BusinessDay

Lagos records four building collapses in 6 months

…as poor construction accounts for 36% of incidents

Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre that prides itself as the country’s centre of excellence has recorded four building collapse incidents in the last six months, bringing it close to an annual average of 4.8 incidents each year in the last five years.

In November 2021, a 21-storey building, still under construction on Gerard Road, Ikoyi, collapsed killing over 40 persons including the developer, Femi Osibona, owner of Fourscore Homes. Since after that, three other incidents have occurred with the latest being a three-story building.

The building, located on 4, Alayaki Lane, Lagos Island, collapsed on Saturday, May 21, 2022 during the weekend’s heavy downpour. Two persons were reported dead while three others were rescued alive.

These incidents in which many lives and properties worth billions of naira have been lost have raised questions on the quality of buildings in the construction industry as well as efficiency of the work of the relevant state’s supervising and regulatory agencies.

“Building collapses have been more intense in Lagos Island area followed by Ebute-Metta area,” said Deborah Jesusegun, a senior researcher at Estate Intel, an online property research platform. She attributed this to the high number of old and dilapidated buildings in these areas.

However, Jesusegun noted that the rate of building collapse has actually reduced when compared to 5 years ago. She pointed out that with a total of nine incidents, 2017 still has the highest number of incidents in a year.

She added that 2011 recorded the highest collapses over the past decade at 19 buildings, citing a Brookings Institution report. “In more than 10 years, 2011 still has the highest number of 19 collapses,” she said, recalling that Lagos State Building Control Agency (LABSCA) was commissioned in 2012 as a response to that high number of incidents.

An analysis of building collapse incidents that occurred between 2017 and 2022 shows there was a wide range of causes of these collapses, ranging from gas explosions to heavy downpour of rain, and even old and dilapidated buildings.

But, the most popular cause of the building collapse, according to Jesusegun, was poor construction, accounting for 36 percent of the collapses. Old buildings, she added, accounted for the second highest reason for collapse at 20 percent.

Enyi Ben-Eboh, President, Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), in his reaction to the collapse incident in Ebute Metta last month, blamed Lagos population for the frequent building collapse in the state. He explained that the high population has led to the high demand for housing which, in turn, has led to developers cutting corners and reducing the quality of the buildings put on the market.

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“However, in all these instances, the overarching trend is the lag on the part of the responsible agencies which ought to uphold construction standards, as well as enforce the regulations,” Jesusegun said, noting that in Lagos, two agencies have spearheaded both laws and initiatives to prevent building collapse incidents in the state.

These are the Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Agency (LASPPPA) and Lagos State Building and Control Agency (LABSCA). These agencies, according to experts, seem to lack the political will or strength of character to enforce the laws that are meant to prevent collapse incidents in the state.

Though the state government has made efforts in the past with some laws such as the Lagos State Physical Planning Law 2005, building collapse remains a regular feature of the state’s construction industry.

The more recent Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law 2019 CAP U2 Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Regulations, 2019 addresses requirements for intentions of building a development, and what should be done in instances of abandoned, illegal and collapsed buildings including demolition.

LASPPPA has, however, carried out several demolitions in different areas of the state and has earmarked many more buildings for demolition. These include areas in Ebute Metta, Lagos Island, Isolo, etc.

More than anyone else, the collapse incident in Ebute Metta has spurred the agency to demolish some old buildings in the area, as well as serve notice of demolition for several other old buildings in the same area.

In addition, the state government has directed LASPPPA to stop receiving applications for approval of buildings above three floors in Ebute-Metta area.

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