By Maduka Nweke,
Stakeholders in Nigeria’s building and construction industry have decried the spate of storey-buildings collapse in the country, placing the blame at the door step of regulatory agencies.
Some of the stakeholders who spoke to Daily Sun said regulatory agencies had failed in their duty to monitor building contractors to ensure they adhered to standards and quality of materials deployed in the construction of most storey-buildings in the country. The stakeholders also decried the poor emergency response system in the country noting that most deaths at collapsed building sites were due to the absence or delays in emergency response institutions.
“The government is not doing enough to curb the menace of collapsed storey-buildings in Nigeria,” said Stella Muotoh.
The most recent building collapse at Richard Abimbola Street, Ilasamaja, where at least four people, including a teenager, were confirmed dead is an example of government’s failure in safeguarding human lives and property.
As at Saturday morning of the incident that happened on Thursday afternoon Daily Sun learnt that one of the victims was still trapped in the building and making calls to his relatives for help but probably due to poor strategy and machinery, the man could not be rescued alive. Many of the workers at the collapsed building were said to be between 13 and 22 years of age.
Sunday Obiaeli of Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG) sent a text to Daily Sun giving information about the collapsed building. He said the building collapsed at 1:30pm. According to him, the construction of the three-storey building started three months ago and had already been roofed. He opined that the building was handled by quacks who were economical with materials in order to make profit. “Probably the authorities that approved the building may have been bribed to allow such construction to continue because after barricading the place, not long after, work resumed with the explanation that ‘we’ have settled it. Government should not only stop at barricading the area, it should also probe the supervisory authority that allowed the construction to continue. This is a way of forestalling a repeat of that in the future,” he said.
Daily Sun visited the site of the incident to see things and how efforts to rescue the victims were consolidated. Some government officials charged with the responsibility of handling such incidents spoke to Daily Sun. Mr. Ibrahim Fariloyi, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said, “through concerted efforts, we have gotten to ground zero. We received alert of the collapse of a three-storey building around 2:43pm on Thursday, May 18, 2017. So far, we have recovered three dead bodies, including one teenager. We also rescued 19 persons alive and out of these 19, 16 were adults while three were teenagers. Out of the rescued adults, one of them had his right leg chopped off and all of them are at Isolo General Hospital.
On the causes of the collapse, Fariloyi said the Council of Registered Engineers of Nigeria (COREN) and Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) are on ground to detect the causes of the collapse. “After this emergency phase, they will swing into action to find out both the immediate and remote causes or any other thing. You have LASBCA, the Lagos State Test Agency and other statutory agencies that belong to the state government who are saddled with such responsibilities to carry out the investigation with the police,” he said.
Fielding questions on whether Nigerians are doing enough to avoid building collapse, Fariloyi said, “well, the rate has drastically reduced. If you look at 2013, 2014, it was almost on a daily basis but I think this is the major one this year apart from the Lekki incident that happened recently.”
On measure to forestall a repeat of these incidents in the future, Fariloyi said, “Lagos State has been trying to reduce the incessant occurrence but some people can be very stubborn and my appeal to them is, they should not try and maximise anything. It is greed and maximisation of materials that have led to this but we are not going to talk on that. You can see that the gap that is supposed to be between two houses, which is six meters apart, is not observed.”
One of the residents of a nearby building, Mrs. Stella Muotoh, blamed the incident on the engineer, stating that he probably used fake materials and employed underaged workers, some of who are 13 years old. She said, “this area has not witnessed building collapse since I have lived here. Although there was an old building that was bought and demolished by the developer, who started the construction of a new building on the site. The construction site was formerly sealed but probably they may have overwhelmed the authorities with tips to allow them continue building.
According to Mr. Wisdom Osigwe, an Engineering student of Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Imo State, “early in the morning of Friday, a man called his brother working there and it happened that his brother was one of those trapped inside the debris and he picked to confirm that he was still alive but afterwards the efforts of the rescue teams may have resulted in his death because you cannot make omelet without breaking the egg.”
Osigwe said the building collapse probably may have been caused by the use of inferior materials, adding that, “the builder may have tried to cut cost by using materials in short quantities. I can say that the authorities that ought to monitor and supervise the building did not do their job very well. However, I commend the Lagos State government rescue team for prompt response. This is because they came to the scene even before nearby residents knew of the incident,” he said.
Fortnight ago, a building collapsed at NICON Town Estate in Lekki and the “act of administering medicine after death” was followed because Lagos State government sealed off the building for what they refused to explain to Daily Sun.
The property, which collapsed was said to have incurred the wrath of the state government which said that various measures have been put in place to forestall the incident of building collapse.
According to Daily Sun sources, the authority failed to make regular visits to the area and therefore the incident resulted in the death of two persons and left some others with various degrees of injuries.
A worker identified as Yakuub, who sustained severe injuries, was said to be receiving medical attention at one of the intensive care units of an undisclosed hospital when Daily Sun called. It was also learnt that work was ongoing at the site when part of the building caved in, trapping the workers. The deceased, according to eyewitnesses, were brought out of the debris dead, while others were rescued with varying degrees of injuries.
General Manager, LASEMA, Mr. Adeshina Tiamiyu, who confirmed the incident, said, “the agency received a report at about 11.40am, regarding partial collapse of a building at NICON Town Estate, Lekki.” He said investigation conducted by the agency’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) at the scene of the incident revealed that the structure was at the stage of casting the roofing beam.
Some stakeholders who refused to declare their identities blamed government authorities who only visit such sites for settlement. One of them said, “once these authorities have their hands greased, they start looking elsewhere. Anybody sent on such assignment should do it without looking for gratification. It is this gratification that seals their mouth and so even if anything is going wrong, they don’t give a hoot,” he said.