Beyond LASBCA in tackling Lagos building collapses
The collapse of a two-storey building at ChrisIgadi Street off Ago Palace way opposite Kilimanjaro/AP filling station on Saturday, May 7, 2022, has again brought to the fore the need for more proactive measures to curb the menace of building collapse. Information gathered from residents revealed that the building gave signs several hours before it eventually collapsed at about 5:23a.m.
Fortunately, nobody was trapped as all the occupants evacuated the building when the signs began- two hours before the collapse. But that was not the case for the 35-year-old three-storey building, which caved in at Ebute-Metta, on Sunday, May 1, 2022 at about 9:30 p.m. with 10 casualties, while 23 others were rescued alive.
The incident happened barely three months after another three-storey building under construction in Yaba, near University of Lagos main gate, caved in, killing about five people, including construction workers. Investigation revealed that both buildings were marked for either not abiding with building regulations or distressed waiting for demolition. For the incident at Ebute-Metta, the occupants were served Statutory Notice i.e Quit Notice, as far as three months ago, while that of Yaba was sealed by Lagos State Building Control Agency (LABSCA) and the State Physical Planning Permit Authority (LASPPPA).
However, with several distressed buildings scattered all over the metropolis, which may cave in any moment, there is need for proactive measures to curb the menace. His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari has at the wake of the Ebute-Metta incident described the frequency of collapsed buildings in the country as embarrassing, urging relevant state authorities to work closely with professional bodies to put a halt to the incidents. Consequently, there is a need to look beyond the Agency (LASBCA) in order to achieve this.
The Agency has been working round the clock to collaborate with its sisters’ agencies like the Lagos State Material Testing Laboratory (LSTML) and Lagos State Safety Commission (LSC). Investigations have revealed that most of these incidents could have been prevented if the building materials were tested in accordance with the provisions of the law. For instance, the Lagos State Materials Testing Laboratory (LSMTL) Law of 2006 was enacted to curb the incidence of incessant collapse of buildings and civil engineering infrastructure.
The main objective of the law was to test the materials used for quality assurance and ensure zero tolerance to building and civil engineering infrastructure collapse in the State. The mission of LSMTL is to establish a system that will prevent distress on buildings and civil engineering infrastructure through quality control assurance mechanisms.
Also, the Lagos State Safety Commission (LSC) is responsible for the coordination of all government matters relating to the safety of lives and property of Lagosians. The Commission is vested with powers to formulate policies, provide advisory and be the regulatory body on safety related issues. It was signed into law on July 26, 2011 as full-fledged Lagos State Safety Commission and subsequently began operations. The need for the establishment of the Commission was borne out of the dream to build a society that values life through a change in unsafe behavior and attitude that would increase life expectancy, national productivity and ultimately improve quality of life, poverty reduction, accidents and injury, illnesses and diseases, and to enhance conducive environment for investment and business continuity.
Furthermore, to curb the menace of incessant building collapse in the State, which impacted greatly on responders like LASEMA, NEMA, LASBCA, Lagos State Fire Service, the Police Personnel and others, a comprehensive approach should be taken on the area of material and soil testing as well as other safety issues, which seemed not to be the issue now as seen from the number of cases reported. For instance, there are allegations of bribery against officials of Safety Commission and LSMTL, but when there is a collapse, LABSCA officials, who are visible, always bear the brunt.
Investigation has also revealed that, often developers forged testing certification to circumvent the approval authorities. LSMTL must find a way to ensure that their certificates are not forged as proof to stem the tide of building collapse, while officials of Safety Commission must ensure that all safety issues are taken care of as well as monitor the compliance to avert future recurrence.
Commendably, LASBCA has taken measures to check the menace by removing over 54 distressed buildings since the appointment of the General Manager, Arc. Gbolahan Owodunni Oki who recently reiterated that the Agency would henceforth demand that developers must use professionals in all their development. He stressed that developers who failed to get their building approvals and mandatory materials testing certificates will be sanctioned and not allowed to proceed in building construction.
The General Manager also vowed to seal any site where the manifest of key professionals and workers i.e names, addresses, pictures and phone numbers of the workers including bricklayers, iron benders are not displayed. He regretted that developers have continued to shortchange the system, despite several warnings, leading to incessant collapse of buildings in the State.