Structural engineers task governments’ on project design, execution


Samuel Ilugbekhai

CONCERNED by the spate of project failures in the country, structural engineers in Nigeria have urged Federal, state and local governments to incorporate the practitioners in the designing and execution of construction projects.

This call was made in Lagos last week at the media briefing organised by the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineer (NIStructE), a division of the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE), expressing their concern over the recent building collapse incidences in Lagos.

One of the reasons construction projects fail in Nigeria has been identified to be non-involvement of its local experts, particularly, the structural engineers, who are now calling on the governments –federal, state and local to do the needful

Bemoaning the seeming preference of foreign practitioners over their indigenous counterparts in contract award, the institution’s president, Dr. Samuel Ilugbekhai, while condemning the practice, noted that Nigerian engineers have the required competences and exposure in their respective core areas of specialization.

According to Ilugbekhai, employing Nigerians is not only cheaper, but also provides room for quality job and ample opportunity to expose young practitioners to the nitty-gritty of engineering works. “Nigerians are competent in their core competencies.

As we have experts who are structural engineers in steel, so we have in concrete and timber. We want government to realize that foreigners are getting Nigeria’s contracts, collecting our money and developing their own people, who is counter-productive to Nigeria’s quests for national development”, said Ilugbekai, who urged federal and state governments to have a rethink.

He was also of the opinion that no country can develop by neglecting her own professionals, particularly, her engineers. On the extent of structural engineers’ involvement in strategic projects, Dr. Ore Fadayomi, made allusion to the fact that, a member of the institution was involved in the ongoing construction of the Orile-Badagry expressway.

The confidence is there that our people are up to the task, but the truth of the matter is that the patronage is not up to the expectation and this we want the new administration to take note of. “Look at our railway, most of the projects are given to the foreigners, without Nigerians’ input.

And that is why we cannot develop our own prototype that can well suit our environment. What government should do henceforth is make to ‘project provision condition’, that Nigerian engineers are involved in all capital project. “We need to be given the jobs and look for foreign partners and not the other way round.

This is the only way we can develop as a nation”, said Fadayomi. Earlier, the president of the institution called for a workable solution to end the incidence of building collapse.

In his address, Ilugbekhai expressed his regret that more and more buildings are collapsing all over the country despite the well meaning efforts of organizations, such NistruuctE, in combating the menace. “On the 12th of September 2014, a 7-story building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed, killing about 116 people, 84 of whom were foreigners.

After this gruesome incidence, other incidences of collapsed buildings were reported, but the ones that most readily struck our attention are the ones that occurred in quick succession in the middle of this year. “On the 9th of July 2015, a 5-story building under construction at No 42, Commercial Avenue Yaba collapsed.

About six days later, precisely 15th of July, 2015, a 4-story building collapsed at No 29A Oloto Street Ebute Meta, Lagos, with similar story in other parts of the country”, lamented the engineer.

According to him, each time a building collapses, human beings are killed, material and financial resources are wasted, family and friends of victims are psychologically traumatized and emotionally tortured.

He said it was in the light of this reality that Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers is now championing the course of a safer built environment in Nigeria by organizing a conference with the theme: “Structural Engineering Excellence in an Environment Inundated with Collapse”, to hold at the Sheraton Hotel, Abuja on the 27th and 28th of October 2015, with a view to promoting best practices in the development of safe buildings in our environment through qualified, experienced and competent practice of structural engineering.

The conference will offer participants the privilege of expanding their frontiers on the following: development of safe buildings; the correct use of standard materials- not necessary the good materials but correct use; structural engineering best practices; codes of practices, their interpretation and proper usage; structural engineering competence; enhancement and structural integrity and reliability of structures among others.

It is pertinent to note that whenever buildings collapse, something sinister had gone wrong with its structural engineering, except in rare cases of natural disasters or “ acts of God” Clients are therefore advised to use the services of only qualified, experienced and competent structural engineers at all times, irrespective of the size of their buildings.

It is not out of place, also, for clients to ask for structural engineering services, to ensure that they are dealing with qualified structural engineers who are members (NIStructE).

Although, it is possible to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of a collapsed building, the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers is still of the opinion that the collapse of buildings should be prevented from happening because lost lives are not retrievable.

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