Lagos ignites new vigour against building collapse
With an average of five deaths recorded yearly in Nigeria as a result of building collapse, the incidence has become a major albatross to efforts at reducing the nation’s stipulated 23 million housing deficits.
A survey of building collapse in 2015 showed that an average of 27 buildings caved 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 Southwest zone of the country had the highest record of building collapses within the period under review with Lagos accounting for about 134 deaths and 159 injured people. 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 is one out of the over 20 incidents of building collapse recorded in different parts of the country between January 2013 to September 2014.
To curtail the spate of collapsed buildings in Lagos, the state government on May 20, 2015, set up a Tribunal of Enquiry on Building Collapse headed by Mrs. Abimbola Ajayi, an architect, who made a far reaching recommendations.
The 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.
Ajayi in the report explained that building collapses endured in the state because most building projects were handled by quacks. According to report, poor enforcement of the state’s building control law was also highlighted as a second major factor contributing to the menace.
“Crass 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 stated.
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.
Although, the Lagos state government pledged strict implementation of the committee’s recommendations in the eight volume report, 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 part of the state”.
The incidence continued with the Lekki Garden 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.
To permanently stamped out the menace, the Lagos state government has ignited a new vigour through the establishment of the State Building Control Agency (LASBCA). The General Manager of the agency, Nurudeen Shodeinde, in an interview with The Guardian explained that the state has adopted a number of strategies to ensure a zero collapse in the year and in future.
According to him, one of the strategies is the introduction of the whistle blowing policy, where residents are encouraged to alert the agency of any defective or distressed building through dedicated telephone number, demolishing of buildings belonging to recalcitrant developers, prosecutions, publication of names of recalcitrant contravenors to show life examples of government’s resolve to solve the problem. He said government is going to come hard on contravenor to caution people who preferred to live in comfort zone of illegalities.
“ Sometimes, government is slow in enforcing its policy, but in 2018, we are coming out heavy on recalcitrant developers. We will give them enough time but if they continue in illegality, we will bring down the building. We cannot continue to waste resources to make people think straight, enforcement is going to be heavy; we want developers to build safe structures. We are tired of being blamed on what is not our concern so we will bringing down buildings before they collapse”, he stated.
The new vigour, he said, is anchored on the fact that building collapse is not a normal occurrence and should not happen if every stakeholder in the built environment to do their jobs.
“Building collapse when the necessary steps are not followed, when quacks are used as workmen and professionals, and substandard materials used in order to save a few naira and when the chips are down, the developers lose ultimately, leading to loss of lives at times. If developers get professional consultants, seek permits and work with relevant agencies like LASBCA before they start their construction, building collapse will not occur”, Shodeinde noted.
LASBCA, he said, has a duty to work with developers in the state through all stages of building to ensure that they test the quality of their materials periodically, ensure safe, sound, sustainable and durable delivery of projects. He stressed that the final resting point should be the issuance of certificate of completion, which gives the sign that the building is built for purpose, secured, sustainable and liveable .
“LASBCA hindsight is to monitor the state especially anywhere there is ongoing construction, to serve notices, ask discerning questions, and encourage the use of professionals and integrity test on new and structurally defective buildings”.
“We are poised to bring recalcitrant developers into compliance. If you got approval for two floors and you have resources to build ground floor, you need to revalidate the approval before you can build the up floors and test should be done to see if your existing building can carry extra loads”, he said.