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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Stakeholders attribute incessant collapse to non-compliance to building laws

Stakeholders in the building industry have attributed incessant building collapse to bad design, faulty construction, foundation failure and extraordinary loads on such structures.

Lagos collapsed building
A collapsed building in Lagos

The stakeholders in the North Central Region said that structural failure resulting building collapse has been recurring in many parts of the country, especially in the southern part in recent times.

They noted that, irrespective of the rate of the occurrence or the causes, there is need for a consistent method of checking the menace.

A town planner in Jos, Plateau State, Mr Kefas Yilwrang, the General Manager of the Jos Metropolitan Development Board (JMDB), said that there ought to be stiffer sanctions on defaulters of building laws.

Yilwrang said that most cases of building collapse reported were due to lack of conformity to building laws, especially in Jos.

“Only in rare cases are natural disasters such as flooding as the cause,” he said.

Yilwrang said the board had encountered difficult people who were determined to contravene building laws of the land but have had stiff penalties imposed on them by the authorities.

“You see no individual is above the law of the environment where he resides and the law is there to serve as a guide to the public for every of their interactions with the society.

“But when they choose not to obey such laws, you cannot be above the laws of the land you live in, and so we start by serving notices to stop some suspected substandard buildings.

“Sometimes even when notices have been served the defaulters will continue with the construction, build it, paint and even decorate it.

“They assume that because of the work done, we will forget it, but when they do not conform to the notices and it expires, we then take action,” he said.

Yilrwang advised the public against indiscriminate purchase and occupation of lands without proper consultations from relevant authorities, saying such move only create chaos in the society.

“Everything we do is on land, and once it is not properly ordered, you will discover that there will be so many different kinds of chaotic things going on.

“Such that it can make the whole environment unpleasant, and once it is unpleasant, it makes the public to agonise.

“That is why we have so many different types of environmental problems here and there,” he said.

Similarly, a cross section of building experts in Jalingo, Taraba State, advocated for a strong legislation for the building industry.

Some attributed incessant cases of collapse building to invasion of quacks in the industry.

Dr David Kajo, an engineer with Moulds Construction Nigeria Ltd., said that most buildings processes had fallen short of basic engineering methods.

He noted that demand for cheap labour had caused a lot of people to resort to hiring of quacks for construction works.

Mr Solomon Ogbuji, an estate surveyor with the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing in Jalingo, advised citizens to employ qualified personnel when they want to build.

Ogbuji also advised people to buy quality materials for their building projects.

He said that such would bring an end to the menace of building collapse.

He also advised them to follow the guidelines when executing a building project.

Mr Mohammed Baka, an architect in Minna, Niger State, attributed building collapses across the country to breakdown in the norms and values in the country, in spite of existing laws regulating construction work.

Baka, the General Manager, Niger State Urban Development Board, said that the reports of incessant building collapse were worrisome.

“We have the laws to prevent building collapses but we are not adhering to the laws, hence building collapses here and there.

“Recently, the President of the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), who chaired a committee on the 21 storeys building collapse in Lagos, said that the main cause of building collapse in the country is breakdown of norms and values.

“I concur to this authority because it is the truth,” he said.

Baka said that the issue of building collapse could be traced to some stakeholders such as the developers or property owners.

“This is where you talk about the getting the proper and quality materials for the construction works.

“Another thing is getting the right professional to do the structural design and the supervision,” he said.

He said that when “a developer tries to reduce the cost of construction by undermining the acquisition of quality material, which will result in general output leading to building collapse.

“If the materials are substandard, the building may collapse.

“Also if the right materials are acquired by the developer and he refuses to engage the right professional to do the proper job, there is a problem.

“You will find out that the building will not get the required strength to stand, which often lead to building collapse.”

The expert said that some developers also cut corners by trying to maximise materials, money and not taking the design of a structure or building to the right authority to supervise.

Baka noted that there were existing laws to tackle building collapse in the country but the enforcers of the laws cannot be everywhere to supervise ongoing construction.

“There is the need for stakeholders such as the developers, neighbours security agencies and passers-by, among others to report to the regulating authorities when they notice any new building in their environment for appropriate action.

“Many developers don’t even seek for the statutory tittles such as Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O).

“If you don’t have a C-of-O that means that you don’t want government to capture you.

A cross section of building experts in Jalingo have advocated for a strong legislation for the building industry.

Some attributed incessant cases of collapse building to invasion of quacks in the industry.

South East stakeholders in the industry also called for integrity test on buildings and enforcement of laws to curb the menace.

The respondents made the call in separate interviews on the menace of building collapse.

A former Chairman of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) in Imo State, Mr Emeka Ugoanyawu, blamed the incessant collapse on use of quacks in the industry.

Ugoanyawu, who also blamed regulatory agencies for failing to supervise contractors, called for an emergency meeting of stakeholders to address the menace.

The former chairman urged government at all levels to conduct integrity test on all buildings suspected to be substandard to avert deaths occasioned by a building collapse.

An architect and building expert, Mr Ifeanyi Nnagbo, said the use of substandard materials by quacks and lack of adequate knowledge on the load bearing capacity of the soil were the causes of building collapse.

“As a professional, you will certainly know the importance of soil test, effective and functional designs that will stand the test of time as well as use of standard materials to execute your projects.

“When the design is not properly done, the load bearing walls are not properly aligned which can lead to building collapse, but when professionals are used in handling these projects, all these things will be put into consideration,” he said.

Nnagbo called on government and professional bodies to step up their roles in checking quackery in the building sector, adding that “stiffer penalty for artisans and non-professionals, who undertake projects could reduce the menace.”

He also called on government task force to move from site to site ensuring that projects, especially large ones, were handled by certified engineers and supervised by appropriate bodies.

A former state Chairman of the NIA, Mrs Ndidi Okoro, said that government had not lived up to its expectation of monitoring the standard of buildings.

Okoro insisted that every contractor must indicate a signpost, the clients of every building to enable government to know who to hold responsible in case of failure.

She said a survey had proven that most buildings collapsed was due to the use of substandard materials and engagement of non-professionals.

“We have lost so many lives because contractors have continued to compromise standards and concerned agencies have failed to supervise them,” Okoro added.

For Prof. Joachim Osuagwu of the Department of Civil Engineering, Federal University of Technology, Owerri, “the prosecution of suspected culprits of building collapse is a panacea to the menace.’’

Osuagwu, a civil engineer, blamed the non-prosecution of offenders for the rising cases of building collapse in the state.

He called on the Council for the Regulation of Engineering (COREN) as well as other regulatory bodies in the field of engineering to “step up their game and stem the tide”.

“COREN is the regulatory body engineering works but they can hardly go beyond regulation and reporting of offenders.

“It behooves on the Police and the Judiciary to prosecute offenders, so that we can regulate the engagement of quacks,” the don said.

He insisted that relevant agencies of the government in the industry must be headed by experts, preferably career civil servants, who had risen to the cadre of director, rather than non-professionals.

“This will leave building construction in the right hands, thereby reducing the spate of collapses to its barest minimum,” he stressed.

In Anambra State, stakeholders involved in building construction stressed the need for strict compliance to rules to prevent incessant cases of building collapse across Nigeria.

Mr Frank Onyealisi, former Public Relations Officer of Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE) in Owerri, blamed the problem on corrupt regulatory officials who due to interest in monetary inducement allowed poorly construction work to go on.

He said if the issues of incessant building collapse must be curbed, both government and professional bodies must work in synergy.

Mr Emmanuel Mazi, a civil engineer, said most people preferred to engage non-professional because they feel “that it is less expensive to hire such people than professionals.’’

“Not all the people you see with trowel laying blocks are professional builders, most of them do not know how to source quality materials and how to use them,” he said.

Mazi, who said that he had practiced for 25 years, noted that soil texture ascertained from quality assurance laboratory most often guide professionals while building in some areas.

He said if a quack was engaged to build in such challenging locations, he might not apply such due diligence measure which might result to building collapse.

Mr Chidi Akim, a landlord in Awka, said there was the need for government to ensure that thoroughbred professionals were engaged in agencies monitoring building constructions.

“It is worrisome that some cases of building collapse recorded in parts of the country were constructions that officials of government regulatory agencies had certified.

“These happened because such officials compromised the standard and the consequence being the collapse of such buildings,” he said.

Akim maintained that if regulatory agencies and professional bodies such as NSE, COREN, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) and Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS) could collaborate, incidences of building collapse would be reduced in Nigeria.

Some construction experts in Ebonyi State have urged practitioners to desist from encouraging developers or investors into real estate from cutting corners.

Mr Ogbonnaya Agbafor, an architect, decried frequency of collapsed buildings across states of the federation, especially in Lagos, noting that the major cause of collapse was the use of quacks in the profession.

Agbafor added that some other causes of building collapse include substandard reinforcement, structural steel and cement used for the production of foundations, columns, beams and slabs and failure to carry out soil test.

“Natural disasters such as earthquakes and flood can also cause building collapses.

“I suggest that building professionals and other construction experts should have more synergy for efficiency, quality and job creation in the building production management value chain,” he advised.

Mr Kelechi Nweke, a building contractor, said that faulty construction, overloading, non-possession of approved drawings, possession of approved drawings but non-compliance, and the use of quacks were also responsible for building collapses.

Nweke urged developers and clients to always engage trained and registered builders in construction work.

“Punishment should be given to developers and its officials who decided not to do the right thing,” he added.

Mr John Ukah, a quantity surveyor, said that there was need to educate all stakeholders on building control regulations and evaluating the processes to eliminate inadequacies as well as ensure monitoring.

Ukah noted that improper maintenance of building could lead to collapse.

Mr Sunday Nwali, another architect, said some of the signs that could lead to building collapse include cracked or crumbling concrete among others.

“The government at all levels should make the enforcement of laws guiding building construction more effective and punishment should always be given to violator,” Nwali added.

In Enugu State, an expert in building construction, Mr John Ugwu, said that the purpose of having professionals in building construction was to save building culture, prevent building collapse and as well as to fight substandard construction works.

According to him, other causes of building collapse include faulty design, copied design, use of substandard materials, professional incompetence, greed, among others.

Mr  Ben Dike, an estate developer, said that the relevant bodies in building construction should ensure that qualified environment and building professionals were engaged in construction works across the country so as to prevent building collapse.

“There is need to carry out a post-occupancy evaluation of buildings and also ensure that professional institutes have oversight function on every building under construction.

“Every state government must carry out thorough checks of existing buildings to prevent further collapse of buildings.

“The frequent occurrence of building collapse have become a major source of concern to all well-meaning Nigerians and especially the stakeholders in the building industry.

“Building collapse incidence is still occurring in spite of the fact that there has been increasing number of engineering knowledge over the years,” he said.

In Abia State, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Survey and Urban Planning, Mr Aaron Ikechuchukwu, said the state had development control regulation to curb the menace of building collapse.

Ikechuchukwu, who is a town planner, said that it was enacted to help the parent law to provide the necessary requirements that had control over the building department.

“In our understanding, the person who is supposed to build a house is the architect, but in real practice, a house is built by the builder,” he said.

Ikechuchukwu said that there were recent cases of building collapse in Umuahia, the state capital, and Umuokiri in Osisioma Ngwa Local Government Area of the state.

He said that the affected building at Umuokiri had been sealed by the government, adding that the structure had no planning certificate before it was built.

He said that the one in Umuahia was undergoing renovation, when it collapsed.

Ikechuchukwu advised intending builders to ensure that appropriate consultations with professionals were made.

Also, the Executive Secretary, Aba South Town Planning Authority, Christian Ahuruonye, attributed the incessant cases of building collapse majorly to the use of substandard materials by unscrupulous contractors.

He advised developers to always endeavour to go through due process and statutory government agencies to obtain approvals before embarking on building projects.

He noted that some developers circumvent due process in order to cut corners and avoid supervision by appropriate regulatory agencies.

In Kano State, Dr Bashir Kado, a lecturer at Civil Engineering Department in Bayero University, Kano, said that the use of substandard steel reinforcements, blocks and concrete were the causes of building collapse.

Kado said that the absence of proper soil investigation, negligence of supervisors and construction works, natural hazards such as earthquake and tornadoes could also be responsible.

“Public awareness needs to be conducted to sensitise public on the advantage of allowing professionals to do their job in order to safeguard buildings.

“Soil investigation, material tests and environmental impact assessment should also be made compulsory, for all institutional, industrial and commercial buildings.”

Kado further explained that there was a need to empower and restructure the available materials testing laboratories in the country.

He then advised the government to withdraw licenses of all the professionals involved in the collapse of a structure and to investigate the causes of the failure.

“Urban and town development agencies at various levels of government should enforce control of building works in their localities.

“They should enforce the provision of the Urban and Regional Planning Decree 88 of 1992 and as in section 13 of National Building Code 2006,” Kado said.

The lecturer however, cautioned that Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) should also be vigilant, to ensure that building materials conformed to standard requirements.

He urged government to create a policy that would bring down high cost of construction materials in the country.

Also, The Chairman, Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) Kabuga, Kano branch, Dr Aaron Aboshio, highlighted that government should mandate COREN to prosecute defaulters.

“People don’t respect laws, so the regulatory council and SON should ensure that building materials are of good quality.”

Abashio appealed to the general public, especially private developers to utilise professionals and use only certified standard building materials.

He cautioned on engaging the services of quacks, noting that Nigeria engineers would always be there to provide quality services.

Mr Mukhtar Sheriff, an expert in housing and construction, also attributed the incessant collapse of buildings in the country to unskilled manpower, substandard designs and construction errors.

Sheriff, a civil engineer and consultant to Federal Government agencies, said the use of unskilled manpower in the housing and construction industry was a major challenge facing the sector.

He said that professionals like architects, engineers and surveyors must be allowed to handle buildings, structural designs and soil tests.

He, however, said that some people prefer hiring quacks or inadequately trained personnel to handle designs because they were cheaper.

Another professional, Ibrahim Malik, an architect, said that engaging professionals would reduce to the barest minimum, the high incidence of building collapse across the country.

Malik said: “Alhough the Engineering Regulation Monitoring (ERM), SON and other agencies are checking the problem, the major solution lies in engaging experts from the onset.

“The problem we have in this country is that people no long do the right thing; experts are not used, quacks have taken over the jobs of trained engineers.”

He called for enforcement of building standards and codes to avoid incompetent builders, substandard materials and other cost-saving measures detrimental to the safety of projects.

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