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.
Source: CHIKA OKEKE