Nigeria: Incessant Building Collapse in Nigeria… (I)

Regulating agencies should be alive to their responsibility

In other climes, buildings don’t just collapse every other day. From the architectural design stage to civil and structural engineering, actual construction and completion of a project, efforts are made to ensure that laid down regulations are strictly adhered to. And there are no shortcuts aimed at minimising costs. In Nigeria, failure of the regulating agencies to properly perform their supervisory roles has given way to a situation where quacks have taken over with dire consequences. This year, several buildings of various heights have collapsed around the country with the highest number recorded in Lagos State. Going by recent statistics from the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), between January and July 2022, there were no fewer than 24 cases of total building collapse. Most of these collapses, complete or partial, occurred in high-rise buildings with dozens of lives lost in the process.

Too much blood is being spilled needlessly in Nigeria’s building industry for all sorts of reasons that even professionals in the sector recognise as avoidable. The recent collapse of a nine-storey building in Victoria Island had compelled Lagos stakeholders in the construction industry to meet to proffer solutions to this incessant menace. The meeting was organised by the Lagos Building and Control Agency, with architects, builders, surveyors, town planners, engineers, among others in attendance. But this is a national problem that requires a more holistic approach for the authorities to deal with.

There are procedures to follow when constructing a building anywhere, even on water. But in Nigeria, these conventions/regulations are hardly adhered to because of poor enforcement of laws. Meanwhile, cases of building collapse cut across offices, residential areas, churches, and business premises. Generally, building collapse in Nigeria could be attributed to several factors: use of quacks and unqualified builders (property owners adopt a one size fits it all approach sometimes by use of an architect to design and build). There is also the failure to comply with policies of regulating bodies in building, the use of substandard materials, undue and notorious sharp practices to maximise profits as well as undue compromise by bodies saddled to ensure compliance with standards.

The incessant collapse of buildings in the country definitely reflects badly on professionals in the industry who are struggling to wrest construction jobs from the few foreign companies operating in Nigeria. But they cannot compete if their building sites become killing fields. There are indications that building collapse are also often caused by attitudinal problems. It is therefore important that there be a register of every professional in the industry to check their activities and documentation. Given the volume of work in the construction industry, it may also be necessary to engage external but trust-worthy certifiers to carry out construction site monitoring.

Experts in the construction industry have proffered many solutions and recommendations to stem this ugly trend, according to those gathered at the Lagos Building and Control Agency meeting. They all recognised the problem as lack of implementation of regulations, particularly that of stage/phase inspection. Confronting all the faults thrown up by years of investigation of various incidences of building collapse across the nation has also been highlighted. For instance, it is observed that the regulations which compel every developer to submit the name of the structural engineering firm supervising their work is often ignored. Testing is another issue that should be addressed in the industry because of the influx and use of substandard building materials by developers who want to cut corners in the execution of their projects. This should include the design of the building’s foundation to match the load it would carry.

  • To be concluded tomorrow.

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