Experts Proffer Solutions to Halt Building Collapse in Lagos, Nigeria [series I]

Residents of Lagos and other parts of the country were, on May 1, thrown into a fresh round of mourning when a three-storey building collapsed at 24 Ibadan Street, Off Murtala Mohammed Way, in the Ebute Metta area of Lagos State, killing 10 persons including an infant.

It was not the first time such a tragedy was happening in Nigeria, especially in Lagos and other major cities.

In November 2021, 32 persons perished in a collapsed 21-storey building at Gerrard Road, Ikoyi area of Lagos, also killing the owner of the structure, Femi Osibona among 45 others.

Perennial building collapse has resulted in the needless loss of many lives, permanent disabilities, destruction of property worth billions of naira and waste of other resources. 

According to experts, many factors are responsible for building disasters, ranging from substandard building materials, unprofessional and inexperienced builders to dilapidated and over-stretched structures and facilities.

Nigerians, at different times, have called on the various regulatory bodies to be more proactive in the discharge of their duties. 

Such bodies include the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria and associate professional builders; Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and all state agencies that are mandated to regulate construction processes, like the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA).

Many concerned Nigerians, however, are also perturbed over government’s seeming refusal or inability to punish culprits who endanger the lives of residents in their quest to make more money as landlords or developers. 

Such Nigerians are of the opinion that meting out appropriate punishment to culprits would serve as a deterrent to others. There are other people who wonder why routine integrity tests are not conducted on buildings under construction as well as on evidently old and decrepit buildings.  

In Lagos, residents have been urged to quickly report any unlawful activities at construction sites as well as any apparent dilapidated building, to curb the excesses of unscrupulous developers and property owners in the state. Anyone may raise such an alarm by putting a distress toll-free call to 767 or 112. 

WHY BUILDINGS COLLAPSE AND WHAT TO LOOK OUT FORA site quality control engineer, Adebiyi Adelowo, said the structural elements in any building were very paramount in averting collapse.

He hinted thar the refusal or ignorance of property owners to hire qualified structural engineers has led to the loss of many lives and other forms of irreparable damage. 

His advice to developers and building owners is that they should not endanger the lives of occupants of the house in a bid to cut costs. He averred that it would be far more profitable for all parties to use quality materials and employ experts in building houses.

Meanwhile, the permanent secretary, Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Mr. Olufemi Damilola Oke-Osanyintolu, repeatedly enjoined property owners and developers in the state to strictly adhere to building codes and physical planning laws to avert loss of lives.

Moreover, the first female rector of the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Anambra State, Dr. Francisca Nwafulugo, a division of the NSE, Kaduna chapter, said building collapse in Nigeria was a result of corruption. 

On what to do to prevent a recurrence, the engineer and chairperson, Association of Professional Women Engineers of Nigeria (APWEN), said: “There are so many factors that could lead to that. I know that the design is done by engineers, but, at times, some collapsed structures are borne out of corruption. When contractors are given work to do, they want to cut corners and bring substandard materials.

“In fact, we are trying to come up with something to curtail building collapse because everything boils down to the engineers that are really behind the whole thing. We want to ensure we prevent a future occurrence.”

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