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Tribunal indicts Lagos in building collapse cases


Scene of a building collapse in Lagos, recently

Scene of a building collapse in Lagos, recently

FOR non-availability of persons prosecuted or sanctioned for 135 reported incidents of building collapse in Lagos State between 2007 till last year, the Tribunal of Inquiry set up by the state government has indicted the later for alleged complicity.

The report says it was more worrisome when there is no single record of prosecution by the Lagos State Ministry of Justice, the Nigeria Police or any other known organ in the state, despite the state government’s primary role to protect lives and properties.

According to the report, the state government has not done enough in the implementation of laws that prescribe the operations of all stakeholders in the construction industry in the state, adding that, preponderance of illegal developments in the state could be traceable to cumbersome planning permit process, absence of physical development plans and operative development guides, as well as title documents as prerequisite for granting planning.

These findings are coming to the fore 16 months after the tribunal whose members included Chairman, Mrs. Akimbo Ajayi, an architect; Mr. Debo Adewale, an engineers; Mrs. Roli Craig, a lawyer; Mr. Moses Ogunleye, a town planner; Prince Segun Adedeji, an engineer; Biodun Rufai, an architect and Mr. Kehinde David, lawyer as secretary submitted its report to the government.

Sources said a situation when a report of such magnitude had been submitted for that long without a white paper on it was dangerous for the built environment and the entire state.

Also, there are series of allegations of official complicity in the approval process in the state, as some anonymous sources cited cases where approval was given for say a two-storey or three-storey buildings, but the developer goes beyond the approved plan due to underground financial inducement overture to officials, who eventually turn blind eyes to whatever the developer does.

In the 16-page executive brief, the tribunal in its finding noted that there are 135 reported cases of collapse buildings in Lagos from 2007 to 2013, when the tribunal submitted its report, with the highest occurrence in 2011, with total number of 34, making 25.5 percent of collapse incidents. There were also 54 building of 2-3 floors, constituting 40 percent of incidents and building above 5-floors constituting the remaining percentage.

Based on its findings, the report recommended, among others, that government should carry out audit of all structurally defective buildings in the state for appropriate action, complete action on the forfeiture of collapsed building sites and that the urban and regional planning and development law, 2010 should be effectively implemented in its entirety, particularly with respect to immediate setting up of the Appeals Committee, Technical Advisory Committee and Drafting of Regulations pursuant to the law.

Besides, the tribunal recommended that government should commence extensive public enlightenment campaign and public education programme to enhance compliance and facilitate effective enforcement, and that the Lagos State Material Testing Laboratory to immediately establish a Monitoring and Enforcement Unit in compliance with the provisions of Sections 9 and 13 of the Building and Civil Engineering (Construction) Materials Quality Law, 2006.

It also observed that the Lagos State owned Low-Cost Housing Estates visited were in sordid state of squalor, with multiple violations and blatant abuse of existing urban planning and development laws.

Regrettably, according to the report, there is no record of persons prosecuted or sanctioned for incidents of building collapse by the Ministry of Justice, Nigeria Police or any other known organ, while the list of parcels of land forfeited to government as a result of collapsed buildings is not in public view, the tribunal noted.

From officials’ end, it was also noted that the existing monitoring, control and enforcement is grossly deficient and that the indiscriminate manner in which buildings are marked by an agency of government, the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), has made the whole system ridiculous and made a mockery of enforcement.

“The preponderance of illegal developments is traceable to cumbersome planning permit process, absence of physical development plans and operative development guides, as well as title documents as pre-requisite for granting planning.

All these make the process difficult and frustrating and inhibit developers from making applications”.
Another area was the indiscriminate use of building materials generally, without ascertaining quality and/or purpose of usage, lack of quality control in production of sandcrete blocks and other building materials also add to this sad occurrence.

Based on its observations, the Tribunal made far-reaching recommendations classified into Short Term to be implemented within 12 months and Medium Term to be implemented within 36 months.

Recommendations made include the following:
•The Government should carry out audit of all structurally defective buildings in the State for appropriate action.
•The Government should complete action on the forfeiture of collapsed building sites.
•Strengthen the mortgage system to increase the financial capacity of developers and individuals to speedily complete building projects and discourage incremental development.
Building structures within the neighbourhood of a collapsed building’s site must be probed by way of structural auditing.
•Government should immediately embark on urban regeneration and renewal in the estate through the involvement of key stakeholder professionals, residents (owners/occupiers), private investors and the appropriate Ministries and Agencies with concurrent responsibilities.
• Development permit process should out-source to only registered professionals due to the apparent inability of LASBCA to effectively carry out these functions.

It concluded by saying that efforts of the Lagos State Government to ensure compliance with planning, building and construction regulations and standards by setting up Regional Development Agency and Stage Certificate Department of the erstwhile Lagos State Physical Planning and Development Authority (LASPPDA) would not been in vain if the recommendations are strictly implemented.

However, the delay in the release of white paper on the report and the present administrations end of tenure have been of concern to observers in the built environment, many of them who expressed their views to The Guardian on the condition of anonymity. However, most of the observers believed that if the outgoing administration cannot complete the study of the report and release the white paper, the onus lies on the incoming administration not to delay on the reports’ implementation.

During the tribunal’s meetings, there were five key presenters drawn from various professional bodies and in the academia, apart from other contributors. The key contributors include Prof. Timothy Nubi of the department of Estate Management, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, University of Lagos; President of Association of Consulting Architects of Nigeria (ARCEN) Fred Coker, an architect; Chairman, African Planning Association, Alhaji Waheed Kadiri, a Town Planner; Attorney-General and

Commissioner for Justice in Lagos, Mr. Ade Ipaye and his counterpart at the Ministry for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr.

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