NIGERIA has recorded no fewer than 552 incidents of building collapse in the last 49 years.
Out of this figure, Lagos State recorded 326 incidents, accounting for 59.06 per cent of building collapse in the country, according to the statistics released by the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG).
Despite the rising incidents of building collapse nationwide, no single person has been successfully prosecuted for the offence in Nigeria.
It’s on this note that the concerned professionals in the built environment are raising the alarm, calling for stringent punishment against culprits of building collapse in the country.
This measure, which won’t spare both culpable developers and government’s officials, the experts said would help eradicate the frequent incidents building collapse.
Moreover, they are of the opinion that the punishment of culprits would eradicate corruption, quackery and official’s negligence in the sector.
The latest call by professionals is triggered by the sad news of the seven-storey building under construction that collapsed in Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos, last Wednesday, trapping dozens of construction workers.
Some of the trapped workers in the building collapse comprised engineers, artisans and others, numbering 25.
However, the workers had since been rescued in an operation coordinated by the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) and other agencies.
The Banana building collapse occurred almost seven months a seven-storey building caved in at Oniruneibourghood in Victoria Island and in less than one and half years a 21-storey building belonging to Fourscore Heights Limited collapsed on Gerrard Road in Ikoyi, with many fatalities.
One thing common to these incidents was that the buildings were hitherto sealed by the Lagos State Government for not having planning approval to commence construction or not building according to the approved plan.
Going by these incidents, built environment professionals have not stopped to raised doubt about the seriousness or sincerity of government and developers to ensure standard building’s construction in the environment.
Some of the factors responsible for building collapse include faulty foundation, use of sub-standard building materials, non-engagement of professionals, shoddy works, departure from approved buildings plan, and lack of geotechnical test, among others
Why blaming the government for compromise and slackness, some of the experts on the platform of HDAN, also suggested ways to eradicate building collapse in the environment.
They want the identified culprits of previous disasters to be brought to book as a measure of stopping the incident of building collapse.
One of the professionals, John Olubayo, said there was a need for a legal system that can hold governments accountable for negligence, especially where personal injury or death is involved.
“It is the government’s responsibility to ensure properties are built to standard and to safeguard the lives of its citizens,” he said.
Not impressed with the collapsed Banana building collapse, Olubayo said the governor’s directive suspending all developments in Banana Island until an audit is carried out is “akin to a teacher punishing all his students for his failure to mark their scripts correctly or check their work properly.”
According to him, a more nuanced approach might have been to suspend all ongoing developments in Lagos that may be considered higher risk, say 4 floors and above, and mandate that all audits be completed within 30 – 45 days (depending on how many properties fall into this category) to minimise the financial impact on developers.
“Projects with ‘unknown’ architects, engineers, and builders might be considered higher risk,”
“This just feels like the usual government knee-jerk reaction to very avoidable disasters. But the real issue is what happens after the audits? What processes are we looking to put in place to avoid a reoccurrence?”
Managing Director, Ace Hi-Teck Construction Company Limited, Adewunmi Okupe , said the state government should be taken to court for supervision/ monitoring’s negligence and slackness in building control enforcement.
He wants the state authority to show all inspection reports viz a viz approval documents about the building.
Former President, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), MrKunle Awobodu, said it was unfortunate that nobody had been successfully prosecuted for building collapse offences in Nigeria, hence quackery, compromise and impunity proceeded unchecked.
He said “When human beings are not subjected to the law of consequence, misdeeds are absolved in sentiments. Alas, loss of lives and property becomes a continuum! “
Speaking on the need to restore market confidence and developer’s duty of care, Founder& Country Leader, Cromwell Professional Services International Limited, MrOlusolaEnitan, urged that all ministries departments and agencies responsible for the real estate market space and its confidence building should be legally reminded of their duty of care.
Besides, he said that developers ought to be taken through certification and recertification courses that would reinforce their readiness and capacity as property developers.
“Essentially, their roles as market functionaries must be clearly reinforced as being in the public Interest.
“We are not talking about a revenue driver for government agencies though a properly administered regulatory system would drag in sizeable revenue for government, but we are suggesting rather for government agencies saddled with this duty to do the right thing.”
As part of measures towards enforcing market sanity and investment confidence, Enitan said that any property development company found culpable in the breach of real estate market regulations, of which breaches eventually result in deaths of citizens should be made to face prosecution manslaughter or murder related crimes.
Besides, he said that such developer should be banned from engaging in property development in Lagos State, while blacklisting their director from being involved in any company with articles for commercial or public buildings development in Lagos State for 10years.
According to him, reinstatement of such company should be subjected to industry’s access fitness tests.
Another expert, Mr. Emmanuel Akinwumi, said it was high time stakeholders commenced practical actions by digging into the root causes with a view to putting an end to the menace.
He described the incident as “very sad in deed” stating that each time a building collapses, the blame game starts.
Another expert,who identified himself simply as “HK”, pointed out that the real estate’s industry has become all comers’ affairs, saying there was no national housing development guidelines and standards in place.
“So is just a field for anyone even tailors can supervise and build since they have skills in design,” he said.
According to him, time has come to have a national document that would guide and could be referenced for housing development.
Absence of national document that specifies the roles of government, professionals, developers, service providers and building products’ sellers, he explained was another reason weakening the cases against developers in the court when they are charged for prosecution.
He wants government to engage Certified Workplace Incident Investigators to lead the efforts of getting to the root cause of building collapse.
“We will all be amazed at the findings. We have the expertise among the IOCs and are Nigerians.
“Enough of same types of outcomes that have not addressed the fundamental root causes of the collapsed building in Nigeria,” he said.
Talking about past tribunal on building collapse, the expert said the panels’ compositions and methods of investigation had never stopped building collapse, warning that “if we continue with same method, the chances of overcoming building collapse will be difficult.”
He said “Allow professional investigators that are trained and certified to do investigation, take over that responsibility and their report can be reviewed and government’s panel can deal with the punishments and implementation of the recommendations.
“That is how it should be if we need results and stopped this unplanned death and building collapse,” he added.
He explained that there were fundamental root causes of building collapse that need to be highlighted and addressed starting from procurement, standards, approvals types, monitoring requirements and compliance, testing, workers training and capability, workman insurance requirements and compliance, experience and qualifications of project leadership at site, records of building loads at different level, geotechnical results, structural calculation sheets and design used at site, among others.
“What are the requirements to check actual strength of steel bars purchased and used at sites?
Until we understand some of these basic requirements, just monitoring will be inadequate,” HK said.
Another expert, MakuachukwuChidi, argued that preventive monitoring remained the best approach.
According to him, panels investigating collapsed buildings and recommending sanctions were unnecessary, citing United Arab Emirates example.
“Where I trained in UAE, the on spot monitoring during construction with set systems and heavy sanctions for attempting to manuouver standards.
“Let’s advocate for functional preventive systems. A particular nation killed people for collapsed buildings they supervised in an earthquake. That’s how serious they see these things,” he said.
Executive Director, Housing Development Advocacy of Nigeria (HDAN), Fetus Adebayo, noted that part of the recommendation of the last Tribunal on the Ikoyi collapsed building was that private sector accredited certifiers should be engaged as agents of government to check the quality of construction as they go.
He however expressed surprise that government had not implemented the recommendation.
Taking a virtual look on the collapsed building during inspection, representatives of the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG), Engr O.W. Olokunola, Arc. Femi Sodunke and representative of the Nigerian Institute of Structural Engineers, Ore Fadayomi, raised posers concerning the columns and slabs of the structure.
The Lagos State Government had last Thursday launched a probe into the collapse of the seven-storey building under construction.
Governor BabajideSanwo-olu, had directed that all developments on Banana Island be placed on hold, subject to a comprehensive audit by the officials of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) to determine how many buildings are being constructed without approval from the government and to ascertain if all approved buildings are being built in line with the approval limits provided.
The governor promised to extend the exercise to other estates and gated communities.