THE PORT HARCOURT BUILDING COLLAPSE

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Efforts must be made to ensure that stipulated regulations are adhered to

The recent collapse of an uncompleted seven-storey building in Port Harcourt where no fewer than 16 persons lost their lives has once again raised serious concerns not only about building regulations in Nigeria but also about the response to emergencies. According to reports, many construction workers were on site when the building collapsed and help did not come for them on time. We can only imagine the trauma and the agony the victims were subjected to in the unbearable condition of being trapped between fragments of broken bricks, concrete and mangled rods for several days.

While we commiserate with the families of the dead, it is important to state that unless drastic steps are taken, the nation will continue to experience this kind of tragedy. We therefore endorse the position of the River State Governor, Mr Nyesom Wike that appropriate sanctions be meted to those who may be found guilty of the criminal negligence that led to this tragedy. Beyond that, we also call for a complete overhaul of the nation’s building and construction regulations so as to stop what has become a serial disaster with the attendant avoidable loss of innocent lives.

Meanwhile, we hope the authorities will not treat the Port Harcourt tragedy as an isolated incident. It is not. 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. Quite naturally, 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.

It bears repeating that in other climes buildings don’t just collapse every other day. That is because such constructions are managed by qualified professionals, including structural engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, architects and quantity surveyors, among others. All these professionals are usually 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 all the necessary details, including the quality of materials being used.

Unfortunately, the kind of tragedy witnessed in Port Harcourt had occurred in Lagos, Abuja, Aba, Benin and Kano, among other urban centres in the country but no lessons seemed learnt. Indeed, watching on television gory scenes of buildings where several people are trapped and killed in the mangled debris of iron rods and concrete slabs is now becoming a routine occurrence in our nation.

Several reasons are responsible for the incessant collapse of buildings in Nigeria. These causes range from violation of safety measures when erecting the structures, to the use of untested products and materials as well as lack of adequate regulations and sanctions against offenders. It is therefore important that there be a synergy between government and professional bodies to minimise the occurrence of these tragedies. This can be accomplished through the imposition of regulatory control and enactment of laws to guarantee that buildings are designed and constructed in such a way that is conducive to public safety and welfare.

From the architectural design stage to civil and structural engineering, actual construction and completion of a project, efforts must be made to ensure that stipulated regulations are strictly adhered to and there are no shortcuts aimed at minimising costs. Until we begin to do that, buildings will continue to collapse in our country like packs of cards with the attendant loss of lives.