With trillions lost to failed and collapsed buildings, stakeholders tread slippery road to recovery | The Guardian Nigeria News

• Concerns as Lagos loses N66. 37 billion to collapsed building in 24 months
• Records 20 cases, 90 deaths in nine months
• Stakeholders seek collective response as Lagos promises sweeping reforms

The country may have lost about N10 trillion to construction failures in the last three decades, The Guardian investigations have revealed.

Although the number of collapsed buildings has continued to grow across the country, it has occurred with more intensity in Lagos. In fact, the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) revealed recently that 30 collapsed buildings were recorded in various incidents between January and July 2022. The latest data was contained in a comprehensive report released by the Permanent Secretary of the agency, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyitolu.

According to statistics available, over 461 buildings have collapsed in Nigeria, with more than 1,090 deaths recorded and many injured from 1974 to July 2021.

Lagos recorded about 295 cases, Abuja 16, Oyo, 16, Anambra 15, Ondo 10, Kano (nine), Abia (nine), Kwara (eight), Rivers (eight), Delta (eight), Enugu (seven), Ogun (seven), Plateau (six), Kaduna (six), Edo (six), Imo (five), Osun (five), Benue (three), Adamawa (three) and Ebonyi (three).

Others are, Niger (two), Kebbi (two), Ekiti (two), Cross River (two), Sokoto (one), Bauchi (one), Akwa Ibom (one), Kogi (one) and Katsina (one).

However, former chairman of Lagos State branch of Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Adedotun Bamigbola, said while it is difficult to determine the monetary loss as result of collapsed building in the past three years in Lagos, because of some metrics, the cost could be estimated to be in billions of naira.

According to him, the consideration will be the location of the failed structures, the cost of building materials and the fees paid to professionals executing the projects, among others.

Bamigbola said: “The loss of lives cannot be estimated, because life cannot be quantified in monetary value. However, the value or true worth of the properties, that is, building and other movable assets destroyed in the various incidents of failed buildings would have been better determined if there were valuations by registered valuers carried out periodically at the instruction of the owners, prior to the collapse.

“Now that the buildings have collapsed, even the cost of the buildings are limited to guess work, but you can be sure these losses will be in billions of naira over the years.

“The human loss, the time spent on projects and the interest incurred in case of loans, make getting accurate figures difficult. But the loss is difficult to quantify,” he said.

Speaking with The Guardian, Chairman, Lagos Branch of Nigeria Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS), Ayodele Alao, said Lagos State alone might have lost about N66.37 billion from 11 collapsed buildings in the last one year.

He estimated that about N60 billion was lost in the collapsed 21-storey building on Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, which occurred November 1, 2021; while another N100 million was lost to the collapsed three-floor structure in Arcadia Estate, off Osapa Village Road, Osapa London, Eti-Osa, a day after (November 2, 2021).

Alao also estimated that about N75 million must have been lost in the collapsed three-storey building in Ebute Metta on May 1, 2021 and N50 million at the two-floor structure on Herbert Macaulay Way, Ebute Metta, Lagos Mainland, on July 9, 2021.

Reeling out the figures, he said another N100 million was lost in the collapsed four-floor structure at 40, Pike Street, Lagos Island, on July 16, 2021; N100 million for the collapsed two-floor structure at Michael Omotemi Ayantere Close, Flour Mills Estate, Sunnyfield Scheme, Magbon, Olorunda on November 17, 2021. Others are N200 million for the collapsed four-floor structure on 16, Akanbi Crescent, Onike, Yaba, on February 16, 2022 and N100 million for the collapsed four-floor structure at 32, Ibadan Street, Ebute Metta, Lagos Mainland on May 2022.

He also put losses from the collapsed two-storey building on Oye Sonuga Street, Palm Avenue, Mushin, Lagos, on September 22 to be N100 million. Also, the building that partially collapsed at No 26, Afolabi Alasia Street, Gaskiya Road, Ijora-Badia was valued at N25 million.

Lack of political will to tackle menace of failed structures
ACCORDING to professionals in the built environment, building collapse has revealed government’s lack of political will to tackle the issue, while the casualty figures continue to rise.

For instance, in the safety board of the site at Oniru, marked LSC/CON/B/0309, the name of the contractor, his contact and details of the artisans were not displayed as stipulated by the state’s building guideline.

Expressing frustration over government’s obvious lack of will, former Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development and President of Nigeria Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Mr. Toyin Ayinde, who chaired the six-man panel that probed the collapse of the 21-storey building in Ikoyi, said most professionals are tired of the recurrence.

He said: “I think the government really must do the necessary things various panels have recommended in terms of what professionals, government and citizens can do. You know, when these things happen, you can easily replace money if it is about the building that is easily replaceable, but you can’t replace human life, which makes it a capital occurrence.

“So, it is not just the cost, we have done too much talking, that is my view.  From the last recommendations by the tribunal on the collapsed 21-storey building in Ikoyi, we had 28 recommendations, 26 were approved, but we do not know how they are being implemented. What the media should be doing is to find out what is being implemented. The government appointed us and we couldn’t be the same person or the same group that will be monitoring the level of implementation.

“For example there is a suggestion that private sector should engage qualified professionals who are experienced to collaborate with government officials.

“The truth is that government staff alone cannot handle construction in Lagos; there are between 30,000 and 40,000 construction sites in Lagos.

Scene of two-storey building that collapsed at 15, Oke Arin Street, Ilupeju Palmgroove, in July 2022…

“When I was commissioner, there were about 363 people in the ministry and not all of them were even professionals. They can’t be chasing 30,000 to 40,000 constructions. Obviously, they need to engage private sector professionals who will look at things objectively and make their recommendations.

“No developer can be more powerful than the government. They must have compromised the government. Nobody is more powerful than government. I recalled when I was in government, we sealed a site about four times, the man broke the seal, and we moved in and demolished the whole thing because for me when government sealed a site and you unsealed it, then you have declared a war between yourself and the government.”

Also, President of Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG) and former president of Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers (NistructE), Eddy Atumonyogo, blamed lack of collaboration between professionals and Lagos State government for the incessant failure of buildings in the state.

He said: “Government themselves do not have the numbers to cover the whole of Lagos State. They don’t have the staff and we have been telling them to engage and collaborate with professional bodies.

“We are still waiting for LABSCA to sign Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), so that we can deploy our members to help them monitor what is going on at construction sites.

“I don’t know how long it will take and how many lives it will take for them to listen to this wisdom that everybody has been drumming for quite some time.”

On distressed buildings, he said government should engage professionals for advise if such buildings could be remedied.

“If it is a hopeless state, they will advise you to pull down. When it is pulled down you will give a notice, but the problem with this country is that there are no social houses. You just come to people and tell them to leave, meanwhile you have no alternative for them and because of poverty they will rather die in those houses, which is unfortunate. Government should have social housing in places like Lagos Island. There are several empty buildings, and government had abandoned them. Why can’t the government convert some to social housing to keep the poor in such places and give them time to relocate?

“They can be there for three to six months for them to find another accommodation.”

Chairman, Nigeria Institute of Architects (NIA), Lagos State chapter, David Majekodunmi, said there is a need for the state government to increase monitoring and enforcement of existing laws and new laws as well as improving efforts on the domestication of the National Building Code.”

Also, past president of NIA, Tonye Braide regretted that each time a building collapses; professionals rush to put the blame on quacks.

“However, in pointing one finger at the so-called quacks three fingers point back at the professional,” he remarked.

According to him, the construction of a building has a value chain. His words: “This is an administrative process where all work in tandem to save lives. Now, if some professionals in the building industry decide that the critical linkage in the construction value chain is not necessary and chide the government for spending billions in yearly budgets to continue training of professionals in this critical cadre, then the country should get ready for a continuum in the collapse of buildings.

“Buildings do not collapse overnight except during the construction stage. There will be tell-tale signs of the disaster pending. Every architect is armed with the knowledge to see early warning signs but the architectural technologist is best equipped with the requisite knowledge to sound alarm bells and call engineers to conduct integrity tests, recommend evacuation and possible demolition or reinforcement.

“A country that does not recognise and build up the critical linkage in the construction value chain is seeking the total collapse of its entire building infrastructure. And that will happen unless we have the will to put a stop to it,” Braide stressed.

He said the totality of putting buildings together and administration of an appropriate urban planning architecture starts from the design stage, approval process, selection of the technical team to execute the project, interim approvals as the work progresses, and certification of fitness for human habitation and periodic evaluation of the performance of the totality of the urban space.

Government’s intervention
ALTHOUGH building collapse is not limited to Lagos, its topography and soil structure, coupled with high demand for accommodations, make it a top priority for serious government action.

Incidentally, the present administration has, through Gbolahan Oki-led State Building Control Agency (LABSCA), introduced several innovations to stem the tide, but it has not stopped.

For instance, the LABSCA boss recently demanded that developers, professionals and their artisans have their names, pictures and addresses displayed on site.

He also warned against attacks on building control officers by area boys engaged by developers without the necessary documents.

Oki, who decried the nonchalant attitude of members of stakeholders despite several meetings with them on the need to build right and curb incessant building collapse in Lagos Island, warned that the agency will seal any site without key   professionals on site, while the names, addresses and photographs of workers are to be pasted on sites.

He lamented that those who have continued to shortchange the system, despite several warnings, leading to rampant collapse of buildings, especially those under construction.

Despite all these innovative moves, there seems to be no will to power home a well-needed respite in the foreseen future, as more buildings have collapsed afterwards.

Oki stressed the need to collaborate with professionals and citizens towards achieving zero tolerance to building collapse.

The collapsed three-storey building that claimed 10 lives at No. 24, Ibadan Street, Ebute Metta, Lagos in May 2022…

He noted that an existing committee working on domestication of the National Building Code was expected to submit its report within two weeks.

Oki said the agency would embark on a mass enlightenment campaign across the state towards curbing the menace.

On allegations of compromise by officials of Lagos State Materials Testing Laboratory LSMTL, its general manager and chief executive officer, Mr. Olufunsho Elulade, said the agency did not compromise the system.

Lagos commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Omotayo Bamgbose-Martins has pledged sweeping reforms to solve the problem of building collapse in the construction industry in the state.

The commissioner, who spoke at a roundtable with stakeholders organised by LASBCA, in Ikeja, on the situation, reassured Lagos residents that there would be changes and reforms to end incidence of building collapse and safeguard lives and investments.

Bamgbose-Martins noted the need for attitudinal change for building collapse to stop, stressing that the time is not for talk but action.

He said: “We have to clean our house, and we will clean our house. I would not sack staff but would ensure they change their attitude, while improving their capacities and competencies through retraining.”

He called on developers, individuals and professionals to join hands in tackling the problem. He said the quality control through the Lagos State Materials Testing Laboratory was important and would be sustained.

Bamgbose-Martins said drastic actions would be taken against changing of building designs from the originally approved ones.

He said the governor had given approval for a team of 60 policemen to back up building control enforcement officials during visits to construction sites.

ALTHOUGH committees were set up to probe the Gerrard Road Ikoyi incident separately by the Lagos State government and the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute and the Council of the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, came out with far-reaching recommendations, nothing much has changed in terms of implementation.

Consequently, experts said government must identify and prosecute landowners, investors, consultants, architects, quantity surveyors, and engineers involved in previous cases. It must also publish all permits received during those projects and all documents related to safety testing.

Similarly, the government should ensure strict enforcement of laws and policies guiding building in the country. Corrupt public officials who overlook or fail to implement existing building control regulations should be punished to serve as a deterrent. They lamented that corruption in every sphere is the reason for weak enforcement of government laws and policies.

It is important that regulatory bodies and agencies wake up to their responsibilities. 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 deeds, and only 8.1 per cent have certificates.

Another alarming aspect of the data is that only 33.9 per cent of households have ownership certificates in Lagos State.

Experts have also attributed incessant collapse to substandard building materials, pilfering, faulty non-adherence to designs, lack of comprehensive subsoil investigation before designs are done, illegal conversion or alterations to existing structures, and use of quacks or unskilled builders.

Furthermore, the recent commercialisation and revenue-generating posture of the real estate sector have affected the quality and standard of buildings. Needless to say, the country has recorded many collapsed buildings because offenders are not severely punished, if at all.

Former president of Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Mr. Rowland Abonta, had urged the Federal Government to establish a national task force on collapse of buildings, across major cities of Nigeria.

He maintained that the Task Force should comprise groups of construction professionals like structural and civil engineers, estate surveyors, builders and town planners, quantity surveyors and others who will conduct a survey of aging structures that have existed for more than 20 years.

Abonta said the Task Force should be saddled with the responsibility to carry out an integrity test on structures, including public and private buildings.

“Such a move will determine the stability of buildings and their ability to continuously provide service. This should be done urgently if the government has any form of concern for life and property of the citizens,” he stated.

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