Except government and stakeholders collaborate to nip corruption in the construction sector in the bud, consulting town planners said it would be difficult to eradicate building collapse menace in Nigeria. Dayo Ayeyemi reports
Worried by the menace of building collapse with attendant loss of life and property, reputation and integrity, among others, built environment experts under the auspices of Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON), Lagos chapter, are bent on promoting sustainable physical development by dealing with the issue of building failure.
After a brainstorming session, they identified corruption, lack of implementation of various physical planning laws and non-adherence to regulations as critical factors.
They cited the five-storey building that recently caved in at Ita-faji on Lagos Island, saying that the owner originally got approval for two floors, but illegally changed it to five floors without any recourse to government.
Dissecting various factors militating against sustainable physical development and suggesting solutions, a lecturer in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Professor Leke Oduwaye, expossed the need to fight corruption head-on among public officials and citizens.
To achieve sustainable development, he said the United Nations Earth Summit had programmes for the promotion of adequate shelter for all; improvement of human settlement management, sound land use planning and management, suggesting that Nigerian government must incorporate all these in decision making.
Sustainable development, he said, encompassed integrated provision of infrastructure, planning and management of disaster-prone areas, sustainable construction industry activities, and appropriate capacity building and human capital.
“A perusal of Agenda 21 shows that it is a robust document of prevention of building collapse syndrome,” the don said.
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 audit/constant inspection.
Oduwaye mulled the need for special intervention fund for the sector to be managed by the private sector.
“There must be war against quackery, reorganisation/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 Standards Organisation of Nigeria, among others.
He is of the opinion that government should use consultants in building approval process and maintenance inspection.
Chairman of ATOPCON in Lagos State, Kamil Sanni, stated that incidence of building collapse had become a hydra-headed problem in the metropolis, stressing that causes and effects of collapse were general and societal, putting the blame on every stakeholder.
A former Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development in Lagos State, Mr Frasisco Abosede, recalled that most of the buildings that collapsed recently were old buildings, saying there was a corollary between land use and collapse.
According to him, when a person changes the land use and built something different from the approved plan, there is bound to be problem.
He blamed lack of implementation of the Urban and Regional Planning Law of 2010, saying that Section 48 that talked about compulsory building insurance was not being implemented by insurance companies.
Past President of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Bunmi Ajayi, pointed out that none of the building collapse incidents investigated were actually designed by professionals.
He cited example of Synagogue Church and Lekki Gardens, saying professionals were not involved.
He urged professionals to be wary of putting their stamps and seals on any building plans they were not the designers.
Another Past President , Alhaji Waheed Kadri, added that lack of maintenance was also responsible for building collapse.
Representative of Lagos State Building Control Agency, who identified himself as “Engineer Ayuba,” said the agency had braced to the occasion in ensuring prompt certification and inspection of buildings.
Another planner, Wale Adeboye, said that solutions to building collapse should be all encompassing.
Member of Town Planners Registration Council (TOPREC), Moses Ogunleye, blamed unseriousness of government for building collapse.
“Building will continue to collapse as long as people concerned are not professionals,” he said.
Former Chairman of NITP in the state, Mr. Ayo Adeniran, said that what LABCA was doing was illegal, adding that the agency was not properly constituted.
“The way government is going about issue of building collapse won’t get us anywhere. Government is just moving round the cycle, “he said.
President of ATOPCON, Dr. Idris Salako, urged government to improve the efficiency of LABCA in accordance with its statutory responsibility.
Besides, he wants government to constitute the Urban and Regional Planning Tribunal as specified in the relevant provisions of the state physical planning law.
Government must do everything possible by collating and acting on all suggestions put forward by built environment professionals.