Dorcas O. Aluko
Between January and July 2022, there was a total of 31 cases of building collapse in Lagos, Africa’s commercial headquarters and Nigeria’s most populous city. This is according to a report released by Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) in August 2022.
In the last two decades, the statistics of building collapse in Nigeria have skyrocketed with Lagos on top of the list with more than 50% of the cases. Lagos experienced a total of 167 cases between 2000 and 2021, with 2019 having the highest frequency. Of these 167 cases, 8.8% were institutional buildings, 12.8% were commercial buildings, and the remaining whooping 78.4% percent were residential buildings.
Source: Olasunkanmi Habeeb Okunola, Lagos State Fire Service
The frequent collapse has raised concerns in the heart of people and questions that needs answers. One cannot but wonder what has happened to the efficacy of standards put in place for constructing buildings in Nigeria and the efficiency of professionals in the field.
“If the loss of properties is bearable, what about the loss of lives? What is the fate of the loved ones of victims of the collapse?” are the most prominent questions raised.
Amidst tears, Toyin Lawal, a 28 years old mother of one whose child’s father, Kayode Kayode, lost his life to a building collapse in 2019 narrated how grieved she was when the incident happened and how she has been coping ever since.
“It has not been easy after Kayode, my baby’s father’s death. I have to bear the burden of raising our child alone without the input or help of anyone else. It is so pitiable”
“Kayode was with me in the early hours of the day of his death before he received a call from a colleague of his that there was a quick job for an electrician. He left hurriedly but never came back. I only saw his corpse amidst the rubble of the building he was working on. At that time, there were promises from both the property owners and family members to look after the family he left behind but none was fulfilled. The building that killed him has been re-erected and the owners have moved on with their lives but the scar on the victims and their loved ones can never be erased” she narrated.
Anjorin Olawale Robert, an engineering surveyor who resides in Akure holds a strong belief that the main reason building collapse is on the rise in Nigeria for a while is that standards have failed. He stated that qualified building contractors do not get jobs because those in charge of giving out the contracts prefer to give them to people they are acquainted with so they can satisfy their greed.
“The clients who want to give out the job are corrupt, they have their third-party individuals and they are after their selfish interest. The contractor is also seeking to make profits which is at least logical. But, at the time greed takes most of the resources required for the success of the project, they can only work with what is leftover. So, the standard will be sacrificed on the altar of greed” he said.
Anjorin also spoke on the various roles to be played by appropriate stakeholders in building construction.
In his words, “For the project financed by the government, the government should ensure that they go for the best contractors, best firms that can handle such projects, not these boardroom selections that we are familiar with. Then, they should ensure that the right people, the right hands are placed to monitor the execution of the project; people that can ensure that standards are not sacrificed on the altar of greed and corruption because as long as corruption is still part and parcel of us, there will always be issues especially when it comes to standards”
“Likewise, there are bodies that are supposed to monitor standards being implemented in the construction industry such as the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), and the likes. There are a whole lot of bodies like that, which is basically about ensuring that the right practices of standards are maintained in all that needs to be done.
“Put the right people there and ensure that these bodies perform their job, not them just sitting down in their offices and expecting someone to be sending paychecks to their tables while looking the other way. Things are not done that way. If we want things to work out well in this country, we have to do things the right way they should be done and we will get the best results” he explained.
Reacting to the loss of lives and properties as a result of incessant building collapse, Pelumi Abayomi, an architectural technologist expressed sadness and displeasure at the development. He also spoke on the causes of the collapse.
“It is something that saddens the heart, hearing the news here and there about how buildings are being collapsed according to the inability to hold the load being imposed upon the building.
“Lack of proper understanding and execution of the projects is one major cause. Also, corruption has eaten so deep into the system that professionals who understand and know how well to go about the project find it even hard to secure the job thereby leaving the quacks or the less experienced contractors who have bribed their way one way or another to do the job” he said.
On their part, Lagos State Government (LASG), tougher measures are now put in place concerning building and general construction in the state.
Earlier this year, the state government ordered the stoppage of approval of structures above three floors in Ebute Meta east and west axis of the state, owing to the low-lying nature of the community and its inability to bear loads above three floors.
The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, also, has instructed owners of properties and building developers to avoid embarking on any physical development in the state without adhering properly to the laid down processes and procedures.
In explanation, Governor Sanwo-Olu said that the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), the agency responsible for setting building guidelines in Lagos meant to ensure that building developers set up only structures that would rather than collapse, stand the test of time and emphasized that the agency was not meant to prevent constructions.
Ruins of a collapsed building : PC:iStock