FG Advised to Establish Legal Body to Enforce Standards in Block Industry  

Operators in the nation’s building and construction industry have determined that a major cause of building collapse is poor quality blocks. They, thus, want the federal and state governments to institute legal bodies to enforce standards in the block making industry. Bennett Oghifo reports
The Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG) Lekki, after preliminary investigation of the site of the building that collapsed in Lekki last Thursday, gave their verdict. “Assessment of partially collapsed building that killed two casters yesterday (Thursday) at Nicon Town Estate, Lekki, indicates inappropriate formwork propping, excess load on walls of substandard blocks and wrong construction.”
Regrettably, the nation still does not have a Building Code that should prescribe standards in types of building materials used in construction, among others.
In the absence of this, stakeholders in the building and construction industry are demanding that government at the federal and state levels institute legal bodies that would ensure that blocks used in construction meet acceptable standards for specific types of work.
Having an enforcement body in the block industry, they said would prevent, to a large extent, incessant cases of building collapse that bring with them avoidable deaths and loss of valuable property.
Stakeholders in the nation’s building and construction industry reached the consensus, prior to the latest building collapse in Lekki, at a meeting called by the Building Collapsed Prevention Guild (BCPG) Igando-Ikotun Cell, held within Igando-Ikotun Local Council Development Authority (LCDA), Ikotun, Lagos.
In his keynote address, the President of BCPG, Mr. Kunle Awobodu noted that in the past, quality of blocks used for construction was not in doubt, but that the story was not the same today.
This unwholesome development, he said was now a source of concern to construction professionals, “who would not want their reputation dented, and for the overall safety in the Nigerian built environment.”
Awobodu, a builder lamented the absence a regulating body for blocks’ production, saying the time had come for the governments to rise the occasion.
According to Awobodu, “Lack of regulation in the production of blocks has been the major source of this problem. Block making business has become an all-comers affair. The machine for manufacturing blocks is easily fabricated in all nooks and crannies without strict specifications and standard. There is no monitoring system for the quality of sand and water being used for block production.”
BCPG, he assured would not relent in its efforts towards having a safer building industry in the country.
Picking up the train of thought, the President, National Association of Block Moulders of Nigeria (NABMON), Alhaji Rasheed Adebowale said apart from regulation issue, some so-called professionals were also the bane of block moulders, “as some of them are in the habit of looking for cheaper blocks, which in turn leads to inferior block production.”
Former president, Nigerian Institute of Structural Engineers, Dr. Victor Oyenuga listed specific details and processes required for production of blocks, stating that block production was an engineering business.
Oyenuga said “Block making is not an all comers affair, it is a serious engineering business and must be taken as such. It becomes imperative when the building is to be a load-bearing form of construction which is the most widely used method here for bungalows and two storey (one suspended upper floor) buildings.”
He added that all efforts should be made to meet the standard requirements of the Code in the production of sandcrete blocks.”
Head of Department of Building, University of Lagos, Prof. Godwin Idoro identified four main processes that affect block making in the country and listed them as government-related causes, design-related causes, construction-related causes and material-related causes.
Citing a study by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), the professor said it was worrisome to know that only five per cent of blocks in Nigeria are produced (moulded) to specifications.
According to him, “This assertion implies that 95 per cent of the sandcrete blocks in circulation or that are used for construction are substandard.”
But to prevent the production of substandard blocks,
Idodo said the combined efforts of all stakeholders were need, including governments’ and their Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), professional bodies, clients, designers and consultants, contractors, suppliers and block producers.
He added that there must be development of codes and standards on sandcrete blocks by government agencies in collaboration with research institutions and professional bodies, in addition to regular training of block manufacturers on standards.
He said, “Governments should make it mandatory for blocks to carry the name of producers, brand name, date of manufacture and expiration like other manufactured products.  Development and adoption of standard production flow chart by block producers. The issue of task force is government responsibility and no private body can do that all alone.”
In her welcome address, the BCPG Igando-Ikotun Cell Coordinator, Mrs. Adekemi Okusaga, a quantity surveyor, said the theme of the workshop “Economic Recession and Inflation: Sustainable Quality in the Production of Sandcrete Blocks and Allied Products” was carefully selected to address one of the main challenges in the built environment.
Chairman of the occasion, Mr. Wasiu Akewusola, a quantity surveyor, who hailed BCPG for the event urged all stakeholders to close ranks and work to stem collapse of buildings in the country.
Akewusola, who is also the General Manager, New Towns Development Authority, Lagos and Chairman, Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria (APBN), Lagos State Chapter, said it was wrong for anybody to wait for disaster to occur before rising up to the challenge.  He urged all stakeholders to be proactive in their efforts to have a better country and safer building industry.