Put an end to the phenomenon of building collapse

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Last Tuesday, the Chairman of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Engr. Ali A. Rabiu, laid the blame for the perennial building collapses in the country on the gates of development control officers.

Rabiu noted that from January to date, a total of 17 buildings had collapsed in the states of the federation.

He was speaking during the press briefing held after the meeting of the presidents of some regulatory bodies and professionals in the construction sector in Abuja.

The President of COREN also called for the establishment of the law on the application and observance of the approved national building code, and its domestication in the States.

The boss of COREN pointed out, “Development control officers are a major contributor to the collapse of buildings in Nigeria. They should be held accountable. There should be a mechanism to ensure that only registered professionals are engaged by clients.

Rabiu also identified the use of non-professionals, non-verification of building design, substandard materials, non-legislation and enforcement of the national building code by the National Assembly, non- domestication of the national building code, among others, as causes of building collapses in the country and called for the creation of a building tribunal to deal with cases of misconduct.

“It is necessary to adopt a law on the application and respect of the national building code approved by the National Assembly. This must be strictly adhered to in the built environment. All state governments are advised to domesticate the code. The built environment regulators forum should drive the bill,” he said.

The COREN president gave assurances that the council would soon begin enforcement of a new law that empowers the body to halt the rising rate of building collapses in the country.

It is indeed a sad commentary that 17 structures, including those under construction, collapsed like a deck of cards in the first half of the year, resulting in loss of life. Incidents have become so rampant lately that reports of such calamities and casualties rarely make the news in some cases.

We must not accept the phenomenon as a fait accompli. More serious incidents have occurred in particular in Lagos to the point that one is tempted to conclude that the coastal city is hit by selective earthquakes. Among the most chilling disasters was the collapse of the guest house under construction at the premises of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in September 2014, which claimed the lives of 115 foreign nationals.

Investigations by three government agencies, namely the Nigeria Building and Road Research Institute (NIBRRI), the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG) and COREN, claimed that the specifications needed for such a tall building were compromised in all its ramifications. Church authorities alleged that a plane flew over the structure so low and shook the structure to its foundations, causing it to collapse.

About a year ago, another building collapse of monumental proportions occurred along Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, where a 21-storey luxury building collapsed, killing around 50 people, including the owner, Mr. Olufemi Osibona. Investigations into the tragedy revealed that the incident was rooted in the breakdown of values, morals and ethics.

Other building collapses are attributable to the structure of old buildings whose foundations have been weakened over time and the inability of the competent agencies to evacuate occupants and/or cordon off the premises while t was obvious that disaster awaited.

Besides the corruption on the part of those responsible for ensuring that no shortcuts are taken in the construction process, there is the collapse of the steel sector. Ajaokuta Steel Complex and Steel Rolling Mills were considered to complement the construction sector among others. Their collapse deprived the nation of the right materials needed to deliver quality products. In the absence of factory-produced iron and steel, building owners now rely on inferior iron rods produced from melted auto body parts. Then there is the criminal habit of mixing cement with sands in a grossly disproportionate ratio to cut costs.

Government at all levels must ensure that relevant agencies and their officials are operational in discharging their responsibilities. When it is proven that a disaster has occurred due to official negligence on the part of development control officers, an appropriate sanction must be meted out to them. It is common knowledge that development control officials snoop around for violators during which structures violating building regulations are marked for work stoppage or demolition. Often the identification exercise is done to get promoters to show up at their offices for ‘settlement’. This corrupt practice must give way to due diligence for man-made calamities to cease.

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