Lagos State recorded two incidents of building collapse in the month of October. Residents of Orisha community in Magodo area of the state battled frantically in the early hours of Sunday, October 13, 2019 but could only save the life of one out of five occupants, when a house built on a hill in the area collapsed. A woman identified as Mrs. Faith Otache and her three children where brought out dead from the debris of the building while her husband, who survived the incident, was rushed to a hospital.
Barely two weeks after, another building, a two-storey structure, also collapsed at Ojuelegba end of the state. The building located at No 7, Rufai Street, Ojuelegba, came down at 8.55 pm shortly after an occupant of the building reportedly raised the alarm that a part of the building had caved in. The prompt response of other occupants to the alarm saved the situation as no life was lost to the incident.
The two ill-fated buildings shared the same disturbing story of government’s ineptitude and people’s dilemma as far as the problem of shelter is concerned in the state. Some residents at Orisha community revealed that officials of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, LASBCA, had marked the building as risky and unsuitable for human habitation some years ago but claimed that nothing was done about it. Similarly, Sunday Sun learnt that the agency had equally on March 25, 2019, marked the Ojuelegba building and served the residents the notice to vacate the premises, a directive that was never complied with until the building came down.
A survivor of a building collapse, Kabiru Adedeji, blamed the failure of occupants of distressed buildings to heed evacuation orders on prohibitive costs of decent accommodation in Lagos State. Adedeji said in his own case, just like every other occupant, he knew that the house he was living in was in bad condition. He however said that the huge cost of relocating to a new and better accommodation prevented him from doing so until the house made way for the ground early this year.
“We all knew that all was not well with the building, but many of us were just praying and hoping that we would have been able to raise enough money for new accommodations before the unexpected happened. In fact, signs that the building was distressed had been multiplying for more than a year. There was a day I returned home and found out that concrete from a portion of the beam at the back of the house had fallen off. Beyond that, we could hear the building vibrating anytime people were moving especially on the first floor. But since I couldn’t raise the money for another accommodation, I had to remain there until it happened. I am very grateful to God for sparing my life and the lives of my family members,” Adedeji said.
Friday Ogbeide narrowly survived the collapse of “titanic,” a massive building comprising 36 flats in Ebute Meta, in which 28 lives were lost on July 18, 2006. Ogbeide who was living with a relation in the building then had traveled a day preceding the unfortunate incident. According to him, the building despite being a relatively new house at the time had shown palpable signs of weakness before it finally gave way. “My brother whom I was living with then had complained that he was not comfortable living in the house shortly after he moved into the building but that he could not just raise the money for another house after paying heavy rent for the house,” he said.
Affordable housing is no doubt a considerable challenge for urban areas with large populations, and this is particularly prevalent in Lagos State, where it is estimated that no fewer than 500,000 people move into every year. A large chunk of these people end up in buildings considered unfit and dangerous for human habitation including distressed and uncompleted buildings, a factor which experts identified as the major reason for high casualty rate often recorded in the state whenever any building collapsed in the state.
A real estate expert, Mr. Michael Oyelakin explained that the huge demand for accommodations in the state would continue to push up rents in the state and by extension fatalities in the event of building collapse until the government, both at state and federal, show more commitment to easing the pains of the masses in the country in the area of housing.
According to Oyelakin, Nigeria currently has a deficit of 17 million houses. “A significant percentage of this deficit is felt in Lagos State but unfortunately there is no indication that the government is doing anything serious to address this challenge. Alhaji Lateef Jakande created a template in the 80s, which was targeted at the masses. But what do we see them do today? There are several phases of housing estates built all over the state without people living there. These are houses valued at several millions of naira. You built a house and placed a price tag of N10 to N30 million on it and you claim it is for the masses. How many people can raise such money to buy a house? Definitely, your target is not the poor.
“We are talking about people who the government feels can survive on N30,000 minimum wage monthly. On the average, it is estimated that over 90 percent of Nigeria’s working class earns N66,000 monthly. Considering other mandatory family expenses, nobody who earns such amount will be able to save N1 million in 10 years. So, how do you expect them to buy the kind of houses the government is building? It is high time government factored the ordinary man, who can make do with a room and parlour self-contained unit and other moderate apartments in areas like Akute, Aboru and Egbeda into its housing scheme instead of concentrating on the highbrow areas of the state.
Ineptitude on the part of government in the area of enforcing evacuation orders on occupants of buildings considered unsafe for habitation is yet another reason, which analysts identified as a contributory factor to fatalities in collapsed buildings in the state. A community leader in Igando area of the state, Alhaji Jimoh Ogundimu, said the government needs to be more firm on the issue of safety and security of lives in the state. “There is no sense in marking and sealing a building considered distressed and still allow it to stand for another decade until it crashes. People who are in dire need of shelter will always find cover in such buildings. If you go round the city you will see buildings that are visibly distressed and have been marked for more than three years that still have people living in them. Go to places like Mushin, Ojuelegba, Oyigbo, Agege and other areas, you will see many of them,” he stated.
Although attempts to speak with the General Manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency, Mrs. Abiola Kosegbe were not successful as she was said to be deeply engaged in some official engagements. However, a top official of the agency who pleaded not to be quoted said the agency follows a laid down procedure in performing its tasks. The source said that doing this sometimes slows the agency down in its operations.
“Once we identify a building as distressed, we give the owner a notice to go for a test to ascertain the status of the building from material testing lab. The result will determine whether there will be a need to carry out renovation or whether it should be pulled down. But once the result is negative, we go ahead and serve the owner a demolition notice. So, we would advise the owner to demolish the building within a stipulated period of time. But once the time given lapses, the government will automatically come in to do the needful. But there is no demolition we can do without the approval of the state governor. We will write a report and a memo to the governor for his approval for the demolition. But you know, as humans there is always this restraint not to inconvenience other people,” the source explained.