BusinessDay

A revisit to building collapse in Nigeria

Building collapse is not new worldwide. However, the continued rate at which buildings collapse in some Nigerian cities (some under construction) is becoming alarming.

Buildings are civil engineering structures that come in various shapes and sizes, are made of multiple materials, and have specific purposes, such as providing shelter for people and property. A building should be constructed with safety, serviceability, and cost in mind.

The Sustainable Development Goal 9 (SDG 9) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 titled industry, innovation, and infrastructure is to build resilient infrastructure (e.g., buildings, roads), promote sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation. This goal interlinks with other goals like Goal 2(zero hunger), Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation), Goal 7 (affordable and clean energy), Goal 8 (decent work and economic growth), and Goal 11(sustainable cities and communities).

The SDG11 is also to make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, and some of the targets are to provide adequate, secure, and affordable housing and essential services. Enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated, and sustainable human settlement planning and management. Reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected by disasters and decrease the direct economic losses relative to the global gross domestic product caused by the disasters.

The world is becoming more dangerous due to population increase in geometrical order, coastline development, bad planning, and housing projects in high-risk sections of the metropolis.

Nigeria is not yet known for being ravaged by natural disasters in the same way other countries are, but it is not without its share of unnatural disasters.

Building collapses have become more common in recent years in the country’s major cities of Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt. Several lives are lost and rendering some incapacitated due to the injury sustained from the crash. Some children become fatherless/motherless as a result of the fact that their parents were trapped and killed in the collapsed building.

The National Bureau of Statistics data shows that about 71.4 percent of households in Nigeria do not have a certificate of occupancy, 13.2 percent do not have title deed, and only 8.1 percent have certificates. Another alarming aspect of the data is that 33.9 percent of households have ownership certificates in Lagos state.

Lagos, the country’s central commercial nerve hub, has the highest record of building collapse. Two other buildings collapsed in Lagos in November aside from the 21-story building that collapsed in Ikoyi that killed about 44 people.

It has resulted in the unnecessary loss of lives and damages people’s property on countless occasions, making it a severe source of concern because it jeopardizes our wonderful nation. There is a need for stakeholders to rise to the challenges of building collapse as it poses a significant threat to the development of our country.

What is responsible?

It is a basic fact that the hazards that arise during a structure are a significant source of concern. The causes of structural failure in Nigeria vary, depending on the structure’s kind and complexity.

Some of the factors responsible for building collapse in the country include negligence, lousy design, faulty construction, flouting of building design, extraordinary loads, failure of foundation, nature disasters, soil liquefaction, demolition by explosives, use of defective and substandard materials, incompetence and corruption.

There is, therefore, the need to pay attention to the structure of buildings in the country.

Who is responsible?

The biggest problem with building collapse is that people have different opinions about who to blame as the leading cause of a building’s failure.

In recent years, the activities of unskilled artisans in the construction business have tarnished the construction industry’s reputation.

Although civil engineers oversee all forms of infrastructure, the professional inputs of structural, geotechnical, mechanical, electrical, and fire-fighters engineers are needed to achieve the desired outcome. The architect, surveyors, and town planners also have their role in ensuring quality and standard buildings.

Likewise, contractors are not left out. Some contractors are only after their contract share, not minding the devastating consequence of their actions. Owners of buildings have a stake in the blame as some with the motive to quickly recover the cost involved go against the advice of professionals.

What then is the way forward?

In the past four decades, statistics show that over 460 buildings have collapsed in the country at an increasing rate yearly; this requires drastic actions to curb the menace. It is not until another building collapsed and several people died that we should start looking for a solution.

The government in each state should make a critical change in the construction sector concerning the inspection of buildings, approvals, and enforcement. The government entities in charge of the building must ensure the application of quality assurance in every project. During the design and construction process, certified professionals must conduct thorough evaluations and checks.

Engineering professional bodies like the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and the Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) should rise to this task of eradicating unprofessionalism among them. There should be proper checks on their members and ensure no construction without professional engineers. Construction professionals should provide adequate supervision of workers and efficient checking of materials before incorporation into building works.

The Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) should increase its effort to sanitize building materials in the market. Finally, there is a need to educate investors and building owners about the risk of collapsing due to excessive intervention in the construction process.

Busayo Aderounmu is an economics lecturer at Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State.

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