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Monday, November 29, 2021

The Ikoyi Building Disaster


LAGOS State again came on the spotlight few weeks ago for a negative reason with what has been termed the Ikoyi building disaster. On November 1, this year, a 21-storey building under construction collapsed like a pack of cards burying a number of people below its belly. According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) 15 people survived the catastrophe while 44 people including the owner of the tower perished in the disaster.
THE monumental loss in lives and resources accompanying the building disaster had attracted the attention of many notable individuals and corporate organisations including The Hope Newspapers on the consequences of incessant but avoidable collapses of buildings in Lagos and other parts of the country in recent times.
However, it is an irony of event that the current occurrence is happening in Lagos State where spirited efforts had been made in the past to improve planning policies, activities and outcomes. Thus, to improve planning and building development activities, Lagos State created the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development.
TO ensure the success of the Ministry, enacted Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law 2010 to reorganise and strengthen planning and building development control in the state.
IN addition, three parastatals were established under the Ministry: Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority (LASPPPA), Lagos State Building Control Agency (LABSCA), and Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA).
ALL these were introduced to strength the control of physical development and monitor building development to stem incessant building collapses in Lagos State
IN SPITE of the above efforts and prior to the recent Ikoyi building collapse, a number of building collapse had occurred with devastating consequences in the state. In the last ten years, there have been too many buildings that went down and took lives with them.
ON March 8, 2016, a five-storey building collapsed while under construction in Lekki, killing at least thirty-four (34) people. In 2019, a three-storey building in the Ita Faaji area of Lagos suffered a structural collapse and killed over twenty (20) people. Often, we would wail and call on the authorities to investigate and bring culprits to book.
IN addition, a National newspaper had earlier reported that over 200 persons lost their lives in major building collapse incidents in Lagos State in the last seven years and that at least 145 buildings collapsed in the Lagos State between 2007 and now.
Since the unfortunate collapse of the Ikoyibuilding, many individuals and groups have come up with suggestions as to the possible cause of the disaster. Some of them have revolve around lack of approval, the developer building beyond initial 15-torey approved, use of substandard material, use of incompetent workmen and professionals, and non-compliance with building and planning regulations as well as engineering standards. The failure of the Lagos State officials to discharge their approval and control functions also featured prominently in causing the collapse of the building. The officials of the state noticing infringement or deficiencies in the project reportedly sealed off the site. There was no evidence that the needful was done before the developer resumed work on the site. Agencies responsible for approval, monitoring and compliance with regulations and standards compliance did not do the needful to prevent the accident. In addition, the Nigerian Institute of Structural Engineers blamed the lack of quality control, quality assurance, and structural inadequacy as possible reasons for the recurring building collapses in the state.
In quick response to the unfortunate incident, the Lagos State government suspended the General Manager of Lagos State Building Control Agency and further set up a five-man independent panel of experts and lawyers to determine the causes of the Ikoyi building collapse.
WHILE the panel is absolutely necessary in accordance with best practices, they should be allowed to discharge this onerous responsibility professionally, sincerely and without fair or favour. In addition, the Lagos State government must be prepared to receive and implement faithfully the outcome of the panel’s activities. Otherwise, the outcome of the panel will go the way of past recommendations that ended up in the office shelves without implementation.
TO forestall future building collapse in Lagos State and Nigeria in general, planning and building development agencies must be alive to their responsibilities, be given free hands to preform and should perform their duties with integrity, sincerity and competency required. Materials to work with must be adequately provided. Undue Interference from higher powers should be discouraged and stopped forthwith.
ALSO, members of the public must be active, alert to protest and complain about unwholesome and poor building developments around them.

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