Professionals Blame Regulators for Collapsed Building in Lagos

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Bennett Oghifo

Building professionals have advised the Lagos State Government to demolish most of the buildings in the Idumota, Adeniji Adele axis of Lagos Island to prevent them from collapsing on their users.

The professionals, who represent Building Collapse Prevention Guild, at the scene of the collapsed building Thursday, said nobody needed to conduct an integrity test to know that the unfortunate incident occurred because of deflection in the beams, bad workmanship and poor quality building materials.

They added that these infractions were ignored by those who ought to regulate building code, saying it would happen again in the area any time soon.

However, the claim that the infractions were ignored by government agencies was countered by the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), through its Public Relations Officer, Titilayo Ajirotutu, who told THISDAY yesterday that “during its monitoring exercise, the agency identified the building as being distressed and was given a letter to undergo all necessary tests to ascertain the structural stability of the building.”

She said: “After this, the owner of the building, during the structural reappraisal and engineering re-enforcement, went ahead and did additional floor on the building. The agency enforced this by sealing up the building and evacuating everyone in the building but they went back there.”

Regardless, the first Vice President of the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Mr. Kunle Awobodu, said the tragedy could have been avoided because the Lagos Island had been designated a danger zone for frequent collapse of buildings.

Awobodu, who is the immediate past President of Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG), said there was “no need to carry out structural integrity test to know that many of those buildings are weak.”

He said the building that just collapsed was built by a developer who handed it over to the owner-family about 10 years ago and that it had been renovated twice.

“Merely sighting the buildings, you will see deflection, evidence of poor construction, and they are so jam-packed with little airspace where people do not respect setbacks, and all the buildings will burn down if there was fire outbreak in one of them, and it will be difficult for fire fighters to penetrate them,” he said.

Awobodu said the standard setbacks recognised by law is that a building should have space of three metres on the sides and six metres in front, “but on Lagos Island, you have one metre or 1.5 metres, while some are so dangerously close that you will not need to take measurement.”

The situation, he said, was particularly pathetic because the government seems to sit idly, saying: “We have government, we have the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development (LABSCA) among others. This is happening because of obvious evidence of cheating and non-compliance with established laws and regulations.”

Awobodu said the harrowing aspect of the tragedy was that while people mourn, some unscrupulous people are undeterred and continue with their substandard construction, even in the vicinity of the disaster.

He said perennial cries by the government without lifting a finger to prosecute defaulters amounts to shedding crocodile tears. “The amount of money spent on rescue operations could be used to create a system to alert the regulators when such buildings are being developed,” Awobodu said.