By Babatunde Ayedoju
The Nigerian media space has been awash with many stories of buildings collapse. Normally, nobody builds a house or any other structure with the hope that it would collapse. Nonetheless, a lot of buildings came down crashing, and in some cases such t happened shortly after the project is completed.
Still fresh in the memory is the story of the 21-storey building, located on Gerrard Road in Ikoyi, Lagos, which collapsed on November 1, 2021. According to media reports then, the collapsed 21-floor skyscraper, owned by Fourscore Heights Limited, trapped over 50 persons, including the firm’s Managing Director, Femi Osibona; his friend, a United States of America-based Nigerian businessman, Wale Bob-Oseni; his personal assistant, Oyinye Enekwe, and clients.
About 44 persons were said to have died as a result of the incident, nine survivors were rescued from the rubble of the collapsed building, while some artisans working in the building before it collapsed were missing at the time the news first broke.
The Lagos State Government had to order the demolition of two uncompleted 15-storey buildings beside the ill-fated structure and the forfeiture of the land where the buildings were located, based on the report of the Toyin Ayinde Panel which was set up to investigate the incident.
Similarly, middle of last month, a seven-storey building under construction in Banana Island, a highbrow part of Lagos, collapsed. This incident reportedly made Lagos State Government direct that all developments on Banana Island be placed on hold, subject to a comprehensive audit by the officials of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA).
Eyewitnesses, who spoke with newsmen under condition of anonymity, said one of the concrete mixer trucks rammed into some load-bearing columns of the building, causing a loud bang and leading to the immediate collapse.
Though initially, Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, stated that 25 people were rescued alive from the rubble, without any death recorded, he later gave an update that one person was found dead.
He said, “One body has been recovered from the rubble of the collapsed building at 1st Avenue, Banana Island, Ikoyi. When a roll call was done by the site supervisors, everyone was accounted for. Nobody could ascertain whether the victim whose body was found this morning was on the site – as of the time the roll call was taken.”
Commenting on the trend, Director General, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Farouk Salim, quoted some statistics saying that there are over 221 cases of building collapse in Nigeria, making it the topmost country in Africa with the highest number of building collapse, with Lagos State alone constituting 60 percent of the cases.
Mr Salim made this disclosure while speaking at the opening of the fourth edition of builders’ breakfast workshop, tagged: “Building Surveying Practice and Procedure: Charting a New Course in Building Post-Construction Services in Lagos.” The event was organised by the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIoB), Lagos chapter.
Similarly, Brookings Institute cited anecdotal evidence from various government agencies and a review of literature that between 1974 and 2019, over 221 buildings collapsed across various Nigerian cities and more than half of the collapses occurred in the economic hub of Lagos.
The report added, “In fact, Lagos experienced 167 reported cases between the years 2000 and 2021, 78.4 per cent of which were residential buildings, 12.8 per cent were commercial, and the remaining 8.8 per cent were institutional buildings. This spate of building collapse displaced more than 6,000 households with an estimated total loss of $3.2 trillion worth of property”.
The Institute also stated that many of the documented cases of building collapse in Nigeria include individuals’ or building developers’ errors of bypassing basic professional procedures of getting building plan approval, engaging the services of unqualified or unskilled builders, the use of defective or substandard building materials, illegal conversion of existing structures, and alterations of approved building permits.
Samuel Enesi, an architect, cites several reasons for the incessant cases of building collapse that have placed Nigeria on top of the chart in Africa. He identified three major stakeholders in a building project, which are the client, consultant and the contractor.
Enesi stated that while sometimes the client does not know anything about building, making him vulnerable to deception in the hands of unscrupulous contractors, there are also cases where third-party clients connive with private developers to undermine a project, because of the extra money they want to make.
Secondly, he disclosed that sometimes the right set of people such as architects, structural, electrical and mechanical engineers are not hired to handle a project, or the ones who have been hired are not competent enough. This, according to him, is seen in the way some builders fail to follow blueprints that have been provided by the architect. To make matters worse, in the words of Enesi, “most building materials are no longer up to the size or label on them.”
Still on competence of developers, Enesi said, “If a contractor or an artisan is not competent, no matter the level of supervision, the job delivery will not be at the quality level desired. Most of our artisans today require training. Some of them are interested but they are not competent to handle some jobs they accept.
“We have another side of overconfidence on the part of our artisans. I have heard from them many times that they have experience of many years and that most engineers only know theory. Usually, I don’t argue with them but manage them and after a while, they will start learning from me.”
According to the seasoned architect, the matter is complicated by the fact that builders sometimes fail to follow the designs in the architectural blueprints that have been given to them, saying, “unfortunately, if the building has issues, they may not be available. Even if they are available, the first person to call will be the consultant architect or engineer.”
Orioye Amorioloye, an engineer, shares a similar standpoint with Samuel Enesi. According to
Amorioloye, aside the fact that many builders fail to follow standards that are meant to guard against building collapse, a lot of clients also fail to hire competent hands, because they do not want to pay up to the amount which qualified architects and engineers will charge them.
He also noted that inadequate supervision, aided by corruption on the part of quality control officials, makes people to engage in unwholesome practices with impunity. According to him, this can be seen in the way some people increase the number of storeys beyond what has been approved.
He said, “There is a body that is responsible for checking contractors on site, to ensure that they build according to the recommended standards. Unfortunately, even when they find faults, they easily compromise ethics by taking bribes from the builders and allowing them to continue. This has further emboldened even the defaulters themselves.”
Amorioloye recommended that to stem the tide of building collapse in Nigeria, those who are saddled with the responsibility of ensuring compliance with industry standards should be firm and upright in discharging their duties. Also, competent hands should be hired in executing building projects.
Leave a Reply