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COVID-19: It is a trying time for the construction industry—Awobudu

The construction industry  in Nigeria and  the world over is currently in a trying time no thanks to  coronavirus which has crippled all human activities including building and construction, Kunle Awobudu, President, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), has said.

This, indeed, is not the best of time for an industry where , Awobudu noted, work is determined by man-hours.  “The lockdown and sit-at-home order by the government means everybody is idle. Many projects have been suspended  and that means we are wasting man-hours; when you are wasting man-hours, you will feel uncomfortable,” he said.

The NIOB president noted that both the industry and economy are losing much as a result of the lockdown. According to him, projects which have been suspended were planned not to suffer time over-run so that they could be delivered in time and on budget.

He added that projects are not supposed to stop suddenly and explained that apart from endangering the stability of the building, it leads to loss of materials. “Rain could come and wash sand to the drain; it could also weakens other materials like wood for casting slab or roofing,” he noted.

Awobudu is particularly worried over job losses in the industry. According to him, “construction workers are wage earners; they are not supposed to earn salary when they are not at work. Now, they are not working and so, there is no pay; that means they have no job as it were.”

He said that even if the lockdown is relaxed and people are allowed to return to work, it will be difficult for construction workers because they still have to observe social distancing and washing of hands while at work, but they cannot, making them vulnerable to the disease.

Awobudu is of the view that time has come for Nigeria to look inwards in terms of local building materials production. He explained that most of the building materials used in Nigeria are imported from China from where coronavirus originated. That means no materials will be allowed to come from that country in the near future.

He reasoned that what is happening in the industry will rub off on the housing market, if not now, in the very near future. “Coronavirus is already creating a frosty relationship between landlords and their tenants; there will be rent default going forward,” he predicted.

Continuing, he said, “rent default is going to affect maintenance of facilities because if landlords are not paid their rent, they won’t be able to carry out maintenance in case of serviced buildings. That in itself is a problem for both the building and the occupants.”

CHUKA UROKO

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