How rivalry, poor regulation, others cause building collapse

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Debris of the seven-story building that collapsed in Owerri, the Imo State capital
Debris of the seven-story building that collapsed in Owerri, the Imo State capital

THE construction sector has always been bedevilled with unhealthy competitions among the professionals in the sector.

While architects believe they are the leaders because clients meet them first and that their competencies are high and encompassing, builders and others say the competencies in the seven professional grouping are varied and unique.

Observers also say the unhealthy competition among the professionals has led to challenges leading to building failures.

They insist that when people stray into areas they are not trained to work, they automatically become quacks no matter the qualification they parade.

Reacting to the controversy that greeted the recent building collapse in Owerri, the Imo State capital,the National President, Nigeria Institute of Building (NIOB), Kunle Awobodu, said it once again brought to the front burner the problem of building management in Nigeria.

He stressed the need for professionals in the industry to stay in their lane and do only that which they have competencies for. He also stressed the need for regulatory agencies to always play their role to preserve lives and properties.

Awobodu recalled  how the NIOB  chairman, Imo State Chapter Chairman, Collins Nwoko some weeks before the collapse, led a road-show round Owerri, sensitising the public on the need to engage professional builders in building construction to prevent building collapse. He recalled that the General Manager of Owerri Capital Development Authority, Innocent  Ikpamezie, reportedly  promised to prevent building collapse in  the state by ensuring that prospective developers engage professional builders to manage building production process on their sites. However, he regretted that the promise didn’t come into effect before the collapse.

He said: “Investigations conducted on many collapsed buildings in Nigeria revealed that inappropriate management of building production on site has been the major cause.  This is because quacks or impostors, who lacked professional competence, have usually succeeded in superintending over the very technical and complex process of building production. The Owerri building collapse is a clarion call to all ministries charged with physical planning and urban development in Nigeria to extend their strict assessment and vetting of building projects beyond building plan approval. Building plans and design documents are, to all intents and purposes, just in the design and preconstruction stage of building projects.”

He urged the ministries and agencies of physical planning and urban development to devote greater attention to the practical stage, which is the actual building construction.  He advised that any company or those that plan to handle construction of any building should be investigated to ensure that round pegs are placed in round holes.

According to him, the building processes should be managed by the professional builder, who by his training and Hippocratic Oath, will not compromise on standards or competence.

On why building collapse has become a recurring decimal, the NIOB chief said: “It is because people without the requisite ability to carry out a task ignore the inherent risk for the tempting, anticipated monetary gains, thereby endangering lives and property. The delicate process of transforming the architectural, structural and services, designs and drawings to satisfactory building products require expertise that professional builders possess.”

He argued that when participants in building delivery process confine themselves to their areas of specialisation with a clear understanding of their limitations and refusing to go beyond or exceed the bounds of their training or competence, building owners will definitely get value for their money.

He stressed the need for consultants on a building project to ensure that those who will manage the building production process are qualified to do so in order to prevent a collapse that could smear the consultants’ reputation. He said  most clients would not want to invest wrongly if they are sincerely guided.

Using Lagos as a case study, he urged building control agencies across the nation to ensure that a registered builder that could be held accountable for quality production is on site.

Awobodu said builders should manage the building process because the fear of losing his licence if found derelict by the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON) and the accompanying loss of reputation always make the builder to be very cautious and fit for the building process.

While urging the government to  quickly investigate and prosecute  those involved in the building of the said hotel to deter quackery and negligence, the  NIOB president further called for cooperation and collaboration among built environment professional bodies and other relevant government agencies  and organisations to end building collapse. He pointed that passion develops in a human being that is encouraged to perform his or her special and unique role in the society.

Reacting to the building collapse,  the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) and the Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON), whose members were engaged as consultants, denied any wrong doing.

ARCON President Dipo Ajayi said: “According to pre-contract agreement, the architectural consultant was approached by the client, who resides in France, to design a six-floor hotel complex on the land he acquired at the Musa Yar’Adua Drive in Owerri metropolis. On acceptance of the sketch design by the client, he engaged the services of qualified structural and M & E engineers for the production of working drawings and approval documents for the approval process. Architects were also not involved in the approval process as the client interacted directly with the OCDA (Owerri Capital Development Authority).”

He said the architects involved in the project consequently pulled out of the deal, as the client insisted on adding two floors to the structure.

He said this informed their pulling out of the project in good time to protect their professional integrity.

The owner of the collapsed seven-storey hotel structure, Chinedu Victor Anujuru, called for  a judicial panel of inquiry to determine the remote and immediate cause of the collapse.

Anujuru, who is based in Paris, France, confirmed that the OCDA had on  April 17, last year, approved a seven-storey and a pent house contrary to insinuations that the approving authority had only approved a six-storey.

Speaking through his counsel, former Imo State Attorney-General Soronnadi Njoku, also called for a panel of inquiry to unearth the real cause of the collapse of the hotel project.

He argued that a hasty decision should not be taken by the  government. He referred to the purported revocation of the Certificate of Occupancy, which would amount to penalising the owner of the building who invested about N4.8 billion, adding that this was a huge contribution to job creation and  the state’s growth by the owner.

“Our client is very worried that some utterances by some people, including the purported interim report by the Nigerian Institute of Architects, appear to be highly prejudicial to a fair, impartial and objective determination of the very important question: Why did the building collapse? Our client, being the owner of the collapsed building, is a principal participant in this unfortunate development and it is wrong, unfair and unjust to arrive at conclusions, pass judgment and or take decisions without hearing from him. It is important to note that he objects strongly to certain utterances and actions of some individuals who appear to cash in on this misfortune for their own selfish ends.

“We call on the Imo State government to immediately set up a judicial panel of inquiry because it will have the powers to subpoena and compel the attendance of witnesses, order the production of documents, issue warrants and summons but, above all, create the enabling environment for all the persons involved, including our client, to be given a fair hearing before the government can then take well-informed decisions on the issues.”

Njoku maintained that the collapse of the building should not be swept under the rug to guard against such occurrences in the future.

The Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma while visiting the site assured that the contractor and construction firm would be brought to book after proper investigation.

He said: “This is a very sad event. It is a very serious violation and also to hear that the requisite approvals were not adhered to is yet carelessness.’’

The Nation

– May 28, 2020 @ 08:55 GMT /

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