By Tunde Thomas
Of recent, cases of of collapsed buildings has been on the increase in Lagos state and other parts of the country. However the ugly incidence has been more pronounced in Lagos state with attendant consequences including loss of lives and properties. In this interview ,a construction expert,and iron and steel merchant, Mr. Adeniyi Adekunle spoke to Daily Sun on how to avert recurring cases of collapsed buildings. The South African-trained builder who is the Chief Executive Officer of SAMAD Group of Companies noted that the construction industry has been polluted over the years as a result of infiltration by fakes and charlatans who have been parading themselves as professionals. He declared that government can no longer afford to fold its hands while these charlatans continued to wreak havoc in built industry. Adekunle also implored Governor Akinwumi Ambode to wield the big stick to say, enough is enough. He noted that time has come for the industry to be sanitized.
Minimising building collapse
This is a worrisome development. It is an unfortunate development. But what I would like to say is that this is an avoidable problem. I believe the time has come for the Lagos State and other states or those in authority to wield the big stick. There are a lot of charlatans all over the place parading themselves as building contractors. Most of these people are fakes. They are purely merchants, merchants of death. Not only did many of them lack knowledge about modern technology in building and allied sector, they also cut corners in order to make outrageous profits. They use fake and substandard building materials. There is an urgent need to sanitise the industry. We need to do a surgical operation in the sector to eliminate the menace posed to the lives of Nigerians by these fakes and their cohorts.
Ways of sanitising industry
Based on my experience in South Africa and several years of practice here, I made some observations which I believe if we can act upon them, cases of collapsed buildings will become a thing of the past. Presently, I’m talking with other stakeholders on how to organize a workshop to address this issue. I believe that with private initiative, we may be able to identify problems bedeviling the building industry with a view to finding a lasting solution. However, I still believe that those agencies saddled with the task of monitoring and identifying defective buildings should not hesitate to wield the hammer the moment any building is identified to be of risk to the inhabitants. Cases of collapsed buildings is gradually becoming a big embarrassment. Not only that the number of lives being lost is alarming. I would advise Lagos State government to step up its efforts to sanitise the sector. A stitch in time, as they say, saves nine.
Innovations in building technology
What I noticed is that some of the people that are actually operating in the construction industry are either careless or that they don’t have the necessary experience which they ought to have. For example, quality of building products you are using matter a lot. Not many people know that a bag of cement has expiration period which is three months. When a bag of cement expired and you use it thereafter, it is very dangerous. By the time it expires, it has lost its strength and ironically some contractors and sellers will keep cement for years and they will still come back to use it. This is very risky. Some of the blocks that these contractors also use, they will mould them almost immediately. But what they fail to realize is that after moulding these blocks you need to wet them for seven days continuously. After the seven days of wetting you now leave it for another 14 days. Blocks are not supposed to be used until after 21 days of production.
Experience in construction industry
My firm has executed several jobs within and outside Lagos State. We were involved in construction of primary schools for Osun State government. But mainly we undertake construction of estates and private buildings for individuals. In order to ensure that my construction firm tries as much as possible to give our client the best, I get cement and other building materials directly from the source. Again, this is to ensure that we don’t end up using fake materials for jobs we are executing. One thing I have discovered after several years in the business is that if you are not careful, the reputation you have built over the years can be ruined if you use fake products as it will affect the quality of job you are executing. I always tell my workers that I don’t mind using expensive products which on the long run may affect profit we stand to make. My joy is always seeing customers coming back to commend us for a job well done.
State of steel and iron rods that lie comatose in Nigeria
I completely agree with those that make this submission, iron and steel industry is lying comatose. This is very sad. It is very unfortunate that the steel sector is in a sorry state despite billions of naira that has been sunk into the sector by government over the years. I think it is high time Federal government sat down, and decide on whether to bring private investors to revive the comatose steel industry. Most of these steel companies in the country are almost dead. But I strongly believe that if the Federal government can revive steel industry, we will move forward as a nation. A lot of private investors in the iron and steel sector have come into the country in the last few years, and they are doing very well. So the question you ask is this, if private steel firms are doing fine, why can’t those set up by government thrive? I think everything boils down to issue of corruption. With billions of naira government has sunk into those steel companies, I see no reason, those companies are not working.
Sometimes I lament when I wake up in the night, I wonder what kind of country is Nigeria? When I visited Ajaokuta Steel Company sometime ago I was shedding tears seeing infrastructure wasting away. Itakpe Steel Mill was set up to supply raw materials to Ajaokuta Steel Company, but this has not worked for several years. If you see the Ajaokuta Steel Complex, you will see that there is no reason for us to import iron into this country. At a time, I was even thinking whether it was a curse that things that should be working in Nigeria are going the other way round. I also thought that it was foreign conspiracy that is making things difficult to work in Nigeria. If Nigeria can be producing at full capacity in all these dormant iron and steel industries, honestly, there are a lot of investment opportunities for the masses there. I don’t know why government can’t revive iron and steel industry. Iron and steel industry can fetch Nigeria billions of dollars in revenue. Most of the other sectors are there which government has committed a lot of resources into them without achieving result, but with iron and steel, government can’t be disappointed.
Let government invite professionals and experts who have good knowledge of the sector, and we will be singing a new song. To achieve the desired goal, government can collaborate with the private sector. Private sector participation will go a long way to ensure that we get a good delivery. Government has tried its best, let’s try another alternative. The way people handle things in this part of the world is different from that of the Western World. People here are more interested in what will go into their private pockets. If the private sector is encouraged, there will be a lot of changes. Look at NITEL, we all used to believe that telephone was the exclusive of the rich but see what liberalization has done to the telecommunication sector. If government can allow private investors to come in, I believe it won’t take time to revive iron and steel industry. I believe all hope is not yet lost for the industry. Nigeria is still going to be a great country.
Motivation going into construction
I would say the motivation was right from my childhood. I have always loved anything construction. I used to follow one of my uncles who was a contractor to construction sites. Seeing labourers and their foremen at work, I always admire them. I also admired helmets worn by foremen and supervisors at construction sites. Although when I left secondary school, I immediately proceeded to Lagos State University.
But to actualize my dream of being a builder came to pass when I gained admission to read Building Technology at Hydraform Training Institute in South Africa. On my return to Nigeria about 10 years ago, I initially joined my uncle’s construction firm before I later decided to start my own company. This was in 1993 but with perseverance, the business later flourished to the extent that I now went into both construction business, and selling of steel and iron rods.