Building collapse: Falana pledges free legal service against developers
Frontline human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has pledged to render free legal services in any action aimed to prosecute developers and their collaborators whose negligence causes building collapse, a major feature in Nigerian cities.
Falana, who was a keynote speaker at the ongoing three-day Lagos architect forum (LAF) organised by the Lagos chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), said that building collapse has become so frequent, especially in Lagos, because nobody has been charged to court for prosecution.
“I feel embarrassed that a seven-storey building still under construction could collapse in Banana Island where big people live. The building killed one innocent person who is not a big man. It happened because the residents of the island were careless and buildings had collapsed before and nobody was charged,” he said.
“I am sure, as architects, you were also embarrassed. Lagos State government said they were also embarrassed because they said they did not even know about the building. But I want us to put all that behind us and say never again,” he added.
He tasked the architects to go back to their law of 2004 and apply its provisions which say anybody who must practice as an architect must be registered. Additionally, any foreign architect that comes to practice in the country must be tested and should abide by the law.
According to him, anybody that practises the profession without registering with the institute must be prosecuted as quack. “Time has come for you as architects to take over your profession. Move to project sites and monitor what they are doing there. The Lagos State government does not have the capacity to monitor all the building sites in the state.
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“If a building collapses and the government is not ready to take action against the developers and their collaborators, you should take up the case; come to us and we will obtain a fiat to prosecute those found culpable. That is my commitment and that should be the commitment of all of us,” he said.
He said that the time has come for everybody, architect and all, to start taking more than a passing interest in the affairs of society and government. “Let the society know, through your action, that a new sheriff is in town and that is NIA,” he charged the architects.
David Majekodunmi, chairman of the chapter, had in his opening remarks, noted that Lagos should be one of the most renowned cities in the world, which could also be referred to as ‘The Giant City of Africa’, pointing out that the city was known for its distinctiveness as an economic pivot, glitzy edifying lifestyle, and a major commercial hub.
He explained that the theme for this year’s forum ‘Lagos: An Evolving Organism’ captures “the traits and trends of Architecture in Lagos over the years which have been evolving and keeps evolving into various trends that define the built environment and architectural aesthetics of the state.”
“The stages of evolution of cities are defined by urbanization trends which define three distinct historical stages in city development: pre-industrial, industrial, and metropolitan‐megalopolitan stages,” he added.
The chairman disclosed that this year’s forum, which is the 14th edition (LAF 14.0), would highlight the gradual development of the city of Lagos by x-raying the city’s form, transportation system, expansion, infrastructural development, and other built environment systems and government activities through the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the state.
“There are immense opportunities for Architects in this Evolving Organism; there is a huge need for architects and allied professionals in the built environment in this Evolving Organism. Architects can work with development organisations wherein they are approached to fill in the gap,” he said.