There is need to overhaul the nation’s building and construction regulations

In order to address the problem of the all-too frequent cases of collapsed buildings in the country, the National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development recently resolved that the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) should liaise with the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) to institute an investigation and identify culprits. Participants at the meeting also approved the setting up of a committee to review the urban planning law and urged the government to facilitate the early passage of the bill for the enforcement of the provisions of the revised Nigeria National Building Code that is currently before the National Assembly.

This is a step in the right direction. All over the country, there is a glaring failure of the regulating agencies to properly perform their supervisory roles, giving rise to a situation where quacks have taken over the building sector. Indeed, some land speculators have also become estate developers and self-styled construction experts all rolled into one. From the architectural design stage to civil and structural engineering, actual construction and project completion, most of these characters seem interested only in how to cut costs, even if it means circumventing laid down regulations. Such a state of affair can only breed the kind of disaster we experience from time to time.

Ordinarily, the construction of a building is expected to be managed by qualified professionals including structural engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, architects and quantity surveyors, among others. All these professionals are to be supervised by site engineers and inspectors whose duty it is to ensure that everything is done in accordance with approved plans and standards, but above all, they are expected to pay attention to the use of the quality of materials. It is therefore unfortunate that in spite of the abundance of a great number of building and construction professionals in Nigeria, buildings still collapse like packs of cards.

In other climes buildings don’t just collapse every other day. From the architectural design stage to civil and structural engineering, actual construction and completion of a project, efforts are made to ensure that stipulated regulations are strictly adhered to and there are no shortcuts aimed at minimising costs. That unfortunately is not the case in our country today. Yet, as we have repeatedly argued, unless drastic steps are taken and building codes implemented to the letter, the nation will continue to experience these serial disasters with the attendant avoidable loss of innocent lives.

It is very clear that we have continued to witness this unfortunate occurrence on a frequent basis is due largely to unethical dealings by project promoters. In most of the instances, the collapse could be attributed the distortion of original building plans by adding more floors regardless of the weight the foundation was erected to carry. To add to all these is the failure of oversight and negligence by the appropriate authorities for supervision and monitoring of physical structure that are prone to collapse due to wear and tear.

While we reiterate our recommendation that appropriate sanctions be meted to those who may be found guilty of the criminal negligence that led to many of the fatal collapse of buildings in recent years, we subscribe to the decision for a complete overhaul of the nation’s building and construction regulations. That is the only way to stop what has become serial disasters with the attendant avoidable loss of innocent lives.