By Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) at the weekend alleged that field reports from its investigative teams had shown that some state governments were blocking it from conducting comprehensive investigations into the causes of frequent building collapses in the country.
It said in most cases, officials of the state governments had opted to destroy vital evidences that could help determine the causes of these collapses or even refused to open up on the operational status of contractors they award building projects to.
It said one of such classical example was in Ogun State where buildings in the ultra-modern Itoku Market in Abeokuta collapsed and an integrity assessment on other projects that had been completed or under construction by its team was blocked.
NSE’s President, Otis Anyaeji, told journalists at a briefing in Abuja that while the incedents were shameful to the profession in the country, it was more disheartening to know that they could have been prevented by government officials.
He said in most cases, government officials were also found culpable in the collapses, having granted permits and approvals to designs without due diligence.
“Reports from our members revealed the probable complicity of government and government officials in the events that lead to the accidents and even the attempts to investigate the collapses with the intention of learning from them in order to forestall a reoccurrence were frustrated,” said Anyaeji.
He said a right step seemed to have been taken by the Lagos State Government in the case of the Synagogue Church building collapse, but that the actions taken against key players in the act seemed to have excluded government officials found negligent of their duties.
He added that their negligence gave room for the collapse.
According to him: “The Ogun case is worrisome because despite our advice to them to stay action on demolishing the remnant structure until after a thorough investigation, they ignored the advice and carried out the demolition, thereby destroying a vital evidence that could have given a clue to the causes of the collapse.
“In addition, government officials failed to cooperate, by not providing preliminary information to our engineers on the designers, contractors, the contract and the construction details. This gave the impression that the state knew more about the project than it was prepared to part with.”
He said because such acts by a select few gives the profession a bad name, the NSE was determined to get to its root, saying, “This is the time to invoke the powers vested in COREN to regulate engineering works and practice both within government and in the private sectors.”