South West sees most building collapse incidents in 10yrs

In the last 10 years, spanning 2009 –2019, Nigeria experienced the collapse of sundry buildings and most of these occurred in the South West region of the country, a recent report says.

The region recorded 34 collapses, representing 60.71 percent of the total collapse during the years under review. There were also 132 lives lost which is about 64.08 percent of the lives lost during that period, the report adds.

According to the report, the leading causes of building collapse within this period were structural defects, adding that the highest rate of collapse occurred in 2014 while 2016 had the highest number of lives lost.

What is noteworthy here is that even though 2014 had the highest number of collapses, its death figure was not as high. The year recorded about 19 deaths as against 35 recorded in 2016. In terms of house-types, the report shows that there was a high rate of 3-storey building collapse in the last decade.

In all of these, Lagos is the epicentre such that whenever discussions are centred on building collapse in Nigeria, the city that immediately comes to mind is Lagos, the country’s commercial centre with over 20 million population and over 3 million housing demand-supply gap.

Olabisi Demola-Alade, the Lagos State branch chairman of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV) had noted that between 2011 and 2019, over 84 buildings collapsed across Nigeria and only 21 out of that number occurred outside Lagos. According to the figures, 59 percent of the collapsed buildings in Lagos in 2019 were existing structures while 41 percent were under construction.

Among other factors, use of substandard building materials, the deployment of cost-cutting techniques in housing construction, which are unsafe, and the lack of professional supervision at various levels of the construction process have been identified as causes of building collapse in Nigeria.

The report, ‘Building Collapse in Nigeria (2009- 2019), Causes and Remedies – A Review’ compiled by S. O. Odeyemi, Z. T. Giwa, and R. Abdulwahab, all of the Department of Civil Engineering, Kwara State University, Malete, Nigeria, offer various perspectives to building collapse.

Read also: A tale of two biggest collapsed buildings in Lagos

These researchers have linked to either natural or man-made occurrences, explaining that the natural phenomena include earth tremor and hurricane while man-made occurrences consist of tragedies caused by man’s carelessness.

“In most collapsed buildings constructed with low quality building materials, incompetent craftsmen rather than professionals were found to be engaged while the existing building codes, meant to guide builders were rendered ineffective because of lack of political will to enforce same by the Town Planning Authorities,” the report says.

Expert views on the 21-storey building that collapsed on Monday in Ikoyi, Lagos, lend credence to what the report says. Facts emerging from the collapsed building reveal that the developer was not only careless and carefree, but also greedy.

According to the experts and available evidence, professionals were not on ground to supervise the construction which explains why the developer had some structural defects that accounted for the collapse of the building.

Additionally, the regulatory authority was negligent just as the developer was greedy. These twin evils, the experts noted, were responsible for the developer’s unwholesome activities that saw him increase the building from the approved 15-floors to 21-floors which was an additional load too heavy for the building’s foundation to carry.

“Building construction should be based on achieving the stability of such buildings. However, many clients put more interest in aesthetics. As the architects are accountable for the design; quantity surveyors to the cost so also engineers ensure the stability of building structures,” Odeyemi noted in the report.

He reasoned that, no matter how small a building is, there is a possibility of failure, pointing out that it is a danger if engineers are not involved in the design and construction of building structures. The failure of a project, he said, starts with poor preparation.

“The involvement of the right personnel at the right time would aid adequate planning and ensure thriving project sustainability. Until the right reason is given on who designs, gives approval to the designs, builds, supervises and gives final approval upon construction, building collapse would be an issue of concern,” he posited.

Quite a lot of lives and properties have been destroyed in the several incidents of building collapses in Nigeria, and these have impacted negatively on the socio-economic status of the Nigerian citizens.

To put an end to this, the report recommends strict regulation such that regulatory professional bodies like the Engineering Regulatory and Monitoring (ERM) unit of COREN and their corresponding associations should, on regular basis, organize workshops for stakeholders in the building industry to update their knowledge and highlight the dangers and penalties associated with collapsed buildings.

It adds that soil test Environmental Impact Analysis and structural analysis needs to be made mandatory and to be submitted along with the building plans to Town Planning Authorities by all building developers.

Also, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) should ensure that only certified building materials are allowed in the market while all stakeholders in the construction industry should adhere strictly to the provisions of the building code.

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