Area Development Authority (MHADA), the civic body that manages the maintenance and redevelopment of vulnerable buildings. “They fear that it will take a long time before they can return to their homes if they are evicted, or they will never return at all.”
MHADA provides “transit camps” or alternative accommodation to residents of dilapidated buildings, which are known as “cess properties”.
While the organisation collects a tax from the landlord to upkeep the building, several people Al Jazeera interviewed said they had not benefitted.
A notice outside Hyderi Manzil says the building is unsafe to live in, calling on tenants to evacuate immediately [Rashi Arora/Al Jazeera]
M V Damani, a 70-year-old resident of Kesarbai 25C, whose building in Dongri was declared dangerous in 2017, is still waiting to be assigned to a camp.
“I have sent my application to 14 different branches of MHADA so they can provide me with all the options of accommodation they have for me. I have followed up with several officials over several months,” says Damani a retired chemical engineer and now a right-to-information (RTI) activist. “Still I have received no response.”
He described a similar sense apathy among public bodies when most of the tenants in his building found unauthorised people occupying their transit camp – a common practice according to residents of vulnerable properties.
“MHADA had no procedure on how to solve this problem,” said Damani, who helped his neighbours file complaints. “After several attempts, when there was no action by civic authorities, people were tired. Those who could afford it rented houses elsewhere and others went to live with relatives. Many even chose not to apply for transit camps because they had seen how others had suffered.”
Meanwhile, there are no signs of redevelopment on Damani’s building. It is decaying with locks on all its homes, inhabited by stray dogs and cats.
Syed fears her building will end up in a similar state.
“Many residents in our building left their homes hoping that in time the building would be reconstructed,” she said. “But over 10 years have passed and nothing has changed. Those tenants have returned, having wasted rent money elsewhere, to the same broken homes. So what is the point in me leaving too?”
Lack of funds, will to redevelop
To avoid being rendered homeless in a city with soaring real-estate prices, people living in vulnerable properties, who usually come from low-income communities, procure a no-objection certificate, or NOC, from MHADA – according to which residents agree to undertake the redevelopment of the building themselves.
But a lack of funds make building a safe home challenging.
Under the city’s restrictive rent control acts, rent of all buildings constructed before 1965 has been frozen at pre-1965 rates, with some held at pre-1940 levels.
This means that monthly rents can be as low as 100-300 Indian rupees ($1.40-$4.2), say residents.
The site of the building Kesarbai 25B in Dongri, southern Mumbai, which collapsed in June [Rashi Arora/Al Jazeera]
Landlords then become reluctant to fund overhauling costs of the buildings themselves.
“We aren’t asking for free redevelopment,” said Syed, whose father is an embroiderer. “My family and others in the building are willing to bear 40 to 50 percent of the costs but the rest needs to be funded by the government or the building trustees. We cannot afford it.”
Then, there are the run-down buildings that escape civic intervention completely.
Early this year, Damani contacted the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (BMC) for the Unique Identification Number (UID) of Kesarbai 25B – a building adjacent to his house which was in a similar state of dilapidation.
When Damani noticed that both wings of Kesarbai had the same EID number, despite being two separate structures, he raised the issue with the authorities. He said he was ignored once again.
Later in June, Kesarbai 25B collapsed, killing 14 people and injuring nine others. It was later identified as an unauthorised building and the BMC responsible for tracking down illegal structures was held accountable.
“They [the BMC] had no record of Kesarbai 25B,” said Damani. “So an eviction notice never reached the building that collapsed.”
There are 14,207 buildings that could collapse in Mumbai, according to reports [Rashi Arora/Al Jazeera]
Shakeel Ahmed Sheikh, an activist, said there are hundreds of illegal structures at risk of collapse around Dongri, with unauthorised floors and terrace rooms built on top of several dilapidated buildings.
Sheikh believes the government should spearhead “cluster development” – a scheme which would allow MHADA to redevelop clusters or entire neighbourhoods of ramshackle buildings together.
This scale, he said, would attract reliable developers to invest, as many stay away due to the logistical complications of developing old low-rise buildings which are barely 304-365 square-metres (1,000-1,200 square-feet).
“The problem is there is no political willpower to implement such policies,” said Sheikh.
Back in her crumbling building, Syed reflects on her childhood home.
“We are staying here with faith in God,” she said. “We would leave immediately if only someone would take responsibility for developing the building. We are just waiting for this assurance.”
Two weeks after it was constituted, the five- man panel set up by the Lagos State Government to investigate the cause of the collapse of building at 63 Massey Street, Ita Faji, Lagos Island has submitted its report with far reaching findings and revelations.
The panel chaired by a former Permanent Secretary in the state, Mr. Wasiu Olokunola, and made up of professionals in the private sector and built environment, was inaugurated by the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Rotimi Ogunleye on March 19.
Submitting its findings and recommendations last week, the Chairman, Wasiu Olokunola, an engineer, said forensic tests were conducted during the probe, and it was discovered that the ill-fated building was not two or three-storeyed, but a five-storey building.
Although, he was silent on other findings and recommendations in the panel’s report, during the closed door presentation, The Guardian learnt that some of the recommendations were not too different from the recommendations of the previous tribunal set up to investigate similar building collapse by the last administration.
Sources told The Guardian that perhaps the only difference is that the report was updated with fresh facts using new technology.“The recommendations were basically the same and expressed hope that the government will muster the political will to implement.”
In the previous tribunal chaired by a former chairman of Lagos branch of Nigeria Institute of Architects, Mrs. Abimbola Ajayi, the tribunal said, the building collapse was a result of structural failure, even though not all structural failures result in collapse.
According to the tribunal, the provisions of the laws regulating the building industry were adequate, however, weak implementation by the relevant government agencies, flagrant abuse and deliberate flouting by the public, crass indiscipline and gross corruption by all and sundry rendered the laws ineffective. Till date, the recommendation is till marked secret and no iota of the recommendations has been implemented, the Guardian learnt.
But sensing the pessimism being expressed by citizens, Ogunleye, who received the report on behalf of the government assured that the report would be studied with a view to implementing its recommendations.He also said the Lagos State Building Control Agency had discovered more distressed buildings across the state, promising that some of them would be pulled down.He stressed that after conducting a non-destructive structural integrity test on the buildings, the ones which could be fixed through structural re-engineering works would be spared.
Ogunleye urged members of the public not to hesitate to notify the state of any suspected weak building in their neighbourhood.
The commissioner, while giving details of the discovered distressed buildings, said that 136 buildings were identified as distressed in Lagos Island division alone, while 60 weak structures were detected in Ikeja division. Ogunleye added that during the enumeration carried out by Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) 33 distressed buildings were uncovered in Badagry division while 29 of such were discovered in Ikorodu division and 25 weak buildings in Epe division.
The commissioner, however, urged owners of such buildings to urgently come for the demolition approval before their structures will cave in.
There’s been a spate of building collapses in Lagos, Nigeria. In some cases, people have died. In one instance a building had been marked for demolition at least three times. There are also concerns about hundreds of other buildings in the city. The Conversation Africa’s Moina Spooner spoke to Ndubisi Onwuanyi about this.
How common is this in Lagos? What causes these collapses?
Building collapses in Lagos have become common in recent years. Numbers are hard to come by but a Lagos state of inquiry found that there were at least 135 cases between 2007 and 2013. In my research I found that at least 50 of those happened during the construction phase.
Buildings collapse for various reasons; they can’t all be attributed to the same cause.
Some collapse after they’ve been completed and are in use; some collapse during the construction stage. Collapses during the construction phase are common because of the high rate of urban expansion, new construction and a lack of monitoring.
Most of the buildings that collapse are multi-storey, which suggests problems of soil structure – some buildings may have been built close to a swamp and so the soil is wet – and weak foundations.
Other reasons include the quality of building supervision by builders and officials, design of foundation and structure and poor materials. Developers will sometimes cut corners on the materials they use, refuse to follow due processes and use inadequately skilled and qualified personnel.
While these are all factors, I think the most critical issue is a lack of enforcement by officials. Effective enforcement would detect poor material and faulty designs.
Who is responsible for regulating construction and are they doing a decent job?
The Lagos State Building Control Agency, set up in 2010, is responsible for building regulation. Until 2010, the Development Control Department of the Ministry of Physical Planning was in charge of building regulation.
While failures are preventable, they cannot be entirely eliminated. But the persistence and frequency of collapses in Lagos means that not enough is being done.
In the recent building collapse, where the school was involved, officials say the building was one of many that had been marked as unsafe years before. But no action had been taken.
Among the causes of this delayed action were lawsuits by the building’s owners to prevent its demolition. But this shouldn’t distract from the fact that officials failed to carry out their duty. They are responsible for the identification and removal of distressed buildings to prevent collapse. Officials also failed to enforce building control regulations during the construction phase.
What else can be done?
Lagos has all the appropriate laws. But it needs to adopt the right procedures and see them through.
There’s also a serious governance issue that must be addressed. Building control should be a local government responsibility – but in Nigeria it falls under the state government.
Nigeria currently runs a three-tier federal system made up of federal, state and local governments. As a result of constitutional reforms made between the 1970s and 1990s some of these tiers’ responsibilities were arbitrarily altered. The building control function was transferred from local to state governments.
But state officials are handicapped in enforcing building regulations. They’re located far away, in Ikeja which lies to the north of the state. This means they’re not familiar with residents and local officials or the situation on the ground. And even though there is a representative in each of the various local government councils, they don’t have enough personnel to effectively cover the whole state.
For example in 2015 I found that the agency had fewer than 300 staff to cater to a population of 21 million. In 2017, 200 more were employed, but this is still not enough. Proper monitoring and enforcement becomes an impossible task, particularly when there’s rapid urbanisation.
Building control must be returned to the local governments and they must ensure that they have enough qualified, quality personnel.
In addition to this, regulators must strictly monitor changes in the use of buildings. It’s common to find buildings in Lagos being used for other purposes than that which they were built. This may increase stress on the foundation of buildings. In this recent collapse, the building was not designed as a school.
Lastly, officials must conduct themselves in an ethical and professional way and ensure there’s no political interference in building regulation. Corruption is a major reason for the agency’s ineffectiveness, because officials may be reluctant to arrest or persecute violators or people responsible for collapses.
UMUAHIA-WORRIED by the recent spate of building collapse across the country, especially the one on Lagos Island, that involved school children, where scores of them lost their lives, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu made out last week to visit some schools in the state on an oversight tour.
The visit, SEV learned was for overall assessment of the schools in terms the structure, environment, academic standard, among other qualities, and warned that the Government would clamp down on substandard schools in the State. Ikpeazu insisted that all the schools in the must meet minimum standards.
In particular, warned that schools cannot be allowed to run on flats in the State. He said his government is very serious about the quality of schools and their out puts. Ambode, Martins task Christians on nation building SEV observed that many private schools operate from flats in both Umuahia and Aba and in smaller towns, the environment is worse with thousands of children clamped in small rooms, Ikpeazu also directed private school proprietors to ensure that school their buildings must be solidly constructed with sporting facilities.
He has therefore directed the Ministry of Education to collaborate with Ministries of Science, Land/Planning to ensure that all school buildings in the state have strong foundations and are safe for school children.
According to the Governor, any school that is not good enough for his child cannot be good for others that is why, he said his administration has built four model schools with solar powered e libraries, laboratories, staff quarters, with the aim to create a semblance of an academic environment in the schools.
On security around public and private schools in the state, the governor directed security agencies to ensure the protection of all public schools in order to avoid miscreants using the facilities as hideouts and places for their nefarious activities. He also hinted that the Government would explore the possibility of deploying operatives of the State vigilante group to be permanently stationed in the schools.
The Nigerian Institution of Surveyors has called for the re-certification and regularisation of buildings on Lagos Island.
Mr Adesina Adeleke, Chairman, Lagos Chapter of the Institution, made the call on Tuesday, at a news conference on “Incessant Building Collapse in Lagos State’’ organised by the NIS.
According to Adeleke, almost all the structures within the area were built without the requisite approval plan or due regularisation from the government, and as a result, do not conform to the building specifications and standard of the location.
He urged every owner/developer in the state whose property was not covered by a valid building approval plan to regularise the property and ascertain the structural stability of their buildings.
Adeleke said that the regularisation and re-certification/validation of the buildings were necessary to ensure they conform to the purposes they are being used for and building plan of the locality.
He said, “To prevent recurrence of building collapse, the institution has declared support for the state government’s decision to remove all the defective structures hitherto marked and served the necessary statutory notices.
“In as much as we support the government to remove the earmarked buildings for demolition, we strongly advocate a re-certification process for buildings in designated parts of the state, particularly Lagos Island.
“We discovered there is usually no geo-survey information, and where such information is available, it does not usually conform with the development earmarked for the land.
“As-built survey should form part of the requirements for the re-certification process.
“This is with a view of not just probing the structural integrity of buildings, but also to determine if the information contained in the building approval is adhered to in the development,’’ Adeleke said.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday warned that those who cut corners that resulted in building collapse in the country will face the full wrath of the law.
He gave the warning while receiving the leadership of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to him, the recent building collapse demands urgent adherence to quality standards.
He said “However, the recent tragic incident in Lagos and many others across the country, reminds us of the need to strictly adhere to quality standards when it comes to construction projects.
“Young innocent lives must never be lost due to incompetence and greed. Simply put, no corners must be cut.
“l want to assure you that those responsible for such incidents of professional negligence will feel the full wrath of the law,” he said
Stressing that his administration remain committed to the Change Agenda, he said that the dark days of impunity are gone for good.
He said “As a Government, we remain focused and committed to ensuring we create an inclusive and diversified economy. This simply means National growth must impact the silent majority.
“This is why in the past three years; we focused on key job creating sectors such as Agriculture and Infrastructure Development.
“You will all recall that our Agriculture and Infrastructure programs contributed to our exit from the recession. This is a clear example of how, if we push “inclusive” job creating policies, growth will follow.
“We will remain committed to these and other programs, to ensure the success of our nation is felt by the majority of Nigerians.
“With our significant infrastructure deficit, your sector has the potential and the bandwidth to create impactful jobs across the country. Both urban and rural areas.”
Towards commencing dialogue, he urged them to make formal submission to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing as soon as possible.
“Like you mentioned in your remarks, many of your members are currently working in Government and I am confident we can commence these reforms within the shortest possible time.” he added
The President of NIQS, Obafemi Onashile congratulated the President on his well-deserved re-election as the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“And pray that Allah will continue to grant you good health, the grace and the strength to achieve your good intensions and aspiration for the Nation and to deliver the dividends of democracy to the citizenry.
“Your re-election is indeed a confirmation of the support for your policies on anti-corruption, rule of law, transparency which is magnified in your TSA (Treasury Single Account) Policy which all past administrations shied away from as well as your Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
“Your Excellency, you can count on the NIQS to further push these programmes and much more on your behalf as they are sincere and meaningful for our Country.”
“Your Excellency Sir, we are here on a visit, not to only felicitate with you but to express our total confidence in your administration and leadership direction, which have brought hope, progress and stability to our Nation.”
He said “It is obvious that your government is listening government that is committed to improving the plights of the Nigerian citizens. Your recently signed Executive Orders No.5 and No.7 aptly exhibit a government interested in professional handling of governance. Your open war on corruption is also a testimony of sincerity of purpose and transparency of your government.
He said that construction projects are usually high capital intensive and could be readymade platforms for large scale corruption in any economy if not professionally managed with requisite discipline.
According to him, the Construction Industry is the second industry potentials for greatest impact on the National Economy of any nation.
The Construction Industry, he said, plays a very pivotal role in infrastructure delivery, massive employment, domestic manufacturing, through many cottage industries for producing glass, ceramics, iron billets and rods, aluminum sheets and profiles, paints, plywood and timber profiles that can be consumed locally and even exported to other neighbouring countries to earn foreign exchange.
“With a booming Construction Industry, other construction resources such as construction plants and vehicles will become locally assembled/made and thereby oiling the national economy for exponential performance.”
The importance of having a booming Construction industry, he noted cannot be over- emphasized.
“This is why on behalf of the Construction Industry; our Institute is calling attention of the Federal Government to areas where the industry can be freed of shackles holding its performance down.
“These shackles we shall enumerate as follows: Unclear delineation of Professional functions amongst construction professions within the Government. There is an urgent need to create a Directorate of Quantity Surveying and Project Costs Management, just like we have Directorates of Civil Engineering as well as Housing.”
He said that the Quantity Surveyors should be mandated and allowed to undertake Cost Management of projects of all forms on behalf of Government.
He said that Engineers should be compelled to focus and deliver on designs and implementations of Projects and leave costing and Cost Control to the Quantity Surveyors.
“The acknowledgement that projects are now more complicated and complex thus the need for and recognition of the services of Professional Project Managers on large government projects in order to stem project failures.
“Quantity Surveyors have in the recent years improved on our proficiencies and we do now possess relevant capacity to manage any size of projects together with the retinue of any combination of project teams. Even where projects are being donated to the government or being designed abroad and built by multinationals, Quantity Surveyors should be considered for appointments as Project Managers to act for the government,” he said.
Another building has reportedly collapsed at Kakawa Street, on Lagos Island on Monday.
A Lagos Island resident said the collapsed building was a residential building.
Earlier, the Lagos State Government had urged occupants of marked distressed buildings across the state to immediately vacate them pending the arrival of the demolition team of the Lagos State Building Control Agency.
The Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Rotimi Ogunleye, made the appeal just as a distressed three-storey building located on 50, Kakawa St., Campos, Lagos Island, collapsed on Monday without any casualty.
Ogunleye, in a statement, also said relief and resettlement centres had been opened to accommodate those affected.
He said the building in question had been identified as distressed by the officers of the LASBCA and all the necessary statutory notices had been duly served.
According to Ogunleye, the building was one of the defective structures marked for removal by the agency.
“Fortunately, occupants had been evacuated before the incident occurred.
“Immediately the state rescue team and LASBCA were alerted, they moved to site promptly to check all adjoining buildings so as to evacuate the occupants to avoid any further hazards.”
He said already, 25 buildings had been demolished by LASBCA, as the government had stepped up measures to rid the state of distressed buildings so as to prevent loss of lives and property due to sudden collapse.
The Kakawa Street incident came barely two weeks after a three-storey building on Massey Street, Ita-Faaji, Lagos Island, collapsed on March 13, leaving some 20 persons, including some school children, dead; and many others injured.
The constant and avoidable building collapses across the states, leaves one with indelible question on whether the regulatory bodies are incapacitated.
This is because, the rise in the construction of substandard buildings by quacks and poorly qualified professionals, without restriction is an indication that building collapse would persist.
The quagmire is happening at a time when a three-storeyed building housing a school collapsed on Wednesday, 13th March 2019 at the Ita Faji area of Lagos Island, leading to the death of 20 persons while 45 others sustained various degrees of injury.
Ironically, major buildings across the Lagos Island with structural defects were earlier marked for demolition but due to mounting court cases and lackadaisical attitude of running government businesses, huge number of fatalities were recorded whenever any building collapses.
Surprisingly, barely 72 hours after the Lagos Island incident, a two-storey building collapsed at Sogoye, along Bode area of Ibadan, Oyo State, trapping many of the occupants, though four were rescued on the spot.
The representative of Oyo state Emergency Management Agency linked the incident on the developers failure to liaise with approving authorities before embarking on the project.
Irrespective of this, Nigeria is taunted with 17 million housing shortfalls in a country of almost 200 million population where majority survive on less than $1 per day.
It is worthy to note that the control and monitoring of new structures are primarily the responsibilities of municipal development control departments in cities and states, a role that has been relegated over the years.
Findings by LEADERSHIP Sunday Newspaper revealed that sizeable numbers of building materials are shipped into the country daily as seen across the major building material markets across the country.
This is also a pointer to the fact that Nigeria has numerous porous borders where illegal activities thrive unhindered like smuggling of contraband items and extortion of motorists.
To this end, many Nigerians are lost in thought on whether the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) and Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) could liberate the country from the influx of substandard and unhealthy goods.
LEADERSHIP Newspaper also discovered that many cities across the country such as Lagos Island, Ebutte Metta and Oshodi, in Lagos state; Onitsha in Anambra state, Ile-Ife in Osun state, Calabar in Cross Rivers state have good number of old buildings with signs of structural defects.
These category of houses were either built on flood plain and swampy areas using building materials especially rods that couldn’t sustain the weight of such buildings.
To avert further calamity, the Lagos State Building Control Agency had already commenced the demolition of over 150 defective buildings on Lagos Island.
The exercise commenced last week Friday (with the demolition of a three storey building on 60A Freeman Street, Epetedo area, days after the collapsed 3-storey building at Ita-Faaji area of Lagos Island.
This fire-brigade approach in resolving dicey situation is also killing and crippling Nigeria’s economy and launching Nigerians into avoidable poverty.
It is estimated that over 325 persons had died as a result of structural defects in Nigeria for the past 13 years due to non-compliance of building plans and over-bearing shipment of substandard building materials into Nigeria.
Recall that on 12th September, 2014, a six storey building belonging to Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) Lagos and owned by renowned Prophet, Temitope Balogun Joshua collapsed leading to the death of 116 people who were mostly South Africans.
On March, 2016, a five-storey building under construction by Lekki Gardens Lagos also collapsed, claiming 34 lives while 13 persons were rescued alive.
Added to this is another incident on 13th May 2016 where a mall under construction at Itoku market in Abeokuta, Ogun state collapsed early Friday, trapping 16 construction workers.
Eight came out immediately and the remaining 8 were hurriedly taken to the hospital, though one died on the way to the hospital.
The state governor, Ibikunle Amosun claimed responsibility for the collapse of the state-owned shopping mall.
Also, a three storey building which was developed as an annex to a shopping mall and entertainment centre along 444 Crescent, Wupa District in Gwarinpa collapsed on August 2016.
The building, Haastrup Mall and Entertainment centre was at that time developed by Global Success Resources Limited.
The said plot belonged to Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and allegedly owned by a former governor of Ogun State even as about nine persons were rescued during the collapse.
However, another building at Kado-Abuja collapsed on 26th October while another incident took place at Apo Mechanic Village Abuja on 24th August, still in 2016.
Both the Gwarinpa and Kado incident claimed the lives of four persons.
On August 2018, a four storey building still under construction at the IT Igbani/NBRRI road, Off Obafemi Awolowo road, Jabi – Abuja collapsed.
The building was temporarily abandoned for over 15 years before the said owner commenced construction at the site last year without carrying out integrity test on the building.
Three persons including the project engineer and foreman died shortly after being rescued alive while about 18 persons were allegedly trapped under the rubbles.
Cross section of experts in the realty sector however indicted regulatory bodies for failing in their immediate responsibilities.
The former president of Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Bldr Chuks Omeife faulted the lip service extended to building collapse, even as he regretted that regulatory agencies in government institutions should be blamed for problems in the building sector.
He pointed out that the lacuna in lagos state building control and regulation law accounted for some of the collapses in the city.
According to him, “With the arrays of professionals in the built environment, if we are sincere , how can we be talking of building collapse on a weekly basis”.
He recalled that during his study tour to Singapore Construction Industry, that Singaporeans showered encomium on the structure of Nigerian professional bodies in the building sector, which was absent in their country.
Omeife lamented that he was embarrassed when one of the Singaporeans asked why Nigeria is almost the only country in the world with clear cut professional groupings but with increased number of building collapse.
The expert said, “I couldn’t provide any answer and I felt sad that a country so blessed with brains and resources could lack sincerity and good intentions”.
He insisted that different departments across the states involved in building control and regulations should be scrutinised, adding that the lacunas in regulatory agencies manifested as building collapse.
Contributing, a value chain consultant, Mr Joshua Egbagbe encouraged professional bodies to critically study Nigeria’s relevant laws that provided insight into building collapse.
He sought the collaboration and expansion of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)/Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN) driven Nigerian Real Estate Data Collation & Management Programme (NRE-DCMP) by including a data of causes of collapsed buildings from 2010 till date.
Lending her voice, the convener of women in housing finance initiative, Mrs Adenike Fasanya-Osilaja called for a probe of housing permit departments in Nigeria, even as she suggested that development control department should vet the entire buildings across the states.
She added, “People should be held accountable for human and material losses and the way to do this is to mass bombard the social media with a concrete demand for investigation”.
On his part, the president of Housing Development Advocacy Network (HDAN), Barr Festus Adebayo urged state governments and regulatory bodies to sensitise Nigerians on the need to report suspicious buildings with signs of defect to the necessary authorities.
He maintained that state governments should be held responsible for collapses given their failure to demolish damaged and substandard buildings.
Adebayo encouraged professional bodies in the building sector to setup database of the entire ongoing and completed building projects of its members in order to sanction those erecting substandard structures.
The president commiserated with families of victims of the collapse and prayed that God would grant them strength to bear the tragic loss.
He advised federal government to probe housing permit departments and state education boards in Nigeria to ascertain the authenticity of licenses granted to schools.
This is even as he advocated the immediate establishment of strong technical team that would visit the site and produce informed reports on the immediate cause of the collapse within the stipulated time frame.
While adding that such report should be made available publicly upon conclusion of investigation, he challenged all levels of government to end the indiscriminate change of land use on both residential and commercial properties to avert structural design load and further collapses in the future.
He suggested that the updating and fast tracking of Nigerian building code should be backed by law.
Adebayo who is also the convener of Abuja International Housing Show, insisted that owners of collapsed buildings whether corporate, government or private bodies should be made to pay for human or material losses recorded at the site.
He blamed the cause of building collapses to sharp practices by clients and professionals in the building sector, adding that the utilisation of quacks in the construction of private or commercial buildings should be checkmated.
Another expert, Miss Koko Ogbu ruled out issuance of license to schools without suitable facilities, insisting that schools cited in residential houses should vacate such premises immediately.
She asserted that only preschools duly approved by the education board with specific number of kids should be cited within residential areas, saying that these measures would protect lives and properties.
Ogbu maintained that proprietors and proprietresses should be compelled to secure proper facilities before establishing any school in order to safeguard lives.
To this end, she pleaded with government to create special funding mechanism for private institutions, to be accessed through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), inclusive of grants with extremely low interest loans.
The expert further suggested that all residential estates should be purpose-built to accommodate private school, church, mosque, shopping complex and park for residents, adding that this pattern of building was used to develop Dolphin estate.
A lecturer at Federal University of Technology, Arc.Olatunde Folaranmi Adedayo hinted that greed in the building sector is majorly responsible for continued building collapses in the states.
He noted that greed usually manifested when professionals or quacks are contacted to produce building designs adding that such category of people cut corners and design buildings that would eventually collapse in a very short time.
Adedayo wondered if professional bodies performed their statutory responsibility or whether they are merely interested in the registration of new members, collection of annual dues and influencing governments to secure contracts and commission, which he described as greed.
He stated that regulatory bodies mainly consisted of civil servants interested in receiving kick-back on contracts to fast-track approval process, thereby shortchanging the system.
To avert the sharp practices, he suggested that each building in the country should be mapped while the details of the construction should be stored on a database that could be accessed by every body.
He stated that the names of all professionals engaged in building any house as well as the approving officers should be captured in federal government database, a situation he noted would assist in penalising professionals involved in collapsed buildings.
This he pointed out would guarantee effective monitoring of defective structures, just as he appealed to professional bodies to establish up-to-date database of members to enable them track those engaged in bad projects.
The don hinted that professionals found culpable in any building mishap including the regulators should be sanctioned, even as he enjoined professionals and professional bodies to end the unhealthy competition among themselves.
Also, the National President of Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Tpl. Lekwa Ezutah advised developers to engage the services of professionals and avoid changing land use in contradiction to building plans.
He advocated that Lagos state government should launch investigation into the immediate cause of the collapsed three storey building and sanction defaulters accordingly.
The recent collapse of a three-storey building in the Ita-Faji area of Lagos Island Local Government, in which many people including school children lost their lives calls for enforcement of the compulsory building insurance laws, which implementation has been lying low over the years.
Building insurance is one of the five compulsory insurances stipulated by insurance Act 2003, but has been far from implementation at both federal and state levels.
When THISDAY visited the collapsed building site, it was discovered that the building had no insurance cover and none of the dead or injured victims had any form of insurance. Indeed, one of the land owners in the area told THISDAY that houses in the area have no insurance and that most landlords in the area have no knowledge of insurance.
During the visit, many people were wailing and relating to members of the media, their sufferings and hopeless conditions. What was more worrisome was that some of the structures close to the collapsed building are also in deplorable conditions.
Clearly, the Ita- Faji situation was just one out of many cases of building collapses that have happened in Lagos and other parts of the country in recent times. Barely three weeks ago, in Apo Mechanic village Abuja, a story building collapsed trapping six people and there was also another reported case in Ibadan, last week.
In addition, in recent times, fire outbreaks in markets have become more frequent. Unfortunately, when these happen, with the exception of the Ita -Faji case where the Lagos State governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, has promised to take care of the hospital bills of the victims, especially the school children, both the dead and surviving victims are often left to their fate.
For the dead victims, their dependents are often left without any form of compensation mainly because in most cases, owners of the building run away for fear of facing the wrath of the law. Here in Nigeria, it is fast becoming the custom to expect government to take responsibility of certain things common knowledge should teach people to do to stay safe.
For instance, government, after the 2012 flood that rendered many people homeless, had mandated that people who built their houses near canals and other flood passages should remove such houses and look for safer places, but till date, people are still living in such areas and have not cared or planned for the unexpected.
Presently, people are still occupying houses with shaky foundations. Section 65 of the Insurance Act requires the owner or occupier of every public building to be insured against liability for loss or damage to property or death or bodily injury caused by collapse, fire, earthquake, storm or flood.
The Act defines a public building as one to which members of the public have access for educational, recreational, medical and commercial purposes. The penalty for non-compliance is a maximum fine of N100,000 or one-year imprisonment or both.
Also, Section 64 of same Act, stipulates that for insurance of buildings under construction, every owner or contractor of any building under construction with more than two floors must take an insurance policy to cover liability against construction risks caused by his negligence or that of his servants, agents or consultants which may result in death, bodily injury or property damage to workers on site or members of the public.
This insurance policy also covers liability for collapse of buildings under construction. Failure to comply with this provision is an offence punishable with a fine of N250,000 or three years imprisonment or both.
Despite these laws, house owners and owners of building under construction care less about insuring their houses. But insurers have stressed that this is not supposed to be as insurance firms are set up for the purpose of mitigating risks.
According to them, if Nigerians can take insurance covers especially the compulsory building insurance when there is collapse of this nature, insurance companies would be there to compensate the victims.
To the President, Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria (CIIN) and Managing Director Consolidated Hallmark Insurance Plc, Eddie Efekoha, insurers are now focusing on retail insurance that covers individual policies like building, life, motor insurances as the corporate insurance has been saturated and over marketed.
He urged insurers to look critically into retail insurance areas that take care for such policies, adding that there lies the future of insurance and safety of Nigerians and their assets. Few years back when cases of building collapses became more frequent, some state governments started enacting their compulsory building insurance.
States such as Imo and Lagos states were at the fore front of this. The Lagos state government had commenced the enforcement of compulsory building insurance on owners of buildings across the state. It had also established a safety institute where stakeholders in construction work can be trained and certified to prevent frequent cases of collapse buildings in the state.
The Director General of Lagos State Safety Commission, Hakeem Dickson, had said the state government would synergise with a consortium of insurance companies and the National Insurance Commission, (NAICOM) to achieve this. He was of the view that if residents in Lagos embraced building insurance policy, it would save them from untold hardship, losses and the hopelessness associated with emergency situations. He also stressed that insurance companies have the financial capabilities to compensate and pay claims to victims of disasters than government.
This decision by the state government then, was in line with long standing crusade by both the insurance industry regulator, NAICOM, the umbrella body of insurance underwriters, the Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA) and other stakeholders in the industry on enforcement of compulsory insurance nationwide.
They have for many years been agitating for implementation of sections 64 and 65 of the 2003 insurance Act. Its enforcement waas been lying low until when NAICOM in collaboration with the industry operators kicked off campaign on the enforcement in the six geopolitical zones of the country.
The expectation was that by now, everybody would have embraced this policy and a significant number of buildings in Nigeria covered by the insurance policy. NAICOM, precisely, in October 2017, had inaugurated a technical committee that would drive the enforcement of public building insurance in Nigeria.
The committee was made up of representatives of NAICOM, the Federal Fire Service (FFS), representatives of states fire service from the six geo-political zones and the Nigeria Insurers Association (NIA). Since then nothing has been heard about the work or achievement of the committee.
Attempt by THISDAY to find speak with the Deputy Commissioner for Insurance Technical, NAICOM, Mr Sunday Thomas, immediately the Ita- Faji building collapse occurred and the workings of the technical committee, proved abortive. But what is certain is that NAICOM itself and the insurers are no longer at ease with the long delay by the lawmakers in amending the insurance Act 2003.
The 2003 insurance Act was enacted a year before the Pension Act 2004, but the Pension Act has been amended since 2014, while the Insurance Act 2003 before the lawmakers is still yet to be attended to. A former Managing Director of Niger Insurance Mr. Kola Adedeji, had said inadequate and ineffective framework for the insurance industry are challenges that must be tackled. According to him, insurance law makes provision for NAICOM as the regulator to enforce the insurance laws, but provides no means of enforcement.
In the case of compulsory building insurance, there is no separate enactment for compulsory insurance of public buildings. He noted that this inadequate legal framework makes it completely difficult to enforce the provisions.
Pointing out its other pitfalls, Adedeji said: “The policy is meant to cover legal liabilities of either owner or occupier at what point in time does the occupier have legal liabilities or insurable interest in the building he or she is occupying? “Despite these pitfalls, Lagos State government in 2017, took the bull by the horns to enforce the law by ensuring that owners of buildings in the state put in place insurance cover for the third party.”
While some said it is a good development, others said what Lagos residents need is solution to problem of building collapses not compensation. They also feared that it would increase the cost of building in the state, which would in turn increase the already high cost of house rent in the state.
Insurance industry observers argued that using the insurance operators for enforcement would not yield much result because the insurers had often said they were handicapped in enforcing the policy because they find it difficult going into any standing building or building under construction and to ask for insurance policy paper.
The insurers have always wished the law enforcement agents would be assigned to act on their behalf. But the NIA Chairman Mr Tope Smart had before now said Nigerians should learn to be safety conscious and to be sincere to themselves especially in things that affect their lives like the building insurance. According to him, if a Nigerian can have money to erect five story buildings, the person was supposed to think about the safety of the workers.
When THISDAY contacted to comment on the Ita-Faji collapsed building, he declined to comment. Industry analysts are of the opinion that prompt amendment of 2003 Act is the solution to the problem. They pointed out the N100,000 and N250,000 fine attached to violators of the compulsory building insurance should be reviewed.
As other countries are challenging and breaking engineering boundaries, approaching a kilometer in height of buildings, piercing through the skies and going closer to the clouds, going deep down the sea and stretching several kilometers, digging deep underneath the earth, breaking through rocks and building mega structures with resilience and flexibility to withstand earthquake, Nigeria is still struggling to build robust one storey, two storey and three storey buildings that won’t collapse.
Buildings have collapsed, are collapsing, and are likely to continue collapsing in Nigeria. But the recent collapse of a three storey residential, business, and educational building all under one roof, on one foundation and housing some innocent school children points to our insensitivity and lack of willpower to face the problem head-on. Buildings collapse due to myriad of reasons from natural to manmade and in some cases, due to negligence.
To start with, our schools of Engineering are not preparing seasoned engineers. Our schools are only producing students that memorised what they can’t put into practice on site.
So many engineers out there can’t use design codes, interpret, and implement engineering drawings. Also, some engineers leave construction site at the mercy of artisans with less or no supervision. Like the average Nigerian, most engineers are corrupt.
Reducing quality and diverting and making excess money on site.
Clients, especially the general populace focuses on the money aspect of a building over quality. As a result, most people resist engaging professionals, solely supervising and handling every aspect of their projects. Contractors on the other hand are greedy.
To maximise profit, they cut all sort of corners. Consultants and government officials are compromised to look the other way. On one of my recent visit to a three storey primary school under construction, I was shocked to realise that the person supervising the project has no engineering background.
In fact, when I asked him about the mix ratio he uses on site, his answer was that he uses his eyes to determine whether the cement is sufficient enough for the concrete from the colour of the cement after combinining it with enough sand, gravel, and water
. In a nutshell, he is not adopting the design mix for the structure. But then, what else do you expect when the contractor is a friend to the governor?
Construction is capital intensive. and in Nigeria, being in charge of a construction site is synonymous to becoming rich. So, everyone wants to join and eat from the cake. That was how a metallugical engineer supervised the construction of a faculty of engineering office while I was an undergraduate. That building brought so much shame to the whole faculty of engineering. Not until it was recently demolished and a new one erected. Because most Nigerians don’t know the difference between architects and Engineers, most architects tend to override engineers and hijack their responsibilities on site. And in some cases, architects will insist on aesthetic over structural integrity.