Tame monster of building collapse?

Tame monster of building collapse?

By Adetokunbo Abiola
Tragedy hit St Andrew’s Grammar School, Ondo town, Ondo State one Friday last month when  a building in the school suddenly collapsed and reportedly killed a pupil. It was gathered that the incident, which occurred during school hours, caused confusion in the school as pupils and teachers quickly ran out of their classrooms and offices to rescue the deceased. The 14-year-old deceased, who was identified as Esther Akinrinola, was said to be in Junior Secondary School 3.

Three tragedy struck in May 2014 as a building under construction in Akure, Ondo State capital collapsed killing two people and injuring two others. According to people who witnessed the collapse, it happened at 7:00 am when workers were just arriving at the building site to begin their work day. Two workers were killed outright – one a teenage boy called Segun – an apprentice – who was trapped under the rubble and another teenager. Two injured men were rushed to a hospital.

Last year, six persons including a pregnant woman were crushed to death  in Ija-Ugbo area of Arogbo Ijaw in Ese Odo Local Government Area, following the collapse of a Cherubim and Seraphim Church under construction. About four other persons were said to be seriously injured when the building, which was under renovation, collapsed on them around 10:00a.m.

A total of 54 buildings collapsed across the country within the period 2012 to 2016, a report from the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has stated in 2017.

Another report said building collapses were more common in cities of Lagos, Abuja and Port-Harcourt, as 60 per cent of the collapses occur in Lagos State alone, and that 70 per cent, 23.3 per cent and 6.7 per cent of collapsed buildings belong to private, public and corporate organizations, respectively. It also noted that the use of poor materials as well as poor workmanship by quacks is also responsible for building collapse and that 70 per cent ofcollapsed buildings do not have government approval prior to the building development.

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Why do buildings collapse in Nigeria. In 2011, a hotel building  located after Oba-Ile Housing Estate, on the way to Oba town in Akure, Nigeria collapsed. Writing on the cause of the collapse, researchs A Taiwo and J.A Afolami said, “It was observed that substandard materials were used in the construction of the hotel building. The quality and quantity of cement used in the construction was very poor. The concrete mix was not evenly distributed. From observation, one could easily assert that the concrete was mixed manually, which made the non-even distribution of the cement, sand and coarse aggregate possible. The reinforcement steel bars used in the construction of this building had low area of steel in the beams, columns and floor slabs, which eventually gave rise to cracks that led to the collapse of the structure under the massive weight of the dead loads.”

Building designs are usually handled by qualified structural engineers who are normally trained and certified by relevant professional bodies like NISE and COREN. Absence of these means a lot can go wrong from the very beginning and cause structural damages that can lead to loss  of lives and other un-intended consequences.

However, according to President of the Nigeria Society of Society, Adekunle Mokuolu COREN lacks the capacity to regulate activities of non-engineers, who are mostly blamed for designing and supervising sub-standard buildings that eventually collapse.

Places like Lagos has swampy grounds and many estates are built on recovered grounds . These means that the foundation of such buildings needs to be strong and carried out after a proper soil test. Absence of this have led to many avoidable building collapses that we have witnessed in this part of the world in recent times.

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A professor of civil engineering Anthony Ede at Covenant University in Ota, Nigeria said in 2016 that two things should be considered when building the foundations – the solidity of the soil and the heaviness of the building and its contents. In Lagos, the swampy ground requires strong foundations. Far stronger than solid ground. But he said developers save money that should be spent on foundations when building on the city’s swampy ground and many buildings had collapsed in the city as a result.

Every building and construction projects normally have sets of design specifications that the professionals ought to adhere to. Adhering to the specifications contained within these documents, will ensure that the building comes out exactly the way it should and is not subjected to abuse by future builders.

Hermogene Nsengimana from the African Organization for Standardisation said in 2016, suggested that there was a market for counterfeit materials – going as far as to say that sometimes scrap metal is used instead of steel.

Workers misunderstand the mixing ratio of concrete, according to civil engineers Henry Mwanaki Alinaitwe and Stephen Ekolu. It suggested that people used wheelbarrows instead of measuring gauges to measure cement.

“You find bricklayers and even technicians calling themselves engineers,” cautioned the former president of the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers Oreoluwa Fadayomi.

The spokesperson for Lagos state chapter of Building Collapse Prevention Guild BCPG, Arc. Augustine Otuoke, said statistics obtained from Lagos State building Control Agency LASBCA, revealed that over 75 per cent of the buildings that are collapsing are the ones built by developers. This means that developers in their quest to cut corners to maximise profit, habitually compromise and jettison professionalism.

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 How do we stem building collapse? President of the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers (NistructE), said governments at various levels should enforce building regulations, staff building approval and control agencies with the experienced professionals, and ensure that only structural drawings prepared and sealed by registered structural engineers are approved for construction.

“We use this medium to again emphasize the need to use the services of registered structural engineers in all building projects, as this is the only way to curb the incidence of collapse of buildings in Lagos and other parts of the country,” he said.

President of Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Mr. Rowland Abonta asked the Federal Government to establish a national task force on collapse of buildings, across major cities of Nigeria.

 “Such a move will determine the stability of buildings and their ability to continuously provide service. This should be done urgently if the government has any form of concerns for the lives and property of the citizens,” he stated.

The President, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Lekwa Ezutah called for a massive urban renewal of Nigerian cities. He observed that some cities have very old areas where the buildings may be older than Nigeria as a sovereign state.

Ezutah stressed that government, as a matter of urgent necessity should commission professional planners to carry out in-depth studies of cities with a view to recommending sustainable policies and plans to address the matter.

The strategies are many, but unless things are done about them, building collapse isn’t going to go away in a hurry.

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