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The building collapse epidemic

A five-storey building under construction early this month collapsed at Kushenla Road, Ikate Elegushi, in the Lekki area of Lagos metropolis. Thirty four construction workers…

A five-storey building under construction early this month collapsed at Kushenla Road, Ikate Elegushi, in the Lekki area of Lagos metropolis. Thirty four construction workers were killed in that incident while another building collapsed a few days later at Mile 12 area, killing one person. In the Mile 12 incident, it was gathered that the building was constructed over 30 years ago and that it partially collapsed at about 9 am on Saturday, allegedly killing one person and injuring another.
 Explaining the preliminary reason for the collapse, Acting General Manager of the Lagos State Material Testing Laboratory, LSTML Mr. Rasheed Balogun said there were obvious cracks on the structures, indicating that the structure was ill-maintained.  And only last week, following a downpour in Abeokuta, Ogun State, a dilapidated building collapsed and killed a pregnant woman and her daughter. The incident occurred at Agbo ile Oni Onifufu/Aderupaba compound in the Oke-Ijeun area of Abeokuta, Abeokuta South local government area of Ogun state.
We need to carryout comprehensive condition survey analysis on buildings under construction in order to avert serious economic and environmental hazards that we will be experiencing due to the proliferation of quacks in the construction sector of the economy. Recently, the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON) revealed that most buildings in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are being erected without designs and approval from qualified architects. President of the council Umaru Aliyu said less than 10 percent of buildings in Abuja, the nation’s capital, are designed by qualified and registered architects while the rest are the handiworks of quacks.
The public should report distressed buildings, impending collapse and other emergencies to the relevant authorities in every state for appropriate action. The task of ensuring a building collapse-free nation is the collective responsibility of every citizen. It is absurd that we continue to build without thinking or taking cognizance of nature and artificial development imposed on the soil. Building collapse is a very serious matter that federal government, state governments and professional bodies and other relevant stakeholders should rise up against and any registered professional found to be responsible should face the wrath of law without further delay.
The federal government should inaugurate committees of sound professionals in the building environment to do a feasibility study on infrastructural development on high rise buildings nationwide and advise government on any structure that does not meet the minimum requirement for integrity. While government should step up efforts to fish out professionals who collude with owners of structures to circumvent building laws, we need to also empower our professionals in terms of advanced technology if we have to compete with international best practices.
Ways out of incessant building collapse in Nigeria include passage of National Building Code to become law of the federation, creation of a construction board like obtains in many nations, adequate enforcement and monitoring by regulatory councils and their institutes as well as technology transfer initiatives by federal, state and local  governments and professional institutes. Other methods of checking building collapse include compilation of a national database for all practising and non-practising building environment professionals by federal and state governments as well as local governments.
Registration of all skilled and unskilled artisans in the national database will also help the government through the National Planning Commission or National Bureau of Statistics in planning analysis with support from Industrial Training Fund (ITF). Government can also create a laboratory for building materials testing in the six geo-political zones to prevent importation of inferior building materials into the country, and enact stringent laws against any professional engaging in quackery in the building construction industry in Nigeria.
If these are implemented, the issue of building collapse will be greatly minimised except those that are caused by natural disasters. The spate of building collapses in recent weeks and months is a big embarrassment to this country and we urge the authorities and professional bodies at all levels to rise to the occasion and avert further losses of lives.

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