Building Collapse: SON DG Advise Self-regulation in Construction industry

By Fadekemi Ajakaiye
The Director General of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria, (SON), Mr. Osita Aboloma has said there was a need for self-regulation in various sub-sectors of the construction industry to ensure consistent quality products, processes and services.
Aboloma stated this as a solution to the incessant collapse of buildings in the country, as he discussed ‘The Importance of Quality Flat Sheets & Steel Reinforcement Materials in the Construction Industry’, at a seminar by the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG), Ikorodu Cell, in Lagos, recently.
He said self-regulation in various sub-sectors of the construction industry, “therefore calls for greater attention to be given to compliance/adherence to standards/codes by all stakeholders. “Let us continue to work together to ensure lasting solutions to the incessant collapse of buildings in our country and the attendant avoidable loss of lives and properties.”
Aboloma said The Standards Organisation of Nigeria through its State offices spread across the 36 states of the federation ensures compliance to relevant standards by conducting factory inspection for locally produced steel products, certifying the products that comply with the relevant standards under the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Progamme (MANCAP) using Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS),  carrying out market survey and surveillance on steel products offered for sale in the markets and carrying out standards enforcement operations on substandard steel products. 
He said SON also ensures that imported flat sheets and steel reinforcement materials meet the relevant standards through the SONCAP (SON Conformity Assessment Programme) which is carried out offshore.
“A National task force on steel products used in the construction industry was set up to monitor the products of the rolling mills in Nigeria as well as imported steel bars to ensure that Nigerians get value for their money in purchasing quality steel products. 
“As at date, there were 41 registered rolling mill plants that produce reinforced steel bars but seven of them currently have shut down due to various reasons. In its efforts to continue to ensure quality of products, all steel reinforcement bars produced locally have suitable identification marks for ease of traceability. These identification marks can be checked on our website for guidance. SON will continue to work with various stakeholders in the development of standards and compliance monitoring,” Aboloma said.
He challenged building professionals to come up with some practicable solutions that would address the menace of building collapse to minimise wastages and losses.
President, Building Collapse Prevention Guild, Bldr. Kunle Awobodu stated the challenges experienced in the building and construction industry in his presentation, ‘In Pursuance of Quality Improvement in Construction Steel Products’.
Awobodu, a fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), explained that “security challenges in Nigeria have created relevance for window grill, mainly to deter burglars, thereby imposing additional cost on building owners. In 2007, 12mm thick square rods that were used for the construction of window grill in a building met the quality expectations of the building owner. However, similar rods of the same thickness procured in 2011 for window grill to another building of the same client easily bent under physical pressure as a result of quality reduction.
“This experience reminds one of the inconsistency in the quality of steel being used for construction in Nigeria. Method of determining the quality of concrete reinforcement steel bars (rebars) in Nigeria is bifurcated into mechanical and chemical tests.
“When tensile test, which is mechanical is conducted on a high tensile rebar, the yield strength and percentage elongation after fracture are expected to comply with the specifications of the International Standard or Nigerian Industrial Standard (NIS). For instance, the quality of a rebar tensile test that shows a lab result of 500 N/mm2 and 12% in elongation is considered to be adequate.
“A successful chemical test requires the steel bar to possess specified percentages of carbon, sulphur, manganese, phosphorus, silicon, nitrogen and aluminium contents.
“Most laboratories in Nigeria only conduct the mechanical test. Chemical test is hard to come by. Hence, the judgement on quality of steel bars used on many construction sites is based on one sided test, which is the tensile test. More pathetic, is the fact that majority of the sites do not conduct any test because the law does not compel such tests and, moreover, the test process is cumbersome, the laboratories are few and expensive.
“This reality now takes us to a rational reflection that quality is better controlled from the source, that is, the rolling mills rather than relying on laboratory tests of few samples which is more of medicine after death.
“Rising cost of production due to Naira depreciation has turned metal scraps to the major component of steel production instead of ore, that is, imported billets. Ratio 70% of ore to 30% of scrap is permitted in steel production. But the use of 100% scrap for steel production is worrisome, especially when certain scraps are not ideal for the production of construction steel bars.”
Appropriate segregation of metal scraps from impurities is very pertinent, he said. “The need to ensure that every rolling mill in Nigeria is equipped with Fatigue Testing Machine for performance test or durability cannot, therefore, be overemphasised.
“Steel bars manufactured from imported billets are more expensive than those produced from scraps. And that seems to be the reason why there are different prices for the HT bars of the same thickness. The Ajaokuta Steel project that could have been a convenient source of ore has not offered the expected result, thereby turning high hopes to disillusionment.
“Aside from the embossed traceable marks on steel bars that help identify the manufacturers of various bars in the market, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria needs to institute a mechanism for monitoring the quality of steel production at the rolling mills to ensure consistency in specifications of finished products.
“Manufacturers of the steel products in Nigeria are faced with monumental challenges, from inadequate power supply, transportation difficulty to insecurity. There are 41 rolling mills in Nigeria with only 34 of them in operation. Ikorodu axis has the highest concentration of rolling mills in Nigeria with 15 number, which is the main reason BCPG Ikorodu Unified Cell has chosen steel as its major assignment at promoting standard building construction in Nigeria.”
He said the presence of steel rolling mills in Ikorodu environs is a blessing that has created economic upliftment of the locality and the nation in general. “The manufacturers, mostly Indians and Chinese, have helped in employment generation and have added to the revenue of the nation. Hence, they deserve to be provided an enabling environment with good road network, affordable energy source and adequate security. The Federal, State and local governments should put the challenges of the manufacturers in their priority so that Nigerian construction industry can derive benefits from less expensive and standard steel products.
“BCPG Ikorodu Cell must be commended for amplifying the importance of quality steel sheets and bars in building stability. Members of the cell have been using their personal resources to promote a safe environment. This programme was to have taken place about two years ago when it was being organised in conjunction with SON. The SON was mobilising steel manufacturers to attend the programme. However, the change in government affected the SON participation, the overall arrangement; and efforts became futile.
“After a while, members of BCPG Ikorodu Cell overcame the disappointment and inertia. Rising again with new vigour, the coordinator vowed that nothing must make them postpone the programme again.
“Ironically, the news of Coordinator Kayode Beckley’s death jolted BCPG members and became a threat to the programme. Opinions differ. Some believed the programme should be postponed till after his burial while others hold tenaciously to the wish of the coordinator that nothing should prevent the programme from holding. The family was consulted. Like an umpire, the family upheld the vow of the coordinator that the programme should never again be postponed. That settled it! The show must go on.”
He said the “late Bldr. Beckley had passion for good construction work that would not become a threat to the Nigerian built environment, good building work that would prevent premature death of the occupants. A man that committed his resources to selfless service for the sake of humanity is a man whose name must remain undying. Late Bldr. Kayode Beckley deserves to be immortalised. And the best way to achieve this is for his BCPG colleagues to continue with the good work he had championed in this part of Lagos State.”