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Building Collapses: When Quacks Control Regulators



CHIKA OKEKE writes that quacks have hijacked municipal development control departments, having arbitrarily relegated its responsibilities both in monitoring new developments and sanctioning offenders.

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja was over the weekend thrown into mourning as a four-storey building still under construction collapsed.

The building located at the IT Igbani/NBRRI road, Off Obafemi Awolowo road, Jabi, Abuja was temporarily abandoned for over 15 years before the said owner commenced construction at the site this year.

Investigation by LEADERSHIP revealed that work was in progress at the site before the unfortunate incident. As at the time of filling this report, three persons including the project engineer and foreman died shortly after being rescued alive while about 18 persons were allegedly trapped under the rubbles.

Director-general of National Emergency Agency Management (NEMA), Mustapha Maihaja who visited the site of the building collapse on Saturday, said that one died, one was critically injured while five others were rescued alive.

However, the decision of the rescue team made up of officials of NEMA, firefighters, FCT Emergency Management Agency and Julius Berger Plc to call-off the operation on Saturday was marred with protest by youths who insisted that 18 persons were still trapped under the rubbles. They were later dispersed by policemen who fired tear gas and shot in the air.

The Friday building collapse and two similar incidents in Abuja on previous years is an indicator that the built sector are usually haunted on August. Recall that a three storey building which was developed as an annex to a shopping mall and entertainment centre along 444 Crescent, Wupa District in Gwarinpa collapsed on August 2016.

The building, Haastrup Mall and Entertainment centre was at that time developed by Global Success Resources Limited. The said plot belonged to Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and allegedly owned by a former governor of Ogun State even as about nine persons were rescued during the collapse. 

Earlier, another building at Kado-Abuja collapsed on 26th October while another incident took place at Apo Mechanic Village Abuja on 24th August, all in 2016. Both the Gwarinpa and Kado incident claimed the lives of four persons.

Similar Collapses In Nigeria

It is estimated that over 305 persons had died as a result of structural defects in Nigeria for the past 12 years due to over-bearing shipment of substandard building materials into Nigeria mostly from China.

It is worthy to note that on 12th September, 2014, a six storey building belonging to Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) Lagos and owned by renowned Prophet, Temitope Balogun Joshua collapsed leading to the death of 116 people who were mostly South Africans.

On March, 2016, a five-storey building under construction by Lekki Gardens Lagos collapsed, claiming 34 lives while 13 persons were rescued alive. Similarly, on 13th May 2016, a mall under construction at Itoku market in Abeokuta, Ogun state collapsed early Friday, trapping 16 construction workers. Eight came out immediately and the remaining eight were hurriedly taken to the hospital but unfortunately, one died on the way to the hospital.

The state governor, Ibikunle Amosun claimed responsibility for the collapse of the state-owned shopping mall. These and other collapses have been attributed to infiltration of quacks in the built sector, allegedly controlling the activities of regulatory agencies through tips for approval on defect structures.

The control and monitoring of new structures are primarily the responsibilities of municipal development control departments in cities and states, a role that have been relegated over the years.

Failed Regulatory Agency

Cross section of experts that spoke with LEADERSHIP expressed disappointment with regulatory agencies over negligence to duties. The convener of Abuja International Housing Show (AIHS), Barr. Festus Adebayo inquired why the department of development control, Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) failed to monitor the building.

He wondered who approved continuation of work at the site 15 years after it was abandoned without ascertaining the strength of the building, describing AMMC as a sleeping government agency.

Adebayo regretted that Nigeria’s rescue system is still ineffective even as he commended the quick arrival of the director-general/CEO of Nigerian Building & Roads Research Institute, (NBRRI), Engr. Professor Danladi Matawal and other AMMC officials who assisted in reaching out to concerned rescue team.

He noted that any nation who permits artisans to manage construction processes should expect more building collapses. In the same vein, the executive director of Hydraform Nigeria limited, Medinath Huthman stated that until defaulters are convicted and jailed, that building collapse would persist in the country. She pointed out that the incident would have been averted if regulators monitored the development, saying that the publics have lost confidence on regulators.

In his contribution, principal manager at Platinum Mortgage Bank, Mr. Akintunde Akinloye stated that the regulatory body should be held responsible for the carnage, adding that the time for political speeches was over. He asserted that many other collapse-prone buildings are still under construction, just as he called on the federal government to punish those who collected tips on the collapsed building.

He enjoined relevant professional bodies to hold government agencies responsible for the incident, which he described as a blight on their professionalism. According to him, “Our politicians use such events for photo ops and to score political cheap points at the detriment of the safety of people but eventually, nothing gets done.”

Angered by the incident, president of Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Bldr Kenneth Nnabuife Nduka said that there was no need for crocodile tears over the collapse, adding that professionals engaged in the project should be sanctioned if found culpable of the offence.

He pleaded with professional bodies in the built sector to demand the immediate reconciliation of all the urban and physical planning laws as well as the immediate enactment and domestication of the National Building Code. “This may not be the time for political speeches since the evil factors like the processes and procedures that excite building collapses are still lurking around with unfettered intimidation and impunity” he said.

Nduka hinted that government at all levels should be blamed for the menace of incessant building collapse, stressing that the prevailing disregard for professionalism must stop henceforth. While emphasising the need to stop compromise by professionals and developers, he urged professionals to resist the structured blight on their profession.

The president described the incident as a deliberate assault on Nigeria’s national resources, noting that Nigerians must be protected from avoidable careless deaths. He condoled with the families of victims who died as a result of compromise by property developers, built environment professionals and regulatory government agencies.

Lending his voice, director-general/CEO of NBRRI, Engr. Danladi Matawal hinted that development control departments in cities and states must be on their toes in regulating development, as well as punishing offenders to act as deterrent for the future. He averred that every site abandoned for years must be reassessed, redesigned and the structural competency assured before resumption of further construction.

Matawal recalled that NBRRI obtained the Coronary Inquest on SCOAN building at Ikotun, Lagos and the devastating church canopy failure in Uyo. He stated that events in the past revealed that building service workers on electricity, water and sewage lines as well as information and communications technology (ICT) lines are very unsympathetic to structural integrity.

The director-general stated that such workers undermine foundations for services and weaken footings through ground softening by directing precipitation to excavations beneath buildings without considering the implications of their activities. He enjoined developers to harness and use the services of intelligent and experienced registered professionals on their structures and avoid cutting corners in reinforcements and concreting.

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