THE frequency of building collapse in Nigeria is becoming an embarrassment to the government and people of the country. It has now become a source of concern and increasing danger to the lives and property of citizens as news of one collapsed building ( both on-going and completed ones) after the other with huge tolls of deaths and injuries inundate the press.
JUST as the dead bodies of school children were being drawn out from the rubbles of a three storey building that collapsed in Lagos, last week, another one storey building collapsed in Ibadan, Oyo State. The Ibadan incident, which occurred in Bode area of the town, happened barely 72 hours after the Lagos incident which occurred in Ita Faji area of Lagos Island.
SEVERAL efforts have been made to find lasting solution to the menace of building collapse in Nigeria, including the establishment a building quality control agency in Lagos State; the establishment of a building materials testing laboratory by Anambra State Government, among others. These, as well as the recommendations of various panels of inquiry on building collapses in various states of the country constitute government attempts to address the menace.
In 2018, Anambra State Government, through the office of the Special Adviser to Governor Obiano on Housing, in collaboration with the Nigerian Institute of Structural Engineers, Anambra State, organised a colloquium where experienced professionals, top civil servants and other major stakeholders in the sector brain stormed to find meaningful solutions to the problems of building collapse.
AMONG the causes of building collapse identified by experts were absence of quality design, no design, lack of adequate supervision, use of substandard building materials, no soil test, engagement of quacks in building process, lack of approval/granting of building permit, inadequate monitoring of construction process by government agencies and failure by professionals to place high premium on integrity.
GIVEN that many professionals are involved in the building process, we urge the clients, who are the owners of the buildings to always engage the best and well certified specialists for their projects. Professionals in the construction sector, such as the architects, structural engineers, electrical and mechanical engineers, among others; must also strive to be adapt in their fields and keep themselves abreast with new trends. They should place high premium on lives of the building users, and make integrity their watchword.
THE truth is that many professionals are not ready to work, yet, they are keen on collecting money from clients and contractors who in some cases, bribe them to look the other way for them to do what they want and make more gains through the use of inferior materials.
SOMETIMES, they feel that it is the clients who are willing to give out bribes in order to save cost that will suffer at the end if the building eventually collapses or gets bad without knowing that the clients, in most cases, are ignorant of the outcome of such acts.
BUILDERS should also avoid claiming to be what they are not. An architect must work as an architect, while a structural engineer must work as one, likewise other specialists. A situation where somebody who is supposed to be a part of the building process claims to be everything simply because he has been observing others do the work is uncalled for and condemnable. How can an architect, after designing a building, for example, becomes both structural engineer, quantity surveyor and construction undertaker of the project? He will also supervise himself.
ABOVE all, the warped idea of adding extra floors to on-going building projects to maximize profits must be stopped. It is not only dangerous but murderous. Any structural engineer involved in such act is not wort his membership of the profession. Practitioners must either prevent it or ensure that such an operator resigns or is ejected before he caused more harm to the fold and the country.
IT IS our belief that Nigeria will win the battle of building collapse if vibrant, fully committed monitoring and evaluation task force is set up by each state government to monitor building sites and find out who and who are involved at the execution of the projects at every stage and the level of preparations made before the commencement of work.
MEMBERS of this team and indeed all government officers and men of the involved agencies should live above board and avoid taking bribes from contractors and clients but strive to save lives.
MOST importantly, all those indicted or fingered as the cause of any collapsed building after thorough investigation must be penalised by law and sanctioned professionally. The idea of setting up panels of inquiry after a building collapse and not making use of their reports and recommendations only amounts to waste of time and resources and has continued to contribute to the increase in building collapse. When heavy sanctions are given to persons who cause buildings to collapse, it would serve as a deterrent to others.