A Worrisome Development


Collapse of buildings in Lagos State has become a recurring decimal despite the efforts of the government to halt the trend

|  By Chinwe Okafor  |  Aug. 12, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

THE signs of a possible collapse of a building under construction located at 29 Onasanya Street, off Ishaga road, Surulere, Lagos, were evident. Last May, the Lagos State Building Control Agency, LASBCA, marked it for demolition due to the foundation challenge, poor structural design and the substandard materials used for its construction but no official action was taken beyond that. On July 21, the building collapsed killing five persons, while other victims received severe injuries. The building collapsed because its developer failed to heed the advice and warning by the agency. Rather, he mobilised workers to the site on weekends to avoid being apprehended by government officials.

Similarly, another three-storey building which was marked for demolition by government officials at 29b, Oloto Street, Ebute Metta, Lagos, collapsed for the same reason on July 11. The Ebute Metta building collapsed killing seven persons and leaving many injured. These have been the characteristics of collapsed buildings in the state and many other parts of the country.

Residents of the state have blamed government’s inaction to demolish the marked buildings as well as disobedience on the part of the property owners for refusing to obey orders. A resident of Surulere, who spoke to Realnews on condition of anonymity, lamented that if government officials had taken action on any building marked for demolition, there would be no loss of lives and the building owners would have learnt their lessons. The source also blamed owners of buildings for not consulting experts and failure to apply for building permits from the government before erecting any building. The source called on government to take immediate action on these building owners in order to put a stop to this menace in the states. These incidents are being linked to the substandard building facilities, foundation challenge, incorrect and poor interpretation of building designs, nature of the soil and lack of proper maintenance of the building. These also have contributed to the incessant building collapse in the state and other parts of the country.

Kunle Awobodu, president, building collapse prevention guild, said it is not enough for government to punish only the landlord of a collapsed building by forfeiture of the land, the contractors, builders and developers handling the project should also be made to face sanctions. He explains that building construction is a process, and any attempt to circumvent any of the processes will end in disaster, as it is being witnessed currently.

Awobodu admits that he is not sure yet of what was responsible for the collapsed building at Ishaga, Surulere, but stresses that some developers do not follow the laid-down procedures. “In most of the construction sites in Lagos, there are usually no qualified professionals to supervise the projects. Besides, what some of these developers are constructing are at variance with what was approved. Nobody is sure of the standard of workmanship. Did they carry out a comprehensive sub-soil investigation before commencing construction?” he said.

Collapsed building
Collapsed building

Awobodu also adds that construction is in stages, stressing that a suspended slab (decking) must stay for a minimum of 28 days before any layer of construction is placed on it. He states, “But some of these developers are always in a hurry. So, they start loading the suspended slab only a few days after casting.”

He warns those who usually raise their bungalows into storey buildings without following the necessary process insisting that before such conversion can be done, the landlord must consult an architect and a structural engineer, and then obtain approval from the ministry of physical planning and urban development. “The architect will help with the conversion, while the structural engineer will ascertain the integrity of the existing structure, which could include ascertaining whether the foundation could carry such addition. It is after this that the landlord can approach the ministry of physical planning and urban development for approval.”

A town planner, who pleads anonymity, also states that though the government is trying to curb building collapse menace in the state, there are some spoilers who are out to sabotage the effort. “Government officials cannot be everywhere, and developers do a lot of crazy things. Imagine, some of them going to sites to work on Sunday. You can see that they are trying to circumvent some processes. Again, it is one thing to identify defective buildings; it is another thing to have political will to pull them down,” he said.

Lagos state government claimed to have identified not less than 50 defective structures across the state. Abimbola Animashaun, general manager, Lagos state building control agency, said 20 of them were located in Ebute Metta. She said that the state government has taken concrete steps on the affected structures. In May, Babatunde Fashola, Lagos State governor, inaugurated a tribunal of inquiry into incidents of collapsed buildings in the state. The seven-member tribunal is headed by Abimbola Ajayi. Others are Joseph Adewale, Roli Craig, Moses Ogunleye, Olusegun Adedeji, Biodun Rufai and Kehinde David.

The tribunal is expected to submit its report within three months. Among its terms of reference, is to enquire into the causes of the recently collapsed buildings in the state and look into the quality of building materials and methods employed generally in their construction. The tribunal will also inspect existing buildings and housing estates, make recommendations on measures to prevent reoccurrence, advise on roles of persons involved in the construction of such collapsed buildings and determine whether or not they acted professionally.

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