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Ikoyi building collapse: Experts offer solutions to halt reoccurrence

As tongues continue to wag over the collapse of a 21-storey building in Lagos last Monday, experts in the construction industry have proffered solutions against…

As tongues continue to wag over the collapse of a 21-storey building in Lagos last Monday, experts in the construction industry have proffered solutions against recurrence and to boost the credibility of the built environment.

The collapse of the 21-storey building on Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos has raised questions about poor regulatory oversight in the all-important property industry. 

With 42 people dead and 15 survivors as of Saturday, the incident has provoked discussions about doing the right things; taking preventive measures, rather than a reactive approach, in order to save lives and resources that have been sunk into the building process.

Speaking with our correspondent, the immediate past president of the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Mr. Kunle Awobodu, said the right things must be done from the beginning to the end of the construction process.

He said the developer must engage professionals in all the phases of the construction process in terms of architectural design, engineering design and engage a professional builder who will “help in transforming the drawings designed by architects and engineers into an object on site.”

“So it requires someone versatile in different areas of building to assist them to bring all these components together.

 “At the same time, if such a person is not living up to expectations, the regulatory body that registered the professional will have a punishment for such a builder. So that is what we should look at, and if we do that, anybody who has been licensed to manage building construction on site would not compromise because that is the professional’s only source of income and that is what he/she has read all their lives.

“The person has taken an oath to observe the ethics of the profession. If he/she fails along the line, they should be ready to face the consequences and their license will be withdrawn.”

Awobodu, who is also the past president of Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG), said the searchlight must be beamed on the regulatory authorities in the state, especially the Lagos State Building Control Agency.

Also speaking with our correspondent, a past president of the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers, Engr. Victor Oyenuga, said some of the many factors that could lead to building failure were poor design, lack of supervision by professionals and poor or low quality of materials used for construction of the building.

He, however, said it is only through a thorough investigation that the actual causes of the incident could be ascertained.

Oyenuga called for preventive measures to avoid a recurrence of the incident. 

He said the money to be spent in hiring professionals to carry out construction is far less than what would be spent when a building collapsed.

The expert also lamented the dearth of experts in the regulatory agencies in the state and advised the government to consult professional organisations to address the challenge.

He said, “You don’t have to wait for buildings to collapse; people are killed, so many people injured and then you spend money that is more than what you would have paid the structural engineer to do the design.

“So I think that the general public should know that prevention is better than cure, as people say. Employ a qualified structural engineer, not only for the design but also for the supervision.

The materials should be very good for the construction and then it should be supervised by qualified personnel. So if the code that is being used for design specifies those three conditions, I think it behoves any reasonable individual, whether private or public, to ensure that those three conditions are met. If those three conditions are met, we would not have building collapse.

 “In terms of supervision, if Lagos State doesn’t have the capacity, there is no way any state government can have that capacity. Because when you are talking about capacity, it is Lagos State that everybody looks up to, because it is bigger not in size, but everything. 

“So if they don’t have that capacity to do everything, it behoves on the government to see how it can relate with the various institutions where you have professionals and say, ‘look, we have this and that, what can you do’.

“For example, if they can decide that, ‘we have 57 local governments, you the Institution of Structural Engineers, give us 57 structural engineers that can assist us in this matter’. 

“They should do the same thing to the builder, the same thing to the architect, they pass over the money to the developer. At the end of the day, it would be a win-win affair: you are sure that your building is going to last.

“So it is better for you to make sure that a thing doesn’t happen; rather than allowing it to happen and you start looking for a remedy,” he further stated.

On his part, the President of the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON), Sir Dipo Ajayi, said there would definitely be more high-rises as Nigeria evolves as a developing country. 

According to him, doing the right thing would prevent the kind of disaster experienced in Ikoyi.

He said, “There is a frequency of collapsed buildings in Nigeria but it’s not peculiar to Nigeria alone. The same problem is happening in America, India and it is happening in Nigeria.

“We need to go back to the process of carrying out the building business in Nigeria. Don’t just employ anybody to design for you. You must employ qualified architects, licensed architects, licensed engineers, everybody participating must pass through the process of being qualified.

“There would still be a lot of high rises because Nigeria is a developing country, a pregnant country and we will have more and more of this. What is salient and important is that we must avoid running it as business as usual. There must be a selection of qualified consultants, there must be registered architects, there must be registered contractors. 

“Don’t just come to this country and start designing. There was a rumour that the designer of this project was from Italy, that would be very ridiculous. We’ve architects with 50-40 years experience. We can’t just continue this impunity just because you have the money. You have got to follow due process.

“When you have architects in Nigeria that are jobless and who are more qualified. How do you even qualify or identify those foreigners that are coming in? Did they show their certificate to the regulatory bodies before they came to the country? These are the problems. 

“Unfortunately in Nigeria, we believe less in our people than the foreigners. The so-called foreigners are not the best that would come to this country. They are those that are mediocre. So when they come around, they don’t even show their certificate to the regulatory bodies. This is part of it.”

As efforts are intensified to prevent a recurrence of this disaster, stakeholders are unanimous on the need to strengthen the regulatory apparatuses in the state and across the country to step up surveillance and monitoring of projects under construction.

The Ikoyi incident came five years after the collapse of Lekki Gardens on March 6, 2016, where five people were killed and the mystery is yet to be unravelled.

But the Ikoyi building collapse is the most deadly that the nation and the state would experience in its recent history. And it prompted the state government to compose a six-man panel to probe the incident.

The probe panel comprises a professional builder, a town planner, a structural engineer and a lawyer, all from the private sector.

 Members of the panel, as announced by the governor at the scene of the incident, are President of Nigeria Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Mr. Toyin Ayinde, chairman; a lawyer in a private law firm, Ekundayo Onajobi, Secretary; a structural engineer, Dr. Akintilo Idris Adeleke; an architect, Yinka Ogundairo; a representative of the Nigerian Institute of Builders (NIOB), Mr. Godfrey O. Godfrey and a property lawyer, Mrs. Bunmi Ibrahim.

The terms of reference of the panel include ascertaining whether there was a compromise of the building codes by the developer, his contractor and statutory regulatory agencies.

Other terms of reference of the panel include determining whether there was full compliance with physical planning and building materials laws of the state; determining whether there were supervisory or oversight lapses on the part of regulatory agencies, and making necessary recommendations to guard against a recurrence of similar incidents.

The governor also directed the audit of all ongoing high-rise buildings above five floors to ensure that the construction works are according to the specifications and approval.

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