Quantifying Frequent Building Collapses and Disaster Risk Reduction in Nigeria

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Over a 20-year period, Nigeria has seen a significant increase in building collapses which have resulted in the loss of lives and livelihoods, as well as the displacement of families. Indeed, during this period, the country ranked number one for frequency and intensity of building collapses in Africa. The collapse of a 21-storey building in November 2021 in Ikoyi, Lagos – which killed at least 45 people and seriously injured 10 others– is just one example of the severity of the collapse of buildings and structures in the country.

Anecdotal evidence from various government agencies and a literature review revealed that between 1974 and 2019, more than 221 buildings collapsed in various Nigerian cities and more than half of the collapses occurred in the economic hub of Lagos. In fact, Lagos experienced 167 cases reported between the years 2000 and 2021, of which 78.4% were residential buildings, 12.8% were commercial, and the remaining 8.8% were institutional buildings (Figures 1 and 2). This series of building collapses displaced more than 6,000 households with an estimated total loss of $3.2 trillion property value.

Figure 1. Building collapse in Lagos, 2000-2021

Source: Lagos State Fire Department, authors’ calculations.

Figure 2. Categories of collapsed buildings

Categories of collapsed buildings

To note: Institutional buildings refer to structures such as condominiums and office towers, stadiums, schools, hospitals, shopping malls, libraries, art galleries, and museums.
Source: Lagos State Fire Department, authors’ calculations.

Drivers of Building Collapse in Nigeria

Apart from the generally known causes of building collapse, such as natural hazards, material fatigue, aging, terrorist attacks and design flaws, human error in construction has also become an important factor in this problem. In fact, many of the documented cases of building collapse in Nigeria includes errors by private individuals or property developers in circumventing basic professional procedures to obtain building plan approval, use the services of unqualified or unqualified builders, use of faulty or substandard building materials, illegal conversion of existing structures and changes to approved building permits. For example, regarding the Ikoyi collapse, the chief executive of the Lagos State Building Control Agency declared that the owners had obtained approval for 15 floors but had added six more on top of the original approval.

Notably, there are no federal or state regulations in Nigeria that require individuals or property developers to consult certified professionals for the construction of buildings. Therefore, professional bodies are unable to perform the oversight functions, which opens the way for unqualified or unqualified builders to oversee construction projects in the country. Along the same lines, the failure of government at various levels to prosecute those responsible for building collapses has reinforced the preponderance of substandard building materials and a growing level of impunity among property developers.

Disaster risk reduction practices

In an effort to regulate and enforce building codes in Nigeria, various state governments have agencies that oversee and monitor development activities from planning, permit approval, construction up to at completion. For example, over the years, the Lagos State Government has established a Building Control Agency, a Physical Planning Permit Authority, a State Safety Commission and a Materials Testing Laboratory. of the state to ensure the integrity of construction projects in the state. Even before the Ikoyi disaster, various policies and laws had been enacted to regulate building construction in the country, including:

  • National Urban Development Act 2006. This law aimed to develop a dynamic system of urban settlement, to promote efficient urban and regional development and to support effective monitoring of real estate development in the country.
  • Nigerian Town and Regional Planning Act (NURP) (Executive Order 88 of 1992). Section 74 of Chapter 59 of this Act provides that in the event of the collapse of any property or structure due to negligence on the part of the owner or developer, such property shall be forfeited to the government of the Status after due investigation and/or publication in the newspaper. official state newspaper. In addition, the government also has the power to prosecute construction engineers and require relevant professional bodies to have their licenses revoked if they fail to follow standard practices.
  • Lagos Town and Country Planning Act 2010. Sections 27(1) and 75(2) of this Act provide that the erection of a structure without planning permission and the breaking of government seals or the removal of any mark placed on an offending structure by or with the order of the agency are punishable offences.

Despite the existence of these laws, the lack of their implementation across the three levels of government hampers their effectiveness. This state of affairs could be attributed to little or no effective monitoring of real estate development by government agencies due to lack of manpower and unqualified technical agents, bribery of officials in charge of building plan approvals, or insufficient equipment to effectively oversee and approve building construction.

The way forward for government

The tragic collapse of the 21-storey building in Ikoyi, Lagos, presents the government with an opportunity to improve its response to such disasters, to deal with the responsible parties and to prevent their recurrence.. To do so, policy makers should consider the following recommendations:

Improve transparency. The government must be prepared to release to the public the identity of the owners, investors, main consultants, architects, quantity surveyors, structural engineers, service engineers and project managers of the collapsed building in Ikoyi. The government should also publish all permits and considerations received during the project, as well as all documents related to safety testing (for example, testing and laboratory services on soil, concrete, steel, chemicals, calibration, non-destructive testing (END) and geotechnical). These procedures will allow for a thorough investigation of the causes of the building’s collapse, as well as to ensure that there are consequences in the event of failure and to encourage more responsible practices in the construction industry at l ‘coming.

Increase the resources of the agencies concerned. Governments of various states in Nigeria should also prioritize the recruitment of competent agencies with competent and qualified professionals to ensure the implementation of building code regulations in their various states. Policymakers should also endeavor to provide modern facilities and tools such as drones and GPS for effective monitoring and enforcement of building regulations in the country.

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