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Building experts urge observance of safety measures, respect to right of way

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Oshodi

Still worried by the Abule Ado explosion that rocked Amuwo Odofin Local Council of Lagos, building experts have warned that except high safety standards and preventive measures are maintained with respect to observance of the demarcated Right of Way, undue loss of lives and property to explosions in the country might never be a thing of the past.

They also urged government to come up with a redevelopment scheme for the impacted area and to develop a sustainable housing system with regard to how people build.

If there is anything that attracts human emotions most in life, it is the untimely loss of lives and property to preventable occurrences.

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While speaking with The Guardian, the experts lamented that cities are dealing with poor urban planning system, poor infrastructure management approach and development pressure which negatively impact the lives of residents.

An infrastructure expert and Vice Chairman, Lagos Chapter, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Mr Lookman Oshodi, explained that the buffer zone principle has been completely compromised in the pipeline Right of Way across Lagos Metropolis, not only in Abule Ado area. He said in the light of that reality, there was need to rejig the town/urban planning approach, warning that the pressure to really congest the buffer zone is coming from lack of alternatives to sustainable accommodation for the residents of Lagos. He said that if there was no concrete resettlement approach and sustainable access to adequate housing, the problem might persist.

“When you have Right of Way that is well demarcated and protected, definitely there should be buffer zone/ areas without any form of development. To achieve what we call a smart city approach, the pipeline system is usually equipped with sensors and infrared equipment so that if anything is coming closer to it within about 10 metres distance, the system will begin to trigger alarm at the end point of the people who are overseeing the pipeline. That could curtail the impact of any infraction from getting to the pipeline. Sensors could also raise the alarm should vandals move close to the pipeline. As at today, such preventive mechanism is not there.

“In the area of deploying technology, there is gross lack of such innovation. The quality and age of our pipeline as well as absence of effort at upgrading them to current global best practice is also a critical issue. The integrity of all the pipelines need to be tested and reworked to halt a reoccurrence of that kind of Abule Ado disaster,” he said.

Oshodi added: “What we are seeing in the larger picture is the struggle between a city that is congested and infrastructure that is aging. It is now a contest of which has the supremacy between the pipeline and the population pressure in the city. If you look at power lines as well, we are supposed to have enough space for buildings but the pressures of development always try to catch up with dangerous infrastructure.”

A professor of Urban Planning at the University of Lagos, Prof. ’Leke Oduwaye suggested a redevelopment of the urban centres to avert a reoccurrence of the Abule Ado disaster.

He expressed concerns that pipelines and danger zones in the urban areas were surrounded by informal activities, saying the state government should muster enough courage and the political will to enforce strict adherence to safety rules for infrastructural development.

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“Right of Way must be clearly demarcated. Rather than allowing people to build close to infrastructural Right of Way or give room for informal activities like trading, living close and use by auto-mechanic operators, the buffer zones could be used for agriculture purposes like planting of vegetables so that if vandals move close to those infrastructures, there won’t be any form of hiding place for them.

“We need to consider adequate fencing of pipeline Right of Way, develop sufficient mechanism for monitoring them like deploying Close Circuit Television, flying drones at intervals and installing applications that could detect eruption at any point if there are pipeline linkages,” Oduwaye stated.

The immediate past Chairman, Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Apapa branch, Dr Ombugadu Garba believes that what was required going by the explosion and similar ones that had occurred was a concerted effort by the state government and the people to respect Right of Way for gas farms and pipelines.

He said: “In the first instance, where do the owners of buildings get the right to build there? Somebody must have granted them permit either temporary or not temporary. On the part of Federal Government, clear Right of Way must be demarcated to prevent people from building close to such facility. If it must be sited, all the standard operating procedures must be followed.

“I believe that the state government must have been seeing the people around the location, collecting taxes and others but the critical issue of safety wasn’t considered. NNPC must live up to their responsibility because this year alone, the Abule Ado incident is like the second one. They need to be vigilant even if it’s to engage security and deploy systems that could checkmate infraction.”

According to him, the rigging of tank farms and depots around residential locations in the state is also a time bomb waiting to happen if not controlled adequately.

Garba added: “The value of life must be placed with high premium and government must not wait until it happens. Affected buildings owners in Abule Ado should be relocated and given clear right of way to where the facilities are. Areas that are very far from the explosion site could be reconstructed if government can, but high safety standard must be put into consideration because of the effect of explosion. If government is very conscious, they should relocate all those people from that area.

“Where people out of their will build in that location without getting government approval, the people should bear the loss. However, government should do something to help the affected residents because they are in serious need now.”

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Speaking on the relief fund established by the state government, he said: “Sometimes you have very good idea and concept but the implementation could be an issue. If government is sincere, the N2 billion would go a long way in reducing the suffering of the people but if the funds generated are not properly channeled then your guess is as good as mine.”

Meanwhile, the Lagos State Building Control Agency, (LASBCA) would in the coming days begin to mark defective buildings in the area that couldn’t pass integrity test.

A reliable source told The Guardian that government plans enumerations of such buildings in that axis.

“What we are doing now is the enumeration of all the buildings around that axis. The state government has spoken on it. Some of the affected buildings will be marked and all the distressed buildings will go for integrity test. Those buildings within the radius of the pipeline will not be allowed around that place. Some of the buildings within the radius of the explosion don’t have approvals and any time government agencies go to the area to enforce, some of the residents usually harass officials and even beat them,” the source said.

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