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Building collapse: Unending recommendations without action

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Building collapse: Unending recommendations without action

Govt’s lethargy, corruption fuelling building collapse

Nigerian professionals are not bereft of ideas on solution to the incessant building collapse, going by plethora panels of enquiries and reports since 1978, but lack of political will by successive governments to fully implement recommendations and enforce regulations are cited as bane. Dayo Ayeyemi reports

 

From Lagos to Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Enugu, Owerri, Nnewi and Idemili among others, the menace of building collapse in the country with the attendant loss of lives is given all stakeholders a sleepless night.

They are becoming worried as the menace is assuming new dimension.

Between August 2018 and March 2019, interval of seven months, five incidences of collapse building occurred in quick succession across three states and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Probe panels were constituted to unravel causes of building collapse in these affected states.

While professionals in the built environment described the reoccurring incidents as a “national embarrassment,” the menace of building collapse persists.

The experts, comprising architects, surveyors, builders town planners and engineers. among others, said that government was always rushing to set up probe panel whenever a building caved in rather than take pro-active measures to prevent the occurrence in the first place.

 

For Mr. Kunle Adio, his prayer is that government will find the report of Investigative and Advisory Committee set up to probe the five-storey building that collapsed on school children and residents on March 13, 2019, at 53, Massey Street, Lagos Island useful for immediate implementation.

Adio’s fear stemmed from the fact that there have been a lot of fact-finding reports on similar incidents across Nigeria in the past with lofty recommendations from experts, without commensurate efforts of the authorities to implement them.

“Many of the reports were just gathering dust in the shelves where they were kept in government’s ministries and departments. Yet buildings are collapsing everywhere,” he told New Telegraph.

In an exercise many described as “medicine after death,” two days after the structure which the state authority claimed to have marked for demolition six years ago came down on occupants, government through the taskforce from the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LABCA) swung into action, demolishing some buildings among structures identified as “ distressed buildings” in Lagos Island enclave.

 

It also sets up probe panel a week after.

Although recommendations made in the report of the probe panel were yet to be made public, many industry players are doubting the sincerity of government to enforce suggestions in the report, citing past documents.

Structural defects were blamed largely for most of the building collapse incidents followed by use of poor materials, lack of sub soil test and absence of maintenance.

Corroborating Adio , former Director-General of the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NIBRRI), Professor Danladi Matawal, who chaired the panel of committee set up by the Federal Government to investigate the collapse of four-storey building in Jabi, Abuja in August, 2018, expressed shock that six months after the committee submitted the report, nobody heard anything about it.

As an investigator, he said: “Was the outcome of the panel report in FCT just placed on the shelves or was there any implementation at all? The last I heard about it was when we submitted in a ceremony at the FCT
“It is clearly indicting for anyone not to have cared about the report at all.”

According to Matawalin a telephone interview with New Telegraph, the main culprit of collapse has been poor supervision and where rods snapped due to under design.

He emphasized further that the main culprit of poor supervision has been concrete which has failed all tests in building collapse and extremely mortgaged foundations with no soil investigation.

In a report of research of building collapse conducted by university lecturers, it was established that the Southwest zone of the country had the highest record of building collapse in the last eight years, with Lagos accounting for about 134 deaths and 159 injuries.

The report said there was an average of five deaths recorded yearly in Nigeria as a result of building collapse

It read: “A survey of building collapse in 2015 showed that an average of 27 buildings collapsed in 14 months. Out of these, 175 deaths occurred while 427 others were injured.

A further breakdown of the survey showed that 17 of the incidents of collapsed buildings involved residential areas where an estimated death toll of 44 were recorded with over 60 victims injured while 6 occurred on church buildings with an estimated death toll of 134 and about 176 survivors injured.

The remaining affected projects include; plazas and other un-completed buildings.

The figure is without reference to the tragic incident at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), which took place on September 12, 2014.

The collapse led to about 115 deaths and 131 injured.

The incident was one out of over 20 incidents of building collapse recorded in different parts of the  country between January 2013 and September 2014.

 

The incidence continued with the Lekki Garden’s building collapse in 2016, which killed over 30 people and more others afterward particularly in 2017, with some incidences recorded in Alaba market, Ebute- Metta, Lagos Island, Agege, Isolo and Abesan areas of Lagos state.

 

Former President, Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON), Mr. Moses Ogunleye, stated that if government had taken recommendations contained in the report of Tribunal of Enquiry on Building Collapse headed by Mrs. Abimbola Ajayi, in 2014 seriously, the entire Lagos would have been rid of building collapse by now.

Ogunleye blamed lack of seriousness on the part of government for building collapse.

“Building will continue to collapse as long as people concern are not professionals,” he said.

The Abimbola – Ajayi led tribunal, in its eight-volume report noted that 130 cases were recorded before the tribunal was inaugurated while about five buildings collapsed after it was set up.

 

The tribunal explained in the report that building collapse endured in the state because most building projects were handled by quacks. According to the report, poor enforcement of the state’s building control laws were also highlighted as a second major factor contributing to the menace.

“Indiscipline and gross corruption by all stakeholders have added to the problem as they have rendered the relevant laws ineffective. The 2010 Building Control Law empowers the relevant government agencies to act and stop the menace, but the system does not because of political, cultural and administrative reasons,” the report read.

The report also berated the passive stance of law enforcement agencies and the Ministry of Justice to arrest and prosecute violators of building control laws.

 

“Despite the provision for summary trial of violators and offenders in the laws examined by the Tribunal, there is no record of persons prosecuted or sanctioned for incidents of building collapse by the Ministry of Justice, Nigeria Police and any other known organ,” it read.

 

Although, the Lagos State government pledged strict implementation of the committee’s recommendations, which led to the engagement of the services of additional 115 certified engineers and other relevant professionals in the built sector, building collapse has continued to be a recurring decimal in various parts of the state.

It is also on record that four years after the collapse of a seven-storey building belonging to Lekki Gardens with more than 34 casualties and culprits took to court, the case is still pending.

 

Causes of building failures, according to experts, included under improper design, incompetent contractor, faulty construction methodology, poor Town Planning approval /development monitoring process; non-compliance with specifications/standards by developers/contractors; use of substandard materials and equipment; inadequate supervision or inspection/monitoring, economic pressures, incompetent conversion, change of use of buildings, aged buildings, poor maintenance culture.

 

According to a lecturer in the Department of Estate Management, School of Environmental Sciences, College of Science and Technology, Covenant University, Otta, Ogun State, Dr. S.A. Oloyede, on how to tackle frequent building collapse in Nigeria, data analysis of these factors showed that non-compliance with specifications/standards by developers/contractors; employment of incompetent contractor and use of substandard materials and equipment were the three prominent causes of collapse buildings witnessed in Nigeria.

“This finding can be attributed also to the insurgence of inexperienced, stingy or over bearing building developers,” the Don said.

Also, a lecturer in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Professor Leke Oduwaye, said corruption must be fought head-on by public officials and citizens.

Part of the solutions to building collapse, Oduwaye, who at a time was the Dean of Faculty of Environmental Sciences at UNILAG, said included the use of registered professionals, improvements on surveillance, whistle blowing policy with toll free phone lines, public education on building anatomy/production process and community education on importance of building maintenance.

He also suggested the use of more social media, mass media education on building, while calling for building Integrity’s audit/constant inspection.

“There must be war against quackery, reorganization/registration of artisan group; creation of building artisan villages; and formal training platforms for artisans,” the university lecturer said.

Oduwaye also called for the review of mortgage fund system; legislation on building maintenance; and constant inspections of building materials shops and manufacturers factories by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria, among others.

He is of the opinion that government should make use of consultants in building approval process and maintenance inspection.
However, between 1978 and now, more than 200 incidents of building collapse had been reported across Nigeria.

 

Committee of Inquiries

Some of the probe panels include: Lagos State Investigative and Advisory Committee Collapsed Five-storey Building at 53, Massey Street, Lagos Island in March, 2019; five-man Judicial Commission of Inquiry into building collapse in Port Harcourt, River State; Federal Governement Inter-ministerial Committee to investigate the causes of building collapse in the country with a view to arresting it; Federal Goverment Panel of Committee to investigate the collapse of four-storey building in Jabi, Abuja on August, 2018; Committee to restructure the Lagos Building Control Agency following the unfortunate incident of a collapsed six-storey building under construction by Lekki Gardens in 2016; Technical Committee on Reformation of Physical Planning in Lagos; 2014 Coroner Inquest into Synagogue Building Collapse; Lagos’ Tribunal of Enquiry on Building Collapse 2014; and the Federal Government Committee to Review the Urban Planning Law, CAP N138 LFN 20W04 Law of the Federation 1990, among others.

 

Expert views

Former President of the Nigerian institute of Town Planners (NITP), Bunmi Ajayi, who chaired the Committee to restructure the Lagos Building Control Agency following the unfortunate incident of a collapsed six-storey building under construction by Lekki Gardens in 2013, maintained that until professionals took issue of building collapse serious, people would continue to build sub-standard  houses, escaped and still blamed government.

 

He said: “It is the business of professionals to get government to obey their law. Surveyors have done well, no person outside their profession can survey and get away with it, but any idiot can bring plan to government and get approval.”

 

“Professionals should be strict in this area. There is need monitor building collapse from the root, but getting qualified professionals to supervise.”

 

According to him, most of the collapsed buildings were not designed and supervised by registered professionals, calling on builders to compel government to have registered builders in all the states of the federation.

“Professionals should guide government to have authentic body to do projects. Let us have categories of builders duly registered. If you are waiting for government without pressure by professionals bodies, we will wait in vain,” he said
Ajayi, a former President of Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria , bemoaned town planning professionals for not doing anything about the Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning Law l which was passed since 2010.

 

According to him, regulations that were supposed to be in place were not being in place after 10 years, mentioning that there was no master plan or low order plans to guide development in the state.

Professionals under the auspices of the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA); Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB); Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE); Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP); Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV); Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS) and Nigerian Institute of Surveyors (NIS) also agreed that most of the cases of collapsed building was because quacks handled the buildings.

The stakeholders therefore called for synergy between all the professionals in the industry and the relevant government agencies as well as owners or developers to ensure that the right things are done before, during and after construction to end the menace of collapsed buildings.

Proffering solutions, the professionals called for the involvement of architects, civil, structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, quantity surveyors, builders and land surveyors in all building construction works in the state.

LASEMA General Manager, Tiammiyu Adeshina, called for a law to empower LABCA to demolish marked buildings within five months instead of leaving it for owners who may not be willing to bring down the structure until it collapses and kills people.
On incessant building collapse across the country, President Mohammadu Buhari, assured that those responsible for such incidents of professional negligence would feel the full wrath of the law.

He said that the recent tragic incident in Lagos, and many others across the country, were reminder of the need to strictly adhere to quality standards on construction projects.

‘‘Young innocent lives must never be lost due to incompetence and greed. Simply put, no corners must be cut. I want to assure you that those responsible for such incidents of professional negligence will feel the full wrath of the law,’’ he said.

President of Building Collapse Prevention Guild, Mr George Akinola, canvassed the establishment of Building Code Enforcement Officers (BCEO), stressing that enforcement of the code,which the Federal Executive Council had passed since November 2017, would be a better way of curbing collapse in Nigeria.

Chairman of Lagos chapter of NIS, Mr. Adesina Adeleke, also canvassed the re-certification process for buildings in designated parts of Nigeria,,adding that as- built survey should form part of requirements for the re-certification process with a view of not just probing the structural integrity of buildings but determine if information contained in the building approval adhered to in the development.

Former President the Nigerian Institute of Building, Mr Chucks Omeife, urged for collation for study and scrutiny all state regulations as regard physical development .

Acting Director General of Nigeria Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI) Professor Samson Duna, is of the opinion that the National Assembly should come up with a law that will cover the use of materials and personnel in construction.

“The law should also cover a periodic assessment of structures whether the building is standing or still under construction to avoid the increasing cases of building collapse in the country,” he said

 

Building Insurance

President of Nigeria Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Mr. Roland Abonta, called on the National Insurance Commission (NAICOM) to make extra efforts in enforcing the mandatory building insurance cover .

Recently, the Lagos State Government issued a statement about enforcing the state’s Insurance Act 2003. The Act made it compulsory for all buildings in the state to have an insurance cover. The reason behind the statement was the incessant building collapse in recent times in the state. These collapses usually leave victims without compensation who then turn to the government for relief. If there were insurance policies force by such building owners, the case will be different.

Recently, the Lagos State Government issued a statement about enforcing the state’s Insurance Act 2003. The Act made it compulsory for all buildings in the state to have an insurance cover. The reason behind the statement was the incessant building collapses in recent times in the state. These collapses usually leave victims without compensation who then turn to the government for relief.

 

The Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON) has urged the National Assembly to urgently pass the bill for the enforcement of the Nigerian National Building Code. Besides, the council, through its Chairman, Professor Kabir Bala, also urged all state governments to pass and enforce enabling laws to conform to the minimum requirements of the building code to end incidences of building collapse

Former President the Nigerian Institute of Building, Mr Chucks Omeife, urged for collation for study and scrutiny all state regulations as regard physical development .

He said: “What we have at the moment in terms of building regulation is what is manifesting in the various building collapses across the country.”

According to Omeife, a bad law cannot translate into good outcome, saying that was his suggestion.

Former President, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Steve Onu, said that indiscriminate change of land use should not be tolerated.

According to him, conversion of residential buildings to schools or clinics which are non-conforming and incompatible uses should not be allowed under any condition

To permanently stamped out the menace, the General Manager of LASBCA, Nurudeen Shodeinde, an engineer, explained that the state has adopted a number of strategies to ensure a zero collapse in future.

According to him, one of the strategies was the introduction of the whistle blowing policy, where residents were encouraged to alert the agency of any defective or distressed building through dedicated telephone number; demolition of buildings belonging to recalcitrant developers, prosecutions, publication of names of recalcitrant contravenors to show life examples of government’s efforts to solve the problem.

In a communiqué issued by the Federal Ministry of Power, Work and Housing at the end of last meeting of the council, participants at the gathering put the number of building collapse that occurred in Nigeria between 2012 and 2016 at 54.

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.

 

Participants also approved the setting up of a committee to review the Urban Planning Law, CAP N138 LFN 2004, Law of the Federation 1990, and to report at the next meeting.

 

They urged the Federal Government to facilitate early passage of the bill before the National Assembly for the enforcement of the provisions of the revised and validated Nigeria National Building Code.

 

Some of the residents of Lagos Island, who spoke with New Telegraph, were not happy about what was happening in their neighbourhood.

According to Ronke and Taiba, residents and traders, government should safe them from menace of building collapse, saying all residents were living in palpable fear.

The duo urged government to demolish all distressed buildings in the area.

“Government should help us to also call developers of these houses to order. They don’t build them well, they don’t maintain them yet they collect huge amount of money for rent,” they said.

Another resident, who is also the President of Lagos Island Childhood Initiative, Mrs. Munirat Ajibunoh, observed that many buildings in the enclave required total demolition.

“They are not fit for human habitation,” she said.

 

She called on all non-governmental organization and community leaders to continue to come forward, pointing out that all distressed houses must be pulled down.

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