Gradually, building collapse is becoming a norm in Nigerian cities, though, building collapse is not new worldwide. However, the continued rate at which buildings collapse in Nigeria (some under construction) is now very alarming.
Currently, there is a building collapse in Kano state. It should be noted also, that there was one that occurred recently in Kubwa, FCT.
Meanwhile, buildings are civil engineering structures that come in various shapes and sizes, are made of multiple materials, and have specific purposes, such as providing shelter for people and property. A building should be constructed with safety, serviceability, and cost in mind.
In the past four decades, statistics show that over 460 buildings have collapsed in the country at an increasing rate yearly; this requires drastic actions to curb the menace. It is not until another building collapsed and several people died that we should start looking for a solution.
The National Bureau of Statistics data shows that about 71.4 per cent of households in Nigeria do not have a certificate of occupancy, 13.2 per cent do not have title deed, and only 8.1 per cent have certificates. Another alarming aspect of the data is that 33.9 per cent of households have ownership certificates in Lagos state.
However, building collapse is a national problem, it occurs mainly in the cities and Lagos remains the epicentre of building collapse incidents.
Arguably, Lagos is unique in many respects and prides itself as the ‘Centre of Excellence’. Indeed, those who manage its affairs and resources also take pride in describing the city in superlative terms.
A more recent record on building collapse incidents in Nigeria shows that between 2011 and 2019, about 84 collapse incidents were recorded and only 21 happened outside Lagos. The report adds that 59 per cent of these incidents involved buildings still under construction while 41 per cent were existing structures.
Before the November 1, 2021, collapse of a 21-storey building still under construction at 44, Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, known as ‘360 Degrees’, Nigeria had had three major incidents involving Reigners Bible Church building in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, in which 50 lives were lost.
The other two happened in Lagos and these were Lekki Gardens a 5-storey building which collapsed and killed 34 people; and then the Synagogue Church of All Nations Guest House, which collapsed and killed about 116 people, including 84 foreign nationals.
After the collapse of the 21-storey building in Ikoyi, leaving about 45 people dead, including the developer, Femi Osibona, Nigerians thought Lagos had seen the last of building collapses because that was one incident that shook Nigeria and its building industry to the foundations given its location and the magnitude of the structure involved.
Many people blamed the incidents on Lagos large population, which buoys high demand for housing, leading to estate developers cutting corners in their bid to match supply with demand.
Building experts contend that buildings fail when there is weakness in the materials used or when the building is not stable. But there are also cases of using substandard materials; lack or poor soil tests, poor supervision and corruption by government agencies; lack of building professionals on site, etc.
All these are within government control. In Lagos, there have been serious cases of negligence which is made worse by lack of political will or strength of character to deal with erring builders or developers.
On two occasions, Lagos has admitted negligence in its regulatory functions. In 2016, following the collapse of the Lekki Gardens building, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode sacked the then general manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), Adeigbe Olushola. In 2021, when the 21-storey Ikoyi building collapsed, governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu suspended Gbolahan Oki, the LASBCA general manager at the time.
In July 2022, in an annual lecture organised by the Nigerian Institution of Civil Engineers held in Lagos, an engineer and the special adviser for Works and Infrastructure to Lagos state governor, Babajide SanwoOlu, Mrs Aramide Adeyoye, said it was instructive that infrastructure must be sustained if it was to benefit coming generations and its provision must be seen as an investment that would pay off many times over in the future.
She added that the prevention of infrastructure collapse as prevalent in Nigeria and other developing nations was a matter to be looked at critically.
She said, “The construction industry responsible for these infrastructures also accounts for a major proportion of the GDP of Nigeria. Therefore, seeking to improve the efficiency of the industry is very essential in promoting the growth of the Nigerian economy.
“It is important for professionalism to be exhibited in all stages of the infrastructure project cycle right from concept to planning to design to construction and maintenance stages. Professionalism is key to ensuring the sustainability of infrastructure and professionals are therefore expected to exhibit a high level of professionalism by adhering to their professional ethics when discharging their duties.”
Allied to this is government’s failure to prosecute offenders. By September this year, it will be eight years of the Synagogue building collapse incident.
Lagos initiated a court case against the church, which is yet to be concluded to date. Again, the panel it set up to investigate the Ikoyi building collapse has already done its work and made recommendations to government. Nothing is being heard on that now.
In June 2022, in Port Harcourt, relevant professionals attributed frequent building collapse in Nigeria to the involvement of quacks, use of substandard materials, non-implementation of building codes and ineffective monitoring of building approvals by government agents.
The professionals, including engineers, town planners and surveyors.
One of them, Engr. Pius Okpa said that most buildings were collapsing due to wrong and poor designs from some quack engineers operating without licences.
Okpa, former chairman of Nigeria Society of Engineers in Cross River, said that most people had a way of transferring building plans seen elsewhere to other locations, without taking into cognisance specifications, such as depth of foundation.
“A building that was properly designed in Lagos and transferred to another location can still fall because the person transferring the building may not know that the foundation should not be the same in the new location.
“Another reason is the knowledge of the contractor because most people cannot interpret building designs and this may lead to the collapse of buildings,” he said.