Building collapse is often man-made occurrence that can be avoided if we are determined to get rid of the menace.
This position was taken by a team of professionals in the nation’s building and construction industry, at a special event organized at Alausa in Lagos, recently.
The professionals, who congregated to discuss ‘Building Collapse Challenges and Way Forward’, said “It is disheartening that our precious time is being donated again to cry over spilt milk. Another building has collapsed, greeted by frail nerves, rescue operation, lamentations, noise, promises; and then back to square one, business as usual. The aftermath of building collapse in this milieu is a regular case of ‘medicine after death’.”
They said, “Experience has shown that while we are mourning the dead in a collapsed building, the premonition of another calamity waiting to happen preoccupies our minds in the grim reality of on-going substandard construction works in several nooks and crannies of Nigeria, especially Lagos State.
“Must we continue with this trend of visiting sites of collapsed buildings to make statements that time would soon be consigned to mere rhetoric and exhibitionism as words could not be matched with action? The fact that building collapse has become a recurring decimal in this part of the world draws skepticism from promises of government officials at the instance of a collapse.”
Thus, they said it was pertinent to draw the attention of Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to the “The over 1,000 buildings that failed integrity tests on the Lagos Island and left unattended to for years should be demolished as soon as possible; a systematic approach at conducting extensive integrity tests on buildings across Lagos State should be adopted; The 5-man committee set up to restructure and reorganized LASBCA and LSMTL is skewed as it does not represent the entirety of the 7-built environment professional bodies in Lagos State and the nation in general.”
According to them, “What is worth doing at all is worth doing well. In 2008, when the then Lagos State Government set up a Technical Committee that developed the 2010 law on Physical Planning & Building Control, all the seven built environment professional bodies were represented in that committee. It is therefore ironical for, such a great work to be reviewed in any aspect by a deficient or lopsided 5-man committee.”
They listed the 7-built environment professional bodies as: The Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA); The Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB); The Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS); The Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP); The Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors & Valuers (NIESV); The Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS); and The Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE).
They noted that “the current 5-man committee has two town planners, an architect, an engineer and an administrator. It is important to note that the 2010 law was the outcome of a comprehensive work that entailed wide consultation of members of the aforementioned professional bodies, Obas, chiefs, academia, civil societies, artisans and the public generally. The process lasted about two years.
“The problem we identify here is not the law itself but its implementation. However, the regulations that supposed to accompany the law have been subjected to intrigues and suspicion within the system.
“Following the incessant collapse of buildings in Lagos, the government in May, 2013 inaugurated a Tribunal of Enquiry on Building Collapse. By November, 2013, the Tribunal submitted its report. Though the tribunal was skewed as it showed poor representation of built environment professional bodies, its recommendations remain in the dark and are unimplemented till today.
“In view of the foregoing, this recently constituted 5-man committee’s work might turn out to be a mere academic exercise and a waste of resources.
“The essence of separating officials who would approve building plans at pre-construction stage from officials for site inspection at construction stage is to establish a mechanism for checks and balances, that emphasises the separation of powers and relationship between Planning Permit Authority and LASBCA as established in the 2010 Physical Planning law and Building Control.
“However, the moment the officials of the two sectors become interchangeable, the objective is defeated. For instance, when town planners, whose primary responsibility is within the Planning Permit Authority, are now transferred to constitute over 50% of LASBCA staff, such a step is antithetical to the goal of physical planning and building control regulations.”
They noted that there is no accurate data on the number of buildings under construction in Lagos State. The Lagos State government should embark on urgent enumeration of building sites in the state. “Professional bodies are ready to partner with the government for the success of this initiative.
“There should be adequate monitoring of all projects going on in the state no matter who the clients or developers are. All project developments in the state should be monitored to ensure appropriate professional inputs at both design and construction stages.
“The spate of foundation failure, especially piling requires immediate government intervention. Therefore, the geotechnical sector, that is, soil test and piling activities should be regulated to prevent future collapse of buildings/structures induced by mistakes from the geotechnical or foundation sector.
“Government should help address the problem of undersized and immature timber members (planks) in the market.
“The staff strength of Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) when juxtaposed with the Lagos mega city status is grossly inadequate. LASBCA is of 253 staff. If all the staff, including the general manager could go on-site inspection, it means an average of 4 LASBCA officials would cover each of the 57 LGAs and LCDAs. This is a mission difficult to accomplish.
“Inspection or monitoring of sites should be executed by relevant professionals, who have knowledge, experience and competence to identify substandard building production process and also possess the ability to discern conflicts between the approved building plan and building being constructed on site. Please, let us have round pegs in round holes, not otherwise.
“Government should introduce subsidence survey and monitoring of high rise buildings.”
There is need to review the extent of the activities of Lagos State Materials Testing Laboratory (LSMTL) in order to make it a result-oriented organ and not necessarily profit-oriented. Laboratories should be increased in number, spread across the state and manned by sincere and technically sound or competent officials. A synergy between Standards Organisation of Nigeria and LSMTL should be encouraged.
“The Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development needs to outsource relevant professionals to assist at checking building plans before approval and site inspections or monitoring. This will facilitate the process of building plan approval and reduce bureaucratic bottle necks and contraventions. Devolution of powers or decentralisation of building plan approval authorities will go a long way at quickening the process, but should not be abused.”
Present at the event were: Arc. Ladipo Lewis, Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Lagos State chapter; Bldr. Adelaja Adekambi, Vice Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Lagos State chapter; Mrs. Adenike Ayanda, Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS), Lagos State Chapter; Esv. Offiong Samuel Ukpong, Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors & Valuers (NIESV), Lagos State Branch; Surv. Gbenga Alara, Chairman, Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS), Lagos State Chapter; and Engr. Adeolu Ogundare, Chairman, Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Ikeja Branch.
Also present were, Bldr. Kunle Awobodu, President, Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG); and Tpl. Wasiu Anifowose, Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Lagos State Chapter.