ADEGWU JOHN, in this report, writes on the need to enhance the authority of the regulatory bodies as a panacea to incessant building collapse in the country.
A stitch in time saves nine, so goes the maxim that explains the essence of adopting preventive measures to stem the tide of building collapse in Nigeria, which has become a disturbing trend in recent times.
There are several factors attributed to building collapse in Nigeria. In some cases, it is caused by natural disasters, such as floods, stormy wind and earthquake, while in other instances its causes can be attributed to human errors including the uses of substandard building materials, non-usage of professionals in the construction process, and erection of buildings on waterways.
According to building experts, buildings on the verge of collapse can give some indications ranging from regular cracking noise, excessive water on the roof, interior collapse, sliding of plaster off the wall in large quantities.
Although, building collapse occurs in many parts of the world, but the rate at which it reoccurs in Nigeria is.
worrisome. According to Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG), Nigeria recorded no fewer than 43 building collapse in 2019 alone, with many also occurring this year already, leading to loss of investment opportunities and properties worth billions of naira, claims of many lives and leaving the survivals in traumatised conditions. But who should be held accountable for the ugly upsurge of building collapse in the country?
LEADERSHIP Weekend findings revealed that the owners of buildings sometimes compromised by not involving professionals, and also use substandard materials. Experts also raised concern that laxity on the side of approving authorities who are supposed to approve locations before buildings are erected, have been responsible for building collapse; thus, the role of approving authorities for buildings and structures cannot be over-emphasised, adding that research efforts should be focused on identifying the various factors that contribute to the burgeoning cases of collapsed buildings in this country, through physical observations, and, or sample collection of debris from collapsed building sites, and oral interviews of eyewitnesses or residents within the vicinities.
Four dead as building collapses in Lagos
A recent collapse of a three-storey building that was still under construction led to the death of four persons while eight others were injured in Lagos Island. The spokesperson of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Nosa Okunbor, while confirming the incident said the cause of the collapse was yet to be ascertained.
He said: “Upon arrival at the incident scene, a three storey-building under construction was discovered to have self-collapsed.“The cause of the collapse is yet to be ascertained, but efforts are presently ongoing by LASEMA and other responders towards salvaging the situation.”
Abia Records 4th Cases In 2020
In Abia State, four building collapses had been recorded in 2020. In a recent incident, about five persons were feared dead when a three-storey building under construction collapsed on Wednesday, September 16, 2020, in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State.
According to a witness, one of the five persons inside the structure at the time of the incident were killed, while the fate of the four others who were trapped in the rubbles was yet to bedetermined. The building, which is located at No 85 Azikiwe Road, in Aba South local government area of the state, collapsed at about 5:15am on Wednesday, September 16, following a heavy downpour.
Causes of building collapse
The president of Quantity Surveyors Registration Board of Nigeria (QSRBN) Surveyor Murtala Aliyu, explained that the first step to ensure that buildings stand safe from collapse is to involve professionals from the conception of a building until the end.
“When the architect designs the building plan, the structural engineer who comes first needs to design the structure to ensure that it can stand he would have done the necessary tests such as soil test, environment test and the rest”.
“Then, the electrical engineer will come and work on the power supply distribution or any water leaking. The quantity surveyor will come and give the cost advice; but I can tell you the general cause is that the professionals are not being used in the first place,” Aliyu said.
He said that most of the collapsed structures when checked, revealed that quacks were used.
“People just gave some quacks and somebody just put something for them without knowing the implications of the structure; so there will be issues. You just get architect who designed well, but you don’t get an engineer or you don’t give mechanical engineer to come and give the necessary advice of several configurations. Once professionals are used, you find that it will be difficult for buildings to collapse,” he added.
Aliyu noted that before any development of a building, there should be an approval of the appropriate authority.
According to him, “In cases when authorities give approval without follow-ups: checking the designs to ensure proper adherence or the necessary inputs, or where there are, there is no effective monitoring to do the right thing, and somebody just place a structure, it will be a problem, no matter how well it is designed or conceived.
In a case where somebody is allowed to build on a waterway, such a building will eventually collapse or have an issue.
“Once the government addresses this, there will be little or no recorded building collapse. Most of the buildings that collapsed are not public buildings. You will find out that they are private buildings. So, whosoever followed the correct thing by adherence to advice from appropriate authorities, will not have such an issue. The truth is that quantity surveyors are not directly involved in issues that cause building collapse, but being part of the team that supervises, they are always vigilant to see the safety of the building.”
He continued: “It is highly recommended by experts in the field of building that quality control should be enshrined to ensure that buildings are designed by qualified professional architects and engineers, and also for architects to restrict their activities to the preparation of drawings and verification visits to sites.
“Although it is quite understandable that hiring professionals for building consultations can be expensive, but a stitch in time saves nine. It is encouraging for building owners and contractors to engage fully, certified builders and other professionals in the construction of buildings, in order to stem the tide of building collapse.
Corroborating Aliyu’s submission, a surveyor in the Department of Quantity Surveying, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Oke Ayodeji, in his examination on causes and effects of building collapse in Nigeria, said that poor maintenance culture, design error, poor quality of materials and workmanship, natural phenomenon and excessive loading contributed to about 7 per cent, 15 percent, 52 per cent, 7 per cent and 20 percent respectively of building collapse in Nigeria, with most of them being private residential buildings executed by indigenous contractors.
Ayodeji recommended that Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) should increase its effort in sanitizing building materials in the market. Moreso, he said construction professionals should ensure proper supervision of workmen and efficient checking of materials before incorporation into building works.
“Buildings fail through mainly ignorance, negligence, and greed. Ignorance has to do with when incompetent personnel are in charge of design, construction or inspection. One of the major areas of negligence is in specification writing where that of a past project is adopted without crosschecking those areas that needed improvement, addition or omission. Greed on the part of building contractors, for example, diversion of building materials, cement in particular, meant for the production on the client’s site to his own site, the use of substandard materials so as to achieve high profit. The role of professionals in the construction of buildings in Nigeria is such a fundamental one,” he added.
In a chat with LEADERSHIP Weekend on who should be held accountable for building collapses, as well as the way forward, the founder, Mish Affordable Housing Limited, Yemi Adelakun, stressed the need for the adherence to standards and building code.
Adelakun decried the usage of qualified developers dearth. He said everybody is now a developer without any qualified experience, stressing the need to return to the basics of the building code.
In his words: “Lack of adherence to standards and building code. You will find out that nobody is enforcing them. The main problem is that everybody is a developer without any qualified experience. So, we need to go back to the basics of the building code.’’
Speaking further, he stressed the need for the usage of appropriate materials when needed.
“There is no shortcut when it comes to deploying the right professionals and usage of building material appropriately. Starting from the mixing of the concrete to blocks, then to iron. Usage of appropriate materials are very important and cannot be overemphasised.
“Earlier, I talked about the deployment of qualified developers to embark on building. There are so many professionals who cannot be put aside. The role of surveyors is very important including the architect, engineers, electrical engineers and civil engineers.
“Also, there are government agencies saddled with the responsibility for development control. They have to live up to standard and expectations. Some people go about building without getting approval to follow the rudiments of building construction and there are no consequences from the authorities.
“At every stage of building development, there must be somebody who supervises and certifies it from the foundation to the completion.”
Adelakun said despite the availability of the identified causes of building collapse in the academic, professional and public domains, there is still reported building collapse in several locations of the country.