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Stakeholders urge audit of Lagos distressed buildings

By Victor Gbonegun
18 March 2019   |   3:46 am
Flustered by the unfortunate loss of lives in a three-storey building that collapsed in Central Lagos last week, experts in the built environment have made case for the review of all identified distressed buildings in the state. They argued that since government is in possession of the list of such buildings, an audit process should…

Emergency and rescue personnel are seen at the site of a building which collapsed in Lagos on March 13, 2019. – At least 10 children were among scores of people missing on March 13, 2019 after a four-storey building collapsed in Lagos, with rescuers trying to reach them through the roof of the damaged structure. The children were attending a nursery and primary school on the top floor of the residential building when the structure collapsed. Police said they believed scores of people were trapped under the rubble. (Photo by SEGUN OGUNFEYITIMI / AFP)

Flustered by the unfortunate loss of lives in a three-storey building that collapsed in Central Lagos last week, experts in the built environment have made case for the review of all identified distressed buildings in the state.

They argued that since government is in possession of the list of such buildings, an audit process should be carried out with immediate effect.

According to them, government also needs to organise a forum where stakeholders from each council be represented while the authorities should give a moratorium to the affected residents and outlaw the redevelopment of the affected properties until a review of processes and systems.

Many primary school pupils were killed last week after a three-storey building at Ita Faji, Lagos Island, collapsed. The school occupies a space in the building.

Reacting to the incident, a town planner and member, Lagos Island chapter, Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG), Akeem Bishi said the collapse was a reflection of a shoddy job on the structure that was built or renovated recently.

According to him, one additional floor was placed on top of the storey building.

He told The Guardian that the incident calls a stakeholders’ forum, which could be done in each local government areas whereby a general agreement for moratorium on all new development which will establish done.

“So it is very likely that there was no provision for the additional floor when the original foundation was prepared. Nobody knows whether the original foundation was even solid and so that is one possibility. But not until the result of the final professional technical investigation is out, nobody could say specifically what is actually responsible as the cause of the collapse.

He noted that generally building collapse don’t just happen overnight except it is sabotage, an explosion or something that could compromise the integrity of the structure on the spot which could happen any day.

“There is need for review of all previously identified distressed buildings. Several of the distressed buildings including the one that collapsed have been marked. What are the buildings still doing after they have been marked. If they alleged that the people are stuborn and don’t want to come out, government could chase them out by force if need be. We are more concerned about safety of lives and properties, which is also the responsibility of government. The first priority is to bring down the building so that it doesn’t kill people unnecessarily”.

“By rough estimate, there are another hundreds of buildings on Lagos Island and there are so many candidate buildings for collapse everywhere. In this particular case, it is neither of those, it is a shoddy job of a building that was built or renovated recently since the last few years. Based on the indications from people who live around the site, people said they have observed problems with the building and they had told the landlord about it before the eventual collapse”.

He explained that there is the need for those who monitor the buildings in Lagos to be more diligent in their jobs as they can’t be pre-empt of blames in the particular incident.

The coordinator of Lagos Island Cell of BCPG, Mubarak Gbaja-Biamila said the solution to the menace of building collapse lays in the hand of the government stressing that it needs the utmost sincerity of purpose with the people and ‘strong political will’ to mitigate the challenge.

According to him, government should prioritize housing provision for the people by making lands accessible and reducing the bottlenecks associated with land titling while issues of housing finance, which is challenged by high interest rate, must be made easy as well as provision of low cost and longer mortgage regime must be designed for residents.

“ Appointment of officials for the Lagos State Building Control Agency and Lagos State Safety Commission and others involved in building management must not be politically motivated so that officials can really deliver in line with their mandate to the people”, he said.

Also, National President, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Lekwa Ezutah called for a massive urban renewal of Nigerian cities.

He observed that some cities have very old areas where the buildings may be older than Nigeria as a sovereign State.

Ezutah urged government, as a matter of urgent necessity to commission professional planners to carry out in-depth studies of cities with a view to recommending sustainable policies and plans to address the matter.

He drew the attention to the fact that cities are the engines of growth in any society, hence matters that affect their viability and livability should be priorities to government and all stakeholders.

NITP also called on the professionals who either build or undertake to supervise buildings on the need to verify the brand, quality, and quantity of materials used for buildings. No aspect or detail should treated with levity.

He called on professional bodies to step-up in their responsibilities to sanction members who do compromise standards.

The implementation of Site Analysis Report and Environmental Impact Assessment are to be strictly undertaken for every development.

Ezutah expressed concerns that Human life’s are precious and we can’t afford to keep mute and watch our citizens perish in the hands of incompetent professionals.

All legislative provisions must be reviewed by the National Assembly and strictly observed failing which appropriate sanctions must be meted to defaulters.

Similarly, the Housing Development Advocacy Network called on government to begin the implementation of valid recommendations from all panels of enquiry set up to investigate building collapse and immediately start with the prosecution of guilty parties.

The association’s president, Festus Adebayo said there was the need to probe the state’s education board to ascertain licenses handed to schools in poorly coupled buildings, usual intervention of a strong technical team should be immediately instituted to visit the site and produce informed reports on the cause of collapse within a stipulated time frame.

The urge the state to urgently highlight the indiscriminate change of use of land and property so a property designed for domestic use is not converted to a place of worship or a school as a result of difference in structural design load.

In a statement, it stressed the need to update the Nigerian Building Code and back it up by law by legislative arm of government.

According to the network, individual and institutional owners of collapsed buildings should be made to bear criminal liability for loss of lives arising from the collapse of their buildings deterring the cutting of corners by clients and building professionals.

“The use of non-professionals in the construction of private or commercial buildings must be checkmated.

Sensitization of the populace by state governments and regulatory bodies on the need to report suspicious buildings to the necessary authorities should be paramount and incentivized. State Governments should also be made liable for failing to conduct demolition activities as at when due.

Professional bodies in the built sector should be made to setup database of their members ongoing and completed projects so those involved in bad projects can face sanctions if found culpable. All schools hosted within residential housing units across the country should be made to vacate such facilities”.

It added, “There should be no provision of license to schools without proper building facilities. Schools given consideration of occupancy within residential units should be limited to pre-school operators. i.e. housing children who have not attained primary school age with specified numbers given to school administrators by the state education board.