Saturday letter1

The incidence of building collapse in Nigeria has been on the increase in recent times. The reoccurring menace has claimed many innocent lives, valuable properties and huge investments. Although structural failures of building may arise from natural catastrophe, the pivotal cause of incessant building collapse in Nigeria is the non – compliance with the building industry construction standard and regulation for designated buildings. Any building poorly planned, designed and maintained stands the chance of structural failure.

The historical data of past collapsed buildings has attributed structural damage to inadequacy of structural test. Oyewande (1992) identified deficient structural drawing as the first challenge of building collapse. The soil which the building would be situated on must be scrutinized prior to construction. This process helps in determining the building strength that the soil can inure. Determining soil solidity through assumption is prone to failure of this test. Every ground requires a strong foundation but the swampy ones require stronger foundations.

The sustenance of building planning scheme can be achieved through effective rules and regulations. A strict compliance with the National Building Code (2006), Land Use Act (2004), town planning inspection, and other firmly entrenched statutory instruments which regulate and impose minimum standards for building construction should be mandatory. Likewise the deficiency in the extant laws guiding the durability of constructions should be reviewed to fulfill legislative intents. The Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has the greatest role to play in setting these laws in motion.

The use of sub – standard materials such as ; inadequate quantity of cement, concrete blocks, sand, poor workmanship and overloading or increase in floors of building contrary to foundational scope are the indices of structural damage. These lacunae can be curtailed through the instrumentality of the law. Sometimes, a child doesn’t appreciate the decisions taken on its behalf by its parents until he or she has come of age. Ignorance and illiteracy hampers envisagement. Many Nigerians ignorantly take decisions that endanger their lives and others. Effective building regulation is a mechanism to protect rights to life and properties.

No amount of gospel can forestall building owners from patronising quack building contractors in order to cut cost. Trade embargo would not deter gluttonous contractors from adopting substandard materials despite being paid fatly. Approval of building construction through irregularities played by many construction inspectors would continue on a larger scale. The Nigerian government has the primary onus to safeguard its citizens and their properties against dangerous tendencies through proactive measures.

The stern war against negligent building collapse should be fought holistically ranging from the building inspectors, contractors and building owners. In a bid to curb reckless building failure, the recent building collapses at Sogoye area, Ibadan and Ita Faaji area, Lagos Island must be investigated judiciously. Any individual or body found guilty of negligence or dereliction of duty should be duly prosecuted. This process would serve as an illuminating signal to all parties involved in building construction.

Binzak Azeez, Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife