• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

Building collapse and emergency response

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Building collapse is now a recurring decimal in Nigeria’s built environment and the frequency is such that to attempt a chronicle of the incidents amounts to reinventing the Tower of Babel . In Lagos , the nation’s commercial capital, it has become a sight seen every time with the attendant losses of lives and property worth millions of naira.

According to a release by the Nigerian Institute of Builders (NIOB), over 112 buildings collapsed in Lagos alone between December 1978, when a three-storey building collapsed on Western Avenue and April 2008 when a three-storey building still under construction also collapsed in Ogudu-Ojota area of the state.
Other parts of the country also have had their own share of this tragedy. Sometime last year, Abuja recorded a major incident involving a four-storey building still under construction at Utako, Jabi District in the federal capital. About 20 people were feared dead while 70 others were trapped in the rubbles.
In 2005, about 30 people were buried alive when a building collapsed overnight at Tombia Street Extension in the Government Reservation Area (GRA) of Port Harcourt . It was reported that workers laboured round the clock to erect the building within the shortest time possible, without putting the necessary support in place.
We share in the grief of many Nigerians, especially the families of the victims, over these incidents, but we grieve the more that it is not only that nothing seems to be done to avert further occurrences, but also that emergency responses are tardy and, in some cases, non-existent.

June 28 was yet another day of mourning for some Lagos residents over the collapse of a two-storey building at the Goodies Park of the Lagos Terminus, Iddo, bringing to three known cases of such incidents this year alone. About 11 persons were reported dead while 30 others sustained various degrees of injuries.

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These are worrisome developments and the questions that are germane in these circumstances are: Why these incessant building collapses, especially in Lagos ? Why has it remained a problem without solution? And why has the casualty figure been always so high?
We recall that the Lagos State Government recently carried out partial reforms in Planning, Regulation and Building Control, but that doesn’t seem to have yielded any result. Issues that engendered the reform are still here with us and the Iddo tragedy is a living example.
We are not much bothered about the non-implementation of the reform as we with the often slow response to emergencies such as this. As a people, we have failed in many areas of our national life and one of the most poignant of such areas is our response to, and management of emergencies.
Casualty figures recorded after each building collapse have not only been alarming but also frightening and these have largely been due to poor emergency management resulting in late rescue operations.
We make bold to say that the nation cannot afford further heavy losses of lives that follow these incidents simply because we lack the capacity to manage them and in the process, save lives and property.
We recommend therefore, that governments at the state and federal levels should properly equip their emergency management agencies so as to be able to respond quickly to emergencies whenever and wherever they occur as they frequently do.
It beats our imagination that each time these incidents occur, government usually resorts to big organisations, notably Julius Berger, for rescue operations, meaning that their emergency management agencies do not have the necessary facilities to cope with these incidents.

On day two after the Iddo tragedy, axes and Monday hammer were being used in the search for likely survivors in the rubbles. A survivor, Nura Ali, recounting his ordeal, said he was under the rubbles for six hours before he was rescued. Ali was only lucky and on the bright side of fate. There were many others who were not as lucky and have therefore, been sent to early avoidable graves.
We are aware of the fact that greed, quest for quick wealth and corruption are at the back of these building collapse in the first instance and we also align with the professional bodies in Lagos who trace the cause of these unfortunate incidents to non-involvement of relevant certified professionals in managing building construction coupled with the gross inadequacy of qualified staff of Lagos State Government to carry out the responsibilities of managing physical development aactivities as well as monitoring and inspection of building projects.
We therefore, recommend that government should, henceforth, prosecute all parties to building construction in the country that fail resulting in human and material losses.