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Implementing findings on Ikoyi building collapse

By Editorial Board
23 January 2022   |   4:10 am
Even with the torrents of bad news daily pervading this country, Nigerians are unlikely to forget in a hurry the killing of 45 persons following the collapse of 21-storey building in Gerrard Road...

[FILE] People stand to look at the rubble of a 21-storey building under construction that collapsed in the Ikoyi district of Lagos, on November 1, 2021. – Several people have been trapped while unspecified number of people mostly construction workers were feared dead as a 21-storey building suddenly collapsed in the Ikoyi district of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Even with the torrents of bad news daily pervading this country, Nigerians are unlikely to forget in a hurry the killing of 45 persons following the collapse of 21-storey building in Gerrard Road, Ikoyi barely three months ago. Government nevertheless has a sacred duty to do the needful and, as much as possible, prevent a recurrence of building collapse. But the solution to the incessant ugly incidents in the country is not in merely setting up panels and submitting the probe report of any collapse incident but in the implementation of the findings and recommendations of the report. Therefore, the Lagos State Government should not allow the report of investigation on the Ikoyi tragedy to become another item for the refuse bin.

The problem of building collapse has persisted partly because previous recommendations on the nagging issue were not implemented but instead dumped no sooner than they were submitted. That is no longer acceptable. The incidents have been traumatic and embarrassing necessitating drastic action that can come about through implementing past and current probe reports. The report of the disastrous Ikoyi building collapse should set the pace.

Having finally submitted its report two months after it was set up, the Investigative Panel set up by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu on the collapse of the Ikoyi building, should be commended for its efforts. The report presents an opportunity for government to do the needful, otherwise, all the efforts and resources on the investigation would be wasted and the problem remains.

Following the disastrous collapse of the Ikoyi building under construction on Gerard Road in the affluent neighbourhood in which 45 people, including the developer, Femi Osibona lost their lives, Governor Sanwo-Olu inaugurated a high-powered six-man investigative panel on November 4, 2021, charged with the responsibility to determine the cause(s) of the disaster. Members of the panel include the President of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planning (NITP), Toyin Ayinde, Dr. Akintiyan Idris, Yinka Ogundairo, Godfrey O. Godfrey, Mrs. Bunmi Ibrahim, a lawyer, and Ekundayo Onajobi (Panel secretary). Fifteen other persons caught in the collapse however survived.
According to the chairman, the panel visited the project site for general assessment; coordinated the activities of the consultants who conducted tests on the site; received and reviewed documents from relevant MDAs and conducted 35 Interviews. It also reportedly interrogated 91 persons, requested and received 21 memoranda and accessed the home of the CEO of Fourscore Heights Limited, the late Olufemi Osibona, with a view to gathering useful documents.

Based on the findings, the panel unequivocally, stated that building collapse in the country is rooted in the collapse of values, morals and ethics “which we need to work on as a nation…We cannot sow the wind and not expect to reap the whirlwind. Therefore, ethics and due diligence need to be restored.”

The panel is right to point out that the collapse of values, ethics and lack of due diligence, are at the root of the recurrent building collapses that have caused the country hundreds of innocent lives and properties worth billions of naira. There is no doubt that the Ikoyi building collapse could have been averted if the responsible government agencies had done their job with the due diligence and care required; or if the builders had not in some ways compromised standard.

Members of the public in general, and stakeholders in the building industry in particular need to know the details of what happened preceding the Ikoyi incident. It is safe to conjecture that if both the authorities and the builder had adhered to laid down rules and regulations for such high rise building, the tragedy could have been averted. The details of the investigative panel’s finding will certainly be useful, beside the need to discipline all those who had played roles of commission or omission in the saga. Did the developer cut corners? Were the relevant agencies of government complicit or compromised? The details should not be swept under the carpet as this will rub off badly against Governor Sanwo-Olu and his entire government crew.

Due diligence and strict adherence to approved rules and regulations are always necessary to prevent unsavoury and pathetic loss of lives, huge investments running into billions, as well as the national embarrassment. The Ikoyi incident is a pointer that official attitude towards building regulations is still carefree; coupled with compromise and sharp practices on the part of the regulators and builders. Dishonest conducts should have no place in all spheres of life, let alone the building industry. Similarly, developers should not be encouraged to cut corners with the resultant frequent building collapse of structures nationwide, with Lagos as the epicenter.

That Governor Sanwo-Olu has set up a four-man implementation committee led by the Commissioner for Special Duties, Mr. Tayo Bamgbose-Martins, an engineer, is a step in the right direction. The committee is expected to bring forward a report to be considered by the Lagos State Executive Council. That is a necessary step towards implementation; but the real actions to put builders and regulators on their toes should not be unduly delayed; nor should culprits be covered up.