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SUBSTANDARD BUILDINGS Why Regulatory Agencies Must Rev Up Supervision

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CHIKA OKEKE examines the spate of substandard buildings in Abuja and the need for regulatory agencies to step-up their activities.

When Mrs Dorcas Lawrence was transferred from Lagos to Abuja, one of her greatest fears was how to rent a comfortable and affordable flat in the city.
She was led to an estate surveying and management firm which doused her fears with a promise to secure a 2- bedroom flat at Aco Estate, along the Airport road at the cost of N550, 000 annually.
Lawrence paid the tenancy fee including the 10 per cent agency fee and moved into the house with her three children since her husband was resident in the USA and occasionally visited his family.
Months in her new residence, the civil servant observed that both the interior and exterior parts of the building was peeling, a situation that aggravated her initial fear.
She confronted the agent who informed her that it could be as a result of torrential rainfall that soaked the ground, even as he assured that the agency would commence necessary repairs as soon as the rain subsided.

Unfortunately, the peeling didn’t stop even during the dry season while some section of the building started cracking.  This heightened Lawrence’s fear that one month before the expiration of her tenancy, she moved out from the compound into another house that had similar problems.  Lawrence’s tight spot is synonymous with over 7 million population, residing in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in search of better opportunities.  From Abaji to the city centre, the story is the same. The growing number of substandard houses in the city and suburbs, poor management of refuse, hike in one-chance operators and among others raised pertinent questions on whether the FCT administration and its relevant agencies monitor the city as well as the quality of buildings springing up daily.  Regrettably, the low income earners who constitute over 80 per cent of the workforce live in most of the uninhabitable buildings while battling to meet up with their tenancy fees. Findings by LEADERSHIP revealed that most of the shabbily-built houses were not only blamed on the topography of the city but the use of substandard building materials during construction.  It was also linked to dearth of skilled workforce and poor wages paid to the artisans or labourers at the building site.  Further investigation also hinted that the use of substandard building materials were also responsible for the spate of building collapses, with the recent incident at the IT Igbani/NBRRI road, Off Obafemi Awolowo road, Jabi – Abuja that was temporarily abandoned for over 15 years before the said owner commenced construction at the site this year.  The collapse of the four- storey building still under construction in August led to the death of three persons including the project engineer and foreman, who died shortly after being rescued alive while about 18 persons were allegedly trapped under the rubbles.

To this end, experts in the built sector have sought the need for effective collaboration towards the enforcement of building code.  The Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON) was established to regulate and control the building profession.  The registrar of CORBON, Mr Peter lamented the spate of substandard buildings in Nigeria especially in Abuja.  He noted that the council was seeking alternative means of improving the quality of building across the states even as he stated that utilising the services of quacks in construction were the rationale behind building collapse in the country.
Kuroshi emphasised that the council received series of complaints from subscribers who berated the quality of houses built by developers, noting that such subscribers had spent almost half of the amount used in purchasing the house to make it habitable.  The registrar asserted that the essence of registering and licensing of artisans and craftsmen was targeted at enhancing the visibility of the built sector.
He disclosed that the national building code clearly stipulated that the supervision and regulation of artisans and craftsmen on building site is the responsibility of CORBON, adding that the registration would enable them to closely monitor their activities and improve on their job. Kuroshi hinted that the licensing is an identity card that would contain the artisans and craftsmen biometric data including their area of specialty, noting that it was part of the measures instituted by CORBON to monitor substandard buildings.  He pleaded with subscribers to request for CORBON’s license issued to artisans and craftsmen when engaging their services in the future so as to ascertain that if they are dealing with a registered member of the council. Lending his voice, the chairman of CORBON, Prof. Kabir Bala, urged stakeholders in the built sector to synergise for effective regulations and enforcement of laws to guide building construction.

He noted that the council was concerned with the processes leading to the buildings being produced across the country. Bala recalled that the council recently had meaningful discussions with Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) on synergy. He pointed out that the council would continually build capacity of builders and work to curb the activities of quacks on building sites. The President of Real Estate Development Association (REDAN), Rev Ugochukwu Obiora Chime, said that substandard housing is a function of various factors like faulty design, methodology of construction or that the individual constructing the housing might be corrupt.  This he said was one of the reasons the real estate body was placing much emphasis on training of artisans to enable them adopt the internationally accepted standard.
To this end, he stated that REDAN was reviewing the house types and quality of houses, adding that the essence of creating a portal is to enable prospective homeowners looking for competent real estate developers access such category of developers. Chime noted that many stakeholders have misunderstood their roles, thus engendering overlaps and gaps in the value chain.In his contribution, the chief executive officer of Rotex Group of Companies Limited, Mr John George, pleaded with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and relevant government agencies under the ministry of power, works and housing to step up their participation in regulating the materials that creep into Nigeria markets. He said that the goods that creep into Nigerian building market from Europe were of better quality since the European production market are regulated.  The CEO stated that without the regulatory agencies controlling, checking and vetting the building materials in Nigerian markets that it would be difficult to enforce quality service delivery. This he said was the reason companies producing such items abroad were compelled to produce quality products compared to indigenous manufacturers.
George , who was the former chairman of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, Europe was hopeful that Nigerians would appreciate locally – manufactured goods if the regulatory agencies checkmated the activities of manufacturers.  He called on federal government to mandate manufacturers to attach a minimum guarantee period for any product installed, which he believed would raise a level of responsibility on the company that delivered the job.The minister of power, works & housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, disclosed that the ministry was currently reviewing the curriculum of centres for the training of artisans, which he described as a sure strategy towards the delivery of quality and durable houses.



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