By Maduka Nweke [email protected] 08034207864,
As more Nigerians continued to suffer the pain of building collapse across the country, some experts have likened the menace to corruption that now appears to be a recurring decimal.
In their opinion, the incidences of building collapse can be associated with structural failures in construction due to its inability to serve the purpose for which it was built.
In 2013, the collapse of Rana Plaza, an eighty storey commercial building in Savar, Dhaka in Bangladesh, resulted in over 1200 deaths and injury to an estimated 2500 others.
In Nigeria, it is scary telling the number of building collapse victims because the it can hardly be enumerated since many lives were lost therein with others directly or indirectly affected by the trauma or material losses that go with it.
The spates of building collapse in Nigeria in the past twenty years have assumed a very worrisome dimension as many lives are lost and huge investments wasted. To examine the causes and effects of building collapse on the nation’s economy with a view to providing information that will forestall future occurrences in Nigeria particularly a developing nations has remained a heculian task for the Nigerian authorities.
Just last week two persons lost their lives in a building collapse that took place in Ibolo, Oraifite in the Ekwusigo Local Government Area of Anambra State. The deceased were working at the two-storey facility when the incident occurred at the early hours on Friday. The engineer in charge instructed the workers to remove the second floor which was not properly constructed. It was in the course of the removal that the building caved in.
Speaking on the incessant building collapse in the country, the immediate Past President of the Nigeria Institute of Builders (NIOB), Mr. Kunle Awobodu said that the problem of building collapse in the country has remained the quacks who pose as professionals and collect jobs they cannot handle. Awobodu who was reacting on the colossal loss as a result of the incident, said that it is the problem of quacks because when the architect drawing and the structural drawings are vetted, ascertained that they are produced by competent or registered architects and structural engineers, it takes another qualified professional builder to understand it and develop what is represented in the design.
He however said that several causes of building failure had been attributed to either natural or man-made phenomena because to the layman, construction means putting blocks on each other. He said, “In Nigeria surveys carried out have shown that the use of substandard building materials; poor workmanship, the use of quacks instead of professionals, non-enforcement of building codes or construction regulations, corruption in the building industry etc. have contributed immensely in most of the recorded cases of building failures. Consequently, these often results to building collapse which has adverse effect on both people and investments in the building industry. In the year 2014 over 120 deaths related to building collapse was recorded in Lagos alone. Similar stories go for cities like Port-Harcourt, and Abuja. Empirical data suggested huge loss of investments in areas with cases of building collapse in Nigeria”.
A lot of information on the state of the nation in respect of the incidences of building collapse and the tendency for the situation to persist if adequate measures are not urgently taken gives concern to many. There has been recommendations that to curb or eradicate the incidences of building collapse, all the stakeholders in the construction industry should adhere strictly to the provisions of the building code, the SON (Standard Organization of Nigeria) should ensure that only certified building materials are allowed in the market. Similarly, government should put in place machinery for strict monitoring of construction sites by enforcing relevant laws to sanitize the building industry.
According to Loirena Fernandez a Spanish construction expert who has lived in Nigeria for more than eight year, in addition to the established causes of the collapse of structures, empirical data from developed countries of the world has shown that many of the recorded cases in Nigeria are due to the fact that the current codes of practice do not make provisions for unexpected loads. He added that an unexpected failure of a single member may lead to an all-round collapse of the entire structure. He noted, “citizens, building professionals and governments must take steps in order to prevent the common problem of building collapse in the country. Any responsible government agency and professional bodies must create awareness for the need to obtain planning permission of the building before construction commences. They must also insist on the need to engage professionals in the construction of buildings”. He further stated that governments at all levels must fund all the agencies in charge of building and monitor codes implementation. “Governments must make payments with regards to obtaining building permits and other documents accessible to anyone who wants to build. The high cost of getting those documents make the building public to dodge the processes to avoid increasing the cost of construction. They must also ensure that capable and qualified professionals are employed to ensure implementation of building code regulations. This would bring about effective and efficient building development in Nigeria,” he said.
It will be recalled that in the recent Ikoyi incident where the state government claimed that the owner of the building was granted permission to build only 15-storey structure but went ahead and built up to 21, punishment such as heavy fines, forfeiture of property and jail terms should be meted out to any professionals or property owners who contravene building control regulations or engage in unethical practices that could lead to the collapse of buildings. Erring individuals should also be made to fully compensate victims in the event of building collapse. A lot of errors have been noticed in the management of rules guiding supervision, monitoring and certification of buildings under construction. This prompted the need for Chapter 59 Section 74 of the Urban and regional planning and development law especially of Lagos state 2010 which was signed by former Governor, Mr. Raji Fashola. That law states that in the event of the collapse of any property or structure due to negligence on the part of the owner, or the developer, such property shall be forfeited to the state government after due investigation and or publication in the state official gazette. Unfortunately, recent events indicate that that law has been denied execution by the authorities concerned.
The government of Nigeria can ensure the safety of construction workers in any site.
Government should put in place machinery for strict monitoring of construction sites by enforcing relevant laws to sanitize the building industry. There must be a guaranteed solution to building collapse in Nigeria to curtail the excesses of catastrophes. There must also be strict adherence to the quality of building materials and commensurate punishment to defaulters. From a professional point of view, there are three cement types for different uses in construction field. These include; 32.5mpa, 42.5mpa and 52.5mpa and are used for different functions like in the making of blocks, plastering, concreting, slabs and high rise building, bridges, embankment, dams and retainer walls. All these must be followed to the later, otherwise, the incidence of building collapse will continue. The use of none professionals who are not trained and retrained must also be eradicated. All relevant building regulating bodies should ensure constant continuous education and professional development of its members that will help them update their skills and knowledge to always follow all building codes specifications.
Designers should ensure adequate feasibility study on the authenticity of the land and nature, soil adequacy, site inventory and analysis to ensure the avoidance of inadequate or poor design details, poor supervision, sub-standard material specification and faulty or lack of maintenance schedule. Because no building can exist throughout its lifespan without the need for one form of maintenance or the other, maintenance work on buildings must commence immediately the contractor lives the site. Absence of a National Building Code has been largely responsible for the incessant incidence of collapsed buildings being witnessed across the country and that passing the national building code into law will definitely help to curb it. The use of non-professionals and quacks in the building and construction industries are also major contributors of building collapse. Most building collapse cases in Nigeria are majorly man-made. There has been a spike in the number of building collapses in the country with over 20 cases recorded over the last 10 years. Despite repeated calls by victims, experts and many other Nigerians, there seem to be no end to the collapses. Of more concern, according to experts, is the lack of punishment for those responsible for these collapses.
On September 12, 2014 the worst building collapse in the country occurred in the Ikotun area of Lagos. On that day, a crowded six-storey guest house belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations collapsed, trapping about 300 people. By the time rescue operations were concluded, the death toll stood at 116 with over 100 others injured. Most of those killed in the collapse (85) were South Africans. Just after that, shortly after a windstorm, a five-storey building under construction at Lekki Gardens Horizon 1, in the Lekki Phase 1 area of Lagos collapsed, killing no fewer than 34 persons and injuring several others.