Anayo Okolie writes on the collapse of buildings in Lagos and the move by the state government to curtail the situation
In the past few years, many lives and property have been lost following the collapse of office and residential structures in Nigeria, Lagos witnessing a fairly large number of the cases. One of the incidents that left many countries in tears was the collapse of a building belonging to Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) on September 12, 2014, which killed about 116 people.
The six-storey building was being refurbished from its original two-storey.
Another tragedy struck on March 8. 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 36 persons and injuring several others. Most of the victims were workers, apart from a woman and her six-month-old baby who had reportedly gone to the site to collect money from her husband when the incident occurred.
Lagos State Government believes the tragedy could have been avoided because the building had been sealed earlier by the Lagos State Building Control Agency.
For their negligence, which resulted in the tragedy, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode last week approved the removal of the General Manager of Lagos State Building Control Agency, Mr. Adeigbe Olushola, Head of Inspection and Quality Control, Adeoye Thomas Adeyemi, the Zonal District Officer, Dosunmu Gbadebo, and the Zonal Head of Eti-Osa West of the Agency, Mrs. Akinde Adenike Sherifat. They were compulsorily retired after they were indicted for negligence.
This is actually the first time Lagos State Government has taken such action I reaction to the tragedy of building collapses.
Those behind the collapse of the building belonging to Synagogue Church of All Nations have not been sanctioned even after a coroner was appointed to probe the incident. The Coroner, Oyetade Komolafe, a Chief Magistrate, had ruled that the contractors in charge of the building, Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun of Hardrock Construction Limited, should be tried alongside the church, for criminal negligence.
The government said the church did not obtain the requisite permits to add more floors to the building. The founder of the church, Temitope Joshua, claimed the building was sabotaged. He claimed that a mysterious aircraft, which allegedly flew over the building moments before it collapsed, was responsible for the collapse.
In addition to the sanctions on the regulatory officials, Ambode, who visited the site of the five-storey building at Lekki, ordered occupants in all houses built by Lekki Gardens to vacate their apartments. The order was to enable experts conduct integrity test on the buildings. According to him, after the tests, buildings found to be defective would be demolished and the developers would take the responsibility for the relocation of occupants of the buildings.
The governor said, “The state government will undertake stability tests on all other buildings constructed by the developers in the state, whether occupied or not, to ascertain their structural stability. The developers will pay the cost of the tests. Any building found to be defective would be demolished.
“Also, the state government intends to carry out an audit of all structures in Lagos to ascertain whether they have planning approval or not. The details of this initiative are being finalised and you will be briefed in due course.
“Let me reiterate that Lagos is open to business, but everybody must comply with the state’s laws and regulations. Our main concern is to continue to improve on the ease of doing business and uphold the rule of law at all times. Those who choose non-compliance and defiance will henceforth face the full weight of the law.”
Ambode further disclosed that he had established a five-man committee under the chairmanship of Dr Moses Ajayi, a past president of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners and Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria to examine the Urban and Regional Planning Law of the state as it affects the Lagos State Building Control Agency and make recommendations for changes that would ensure effective service delivery.
Chairman of the Association of Real Estate Developers of Lagos State, Mr. Nureeni Akinsanya, however, pleaded with the governor to avoid punishing innocent persons. Akinsanya said proper probe into the matter had become imperative for the government to get the real cause of the collapse. He called for a forensic investigation, saying such would put an end to cases of building collapse in the state.
“It is pertinent to commend actions taken by the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, but we are also requesting proper investigations into the issue in order not to punish innocent persons,” he said.
The incessant collapse of buildings in Nigeria is a major concern not only to the professionals associated with construction, but also to the clients and the end users. Many other countries have also witnessed incidents of building collapse, but the problem is that in Nigeria the culprits are hardly punished.
Experts have said one of the major causes of building collapse is the use of substandard materials. A research by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria indicates that poor quality building materials are the major cause of building collapses in Nigeria. The research pointed directly at cement, saying most of the cement used in building construction in the country do not hold other particles strongly.
But other causes have also been identified. They include bad design, faulty construction, and foundation failure. Buildings have also been known to collapse due to total or partial failure of one or more of the components that hold them.
There are three cement types presently in use worldwide. They are 32.5mpa, 42.5mpa and 52.5mpa. The 32.5mpa can only be used for plastering and block making while the 42.5mpa is for multipurpose usage, such as block moulding, concreting, slabs and high rise buildings, but it cannot be used for plastering. The 52.5mpa also can be used for high density works, such as bridges, embankments, dams and retainer walls.
Experts advise that to avoid incidents of building collapse, builders should always ensure that the right cement specifications are used.
Another problem many believe is behind the collapse of buildings in Nigeria is the refusal to engage professionals and competent workforce. Contractors, in order to cut cost and maximise profit, often engage the services of non-professionals who are not licensed to undertake in building constructions.
Experts have blamed incompetent artisans and weak supervision of workmen for some of the building failures. They say all relevant building regulatory bodies should ensure constant and continuous education and professional development of its members to help them update their skills and knowledge. They also advise that besides having the right design, contractors should ensure that their designs are reviewed and approved by appropriate authorities before commencement of construction.
To minimise the danger of building collapse, experts also advise that designers must ensure adequate feasibility study on the land, to ascertain the nature of the soil as well as do site inventory and analysis.
Poor maintenance culture has also been identified as a factor in the issue of building collapse. No building can exist throughout its lifespan without the need maintenance. And the maintenance, experts believe, commences on the day the contractor leaves the site.
It is believed that the recent action by the Lagos State governor would make developers to sit up.