Rampant building collapse, what needs to be done

Building collapse have been on the increase in recent times. The cases of building failures and consequent collapse have reached an alarming and lamentable stage. It is a disaster comparable to flood disaster, earthquake and aeroplane clash considering the loss of life and destruction of property. The incidences of building collapse in Nigeria have lead to irreparable loss of valuable lives and properties. Though abstract building collapse is a major disaster associated with constructions, developments, and national growth experienced by all nations of the world but its prevalence and devastating effects on sustainable development in Nigeria has become issues of concern. It was discovered that most building collapse in Nigeria was as a result of structural defects, poor designs, dilapidation due to lack of maintenance, substandard construction materials, inadequate supervision and monitoring, carelessness, poor workmanship, excessive loading, illegal repair, reed or corruption, clients impatience and natural mayhem (flooding and rainstorm). The Nigeria government has desperately continued to make concerted effort in the area of quantitative (but not qualitative) supply of mass housing through huge budgetary and policy provisions but, surprisingly, the rate at which existing ones are collapsing calls for an urgent attention

The site of building collapse scattered across the length and breadth of Nigeria is quite alarming that it is unimaginable what effects it will have on the building industry and Nigeria economy as a whole. One could imagine what edifices these buildings would have been if only they were constructed accordingly. It has been reported that Nigeria, especially Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt has become the “world’s junk-yard” of collapsed buildings worth billions of naira. Over the last four years, Nigeria has recorded over 56 cases of building collapse with Lagos recording the highest number in terms of buildings and casualties. However, one particular incident accounted for more than 90 percent of the fatalities and injuries recorded in the state within the period. The collapse of a three-storey residential/school building on 14 Massey Street, Ita Faji area of Lagos Island, on March 13, claimed about 20 lives, while 43 people were injured. According to research, Anambra, Abia and Oyo have witnessed two cases each this year while Anambra has recorded the second highest deaths of five persons from a single incident. The police in the state confirmed five persons died and two victims survived in a statement, saying that, “On May 22, a building under construction located at No 9 Ezenwa Street, Onitsha, belonging to one Barr. Ikebu Aso collapsed.” Following the collapse of the building at the Ita Faji area of Lagos State and another in Ibadan, Oyo State, which led to loss of over 20 lives, some state governments took fresh actions like carrying out integrity test on houses suspected to be weak so as to prevent building collapse. But buildings have continued to collapse despite measures by both the federal and state governments over the years to check the ugly trend. Just of today two-storey building under construction has collapsed in Ikoyi area of Lagos, Southwest Nigeria. Officials of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA have raced to the scene to rescue trapped persons. The building is said to have collapsed at Glover Court, Ikoyi. Report had it that workers working on the building were trapped but the specific number of people on site is unknown. Director General, LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu said the building collapsed around 4.10pm on Friday at Glover Court, Ikoyi. In response to the wave of collapse of buildings, professional groups insisted that strict enforcement of the building code is one sure way of mitigating against building collapse. “We are yet to implement the Nigerian Building Code which requires that if you are going to build a high rise building, it is supposed to have a certain percentage of soil volume or capacity to hold it. A lot of things are wrong with the Nigerian construction industry, everybody has this fault; from the manufacturers to the clients, the engineers and the marketers, the National Secretary of Landscape Architects of Nigeria, Amos Alao, said in the aftermath of the Ita Faji collapse

“There is the Nigerian Building Code that needs to be implemented to overhaul the Nigerian construction industry. The code contains what a building requires. For example, escape and exit routes, all these parametres are stated in the building code,” Alao said. Some other building construction experts are of the view that the menace of building collapse has remained because the regulatory bodies lack the will to enforce laws. In Anambra State, where two  incidences of building collapse occurred the same week in Onitsha, the commercial centre of the state, the state Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Joachim Ulasi, expressed concern over people’s failure to obtain building approval before embarking on projects. Ulasi blamed the collapse of buildings on the use of substandard materials. The Chairman of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Onitsha branch, Engr. Aniekwena Victor, said the collapsed building could have been caused by use of inferior materials. “The developer might not have followed the rules and regulations; there are a lot of errors.” The minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola noted that the level of incessant building collapse in Nigeria has reached an embarrassing proportion. He said there was need for a complete overhaul, and that regulatory bodies in the building and construction industry should be responsible to regulate and control the practice of the building profession. “There is no doubt that the Nigerian construction industry has grown in size and complexity, and indeed, recorded giant strides in national development. However, it is sad to note that cases of shoddy works and defective buildings still traverse the landscape, and this has become a plague agitating the minds of Nigerians. “In worst case scenarios, these have led to the collapse of buildings, loss of lives and investments.” Fashola added that the menace casts a slur on the competence of the nation’s building community of professionals responsible for designing and monitoring construction works at building sites. Experts have also suggested that professionals should not bear the blame alone. This is because, firstly, it has been proven that owners of buildings under construction derail from their approved plans relying more on imagination and fantasy. Secondly, the approving authorities are also known to fail to monitor compliance with approved plans. Also, some building owners shun professionals in order to cut costs. Fourthly, the high cost of building materials has led greedy contractors with eyes on profits, to patronise substandard materials. These short-cut measures have contributed immensely to the occurrence of failed buildings in the country. It was also noted that the use of poor materials as well as poor workmanship by quacks is also responsible for building collapse and that 70 per cent of collapsed buildings do not have government approval prior to the building development. It was because of these problems that the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) called on its members across the country to show commitment to the ethics and values of the profession. The president of the institution, Sir Rowland Abonta, stated this at the first National Council of the Institution for the 2018/2019 session. Abonta emphasised that the state of housing is still lacking in different ways, particularly, in terms of adequacy as the Nigerian populace has a lot of unmet housing needs. “The institution is at the forefront of the advocacy for housing. We have participants in the formulation of housing policy that Nigeria has never had. We have also been giving constant advice to the government on the best approach to solving the housing need of the nation. Our members are active developers of the government housing policies”, he said. Abonta said the body takes building profession seriously because the people who misrepresent it, who do the work that they are not supposed to do, are dominant in the housing sector. “So, we are making strong efforts to curb their activities, and it will be possible to eradicate their activities to the barest minimum through advocacy, letting people know who to go to when they are in need of housing service. So, we are making every effort to curtail their activities through NIESV”. He said that the main thrust of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers is to bring those who studied the profession but are not actually qualified as professionals, retrain and certify them to enable them practice the issues of the agency in the right way. He further revealed that the agency is also open to other professionals who are engaged in the field through the Association of Estate Agency of Nigeria to have them trained and regulated, to have them controlled in order to reduce the menace that brings bad name to the institution

He emphasised the need for closer collaborations between institutions and governance to reduce the incidence of collapsed buildings, re-stating the need for state governments to create a position of Valuer-General in each state to reduce the incidences of collapsed buildings. The President, Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN), Mr. Ugochukwu Chime underscored the need for the government to develop a new town policy that would decongest the major cities in the country. Chime noted that the nation had many institutions involved in financing housing development with little or no coordination among them. He said it was critical for the country to have defined policy objectives as guidelines for housing development in the country. According to him, laws are needed to govern the transaction dynamics in housing delivery. “In 2006 at a conference in Kano, we adopted the National Building Code but as at today, it has not been adopted by various state governments. “It is a critical component to address the issue of building collapse we have in the country. “We don’t have the laws; we don’t have foreclosure laws to ensure that people pay for the houses they have taken on mortgage. “We don’t have regulations and codes as well as additional instruments that will provide more specific guidelines on how to apply the laws. “We need to have what level of administration capacity a developer must have so as to be recognised.’’ It is also important that we all admit that we have collectively failed and stop blaming the government and building regulators alone. The citizens must always comply with building standards and obey building laws as well. Going forward, the government through its building control agencies and regulators must ensure that only structurally sound buildings that can stand the test of time are allowed to stay.

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