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Collapse Of Buildings As Clear And Present Danger

A clear vision toward bridging the huge gap in the mid-income residential market calls for more construction work to be undertaken throughout the country

It was indeed tragic when on Tuesday, March 8, 2014, a five-storey building still under construction collapsed at Kushenla Road, Ikate Elegushi, Lekki, Lagos. The cause of the collapse of the building that belongs to Messrs Lekki Worldwide Estate Limited, the promoters of Lekki Gardens, is as yet a mystery. About 40 persons lost their lives in the tragedy, and this has drawn a lot of negative publicity against Lekki Gardens, seemingly spurring the Lagos State Government to make a scapegoat of the company.

There is the danger of overkill to use the unfortunate incident to rubbish the hard-earned reputation of Lekki Gardens, a company that has already constructed well over 6,000 buildings in different parts of the country. There should be no need to throw away the baby with the bathwater, as the saying goes. The company is as ever determined to maintain its reputation as a world-class real estate firm whose main consideration is the comfort and safety of its tenants and clients.

The collapse of buildings has always happened in Nigeria. It is troubling that this incident is being visited with apparent official highhandedness even as incidents with heavier casualties had occurred in the recent and notso- recent past without sanctions. The Synagogue debacle remains as ever a very sore point. In the manifestation of this act of God which could not be helped, it is as though this latest disaster has been turned into the catch-all victim of circumstance. The collapse of the building readily brings back to the memory other such phenomena, and the accumulated negative feelings and misgivings are now being visited on the clear and present tragedy. There is the old African wisdom that one must not burn an entire house because an ant appeared in the corner of the house.

The proper thing to do is to make sure that Lekki Gardens and sundry companies met all the recommendations of the government and the regulatory bodies before commencing construction. The gist of unilaterally adding two extra floors is a controversial issue that has been denied by the company. It is important for an open investigation to be done. It does not bode Nigeria well to score a cheap point by looking for a scapegoat. The right thing to do in the circumstances is to find out the root cause of the incident and other similar incidents while forging ahead to giving millions of Nigerians the lacking accommodation.

All the companies involved in the matter of collapsed buildings should be willing to cooperate with the government in the enquiry. The world learns lessons from tragedy, and this incident should be made to become a positive reference point. The rampant reclamation of land in Lagos remains a clear and present danger to all. The government urgently needs to address this matter urgently instead of crying foul after the deed had been done. The regulating bodies should do proper diligence instead of being in cahoots with dubious developers.

The question of sacred cows as in the Synagogue Guest House collapse is mind-numbing indeed. The authorities give the impression that some Nigerians are definitely above the law of the land. Punishing the little man, while allowing all the big men to break all the laws, cannot lend Nigeria a place in the sun. All the agencies of state ought to be up and doing in helping to tackle the menace of buildings collapse. It is very crucial that utmost premium be placed on safeguarding lives in every of the business dealings.

The recent Lekki collapse calls for a determined investigation by all the appropriate authorities, leaving no quarters unexamined, to find out the exact cause of the incident. One cannot but commend the timely intervention of the Lagos State Emergency Authority (LASEMA), the Lagos State Fire Service, the Lagos State Ambulance Service (LASAMBUS), Red Cross, National Emergency Agency (NEMA), the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) and the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LSBCA).

But even so, as many as 40 persons lost their lives. The government needs to be always more proactive. One life lost through avoidable circumstances is actually one life too many. A clear vision toward bridging the huge gap in the mid-income residential market calls for more construction work to be undertaken throughout the country. This is a call for the illassorted developers and construction companies to rebuild their trust in the minds of Nigerians. This is a challenge that must not be compromised on the altar of blame games.

Builders must forge ahead with giving Nigeria the modern accommodation the country sorely needs. President Muhammadu Buhari has just made the promise that his administration can provide Nigerians with one million houses annually through the collaboration with 22 APC-controlled states and the private sector. It was the president’s grand charge while declaring open the two-day National Economic Council (NEC) retreat in Abuja the other day.

According to Buhari, the Federal Government will provide 250,000 units while the 22 APC-controlled states would together provide 250,000 houses even as the foreign investors and their local partners would provide the remaining half a million. Of course this is easier said than done, but we must keep on encouraging Mr. President. The sad dimension is that in this season of buildings collapse more care ought to be observed in solving the housing deficit of Nigeria which some estimates put at 16 million units.


– UZOR MAXIM UZOATU e-mail: maxim.uzoatu@theunion.com.ng

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