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Menace Of Collapsing Buildings

A policy should be put in place to ensure that professionals connected with collapsed building should not only have their licences withdrawn, they should be Tmade to face the full weight of the law

The recent collapse of a five-storey building in the Lekki area of Lagos has brought back to the front burner the sad incidence of build- ingcollapseinNigeria.Asmanyas34persons lost their lives in the tragic incident. The Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, has since dis- missed Adeigbe Olushola, the General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency.

Governor Ambode also fired Adeoye Adeyemi, the Head of Inspection and Quality Control in the Agency, and Dosunmu Gbadebo, the Zonal District Officer in the Agency. The affected officers were dismissed having been indicted of negligence, which accord- ing to the governor is an act of misconduct under the Public Service Rule 040401. It should be recalled that a Lagos magistrate court had earlier ordered the remand for 30 days of Richard Nyong, 34, the Managing Director of Messrs Lekki Worldwide Estate, the owners of the collapsed building. The court said the remand would enable the police investigate the deadly collapse of the five storey building.

The downside is that if these strict measures had been undertaken way back in September 2014 when the guest house of Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed in Lagos, killing 115 persons, this latest tragedy may have been aborted. Because of lack of due diligence Nigeria has become one of the coun- tries in the world with high incidence of building collapse. Her people are inundated with gory tales of building collapse almost on a weekly basis with the attendant loss of lives, property and investments.

Many more are injured or maimed for life. Major cities like Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Kaduna, Onitsha, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Abuja, and others have had their fair share of building collapse over the years. Nigerians have had to watch in hapless resignation the inability of the authorities to put an end to this menace.

Experts have attributed the growing incidence of building collapse in the country to bad design, poor construction, foundation failure, use of inferior building materials, illegal conversion of buildings, proliferation of quacks in the industry, non-adherence to professional advice and town planning regulations by property developers and landlords, lack of enforcement of building codes by the relevant town planning officials and poor monitoring, among many others.

While we agree that the above factors contribute to building collapse, we insist that failure of regulation is the ma- jor cause of the men- ace. There are many regulatory authorities in the manufacturing, Importation, environment and property sec- tors whose duties are to regulate activities in the property and allied sectors from the manufacturing/importation of the building materials, supply, storage, citing,and construction, up to the finishing stage. What is lacking is the commitment of these regulatory authorities to their duties. In other countries buildings don’t just collapse like they do here except from natural disasters. This is so because at every stage of the construction process, stipulated regulations are strictly adhered to.

Therefore, there is an urgent need for stricter enforcement and complete overhaul of the nation’s build- ing industry. Many allegations have been levelled against town planning officials for issuing build- ing permits to non-professionals thereby making the construction industry an all-comers affair as well as giving dubious approvals for sub-standard buildings.

We call on government to ensure that such corrupt officials found to be culpable in any building collapse should be prosecuted and made to serve long jail terms to serve as deterrent to others. Several cases abound where buildings are illegally raised on the same foundation while the regulatory authorities look the other way. Hundreds of buildings across the country found to be structurally defective and marked for demolition are still being occupied by people years after they have been declared as dangerous for human habitation.

Most occupants of such buildings often defy the seal off notice on the buildings and continue to occupy them until disaster happens. This kind of dereliction of duty on the part of town planning officials who should ensure such tenants are evacuated should no longer be tolerated in the country. A policy should be put in place to ensure that professionals connected with collapsed building should not only have their licences withdrawn, they should be made to face the full weight of the law.

There should also be a strict adherence to approved standards for building materials importation, production and usage. The Nigerian Standard Organisation (NSO) must tackle the importation, manufacturing and sale of sub-standard and un- wholesome building materials in the country through the effective implementation of its Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP).

Importers and manufacturers of substandard build- ing materials as well as contractors and landlords found to be culpable in any incident of building col- lapse should be severely punished according to the law if government is serious about putting an end to their nefarious activities, which have brought sorrow to millions of families across the country and contributed to a decline in the nation’s housing stock. Until offenders are punished accordingly, the problem of building collapse will continue to linger.

The building construction process demands careful supervision, monitoring and valuation to ensure that the requirements and specifications for quality assurance are strictly adhered to. Countries that understand the con- sequences of building failures and are committed to preventing them often ensure strict compliance with building rules and regulations and punish offenders accordingly.

In developed economies like the United States, Britain and many other parts of Europe, offenders face long jail terms and huge fines. With the change mantra wafting in the air, the present administration must demonstrate the political will to tame the monster of building collapse and avoid treat- ing offenders of the na- tion’s building laws with kid gloves.

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