Building collapse: HURIWA seeks death penalty for contractors, engineers using substandard materials

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By Ogaga Ariemu

Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria(HURIWA) on Monday, bemoaned the successive number of building collapses across the country, saying State Governments, town planning authorities and building-controlled agencies must step up regulatory standards to stop the menacing trend which has claims scores of lives, especially in the last one month.

HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, in a statement released to Nigerian NewsDirect, canvassed the passage of a bill to criminalise the usage of substandard materials by building engineers and builders.

The group tasked State Governments and regulatory agencies to go beyond issuing condolence statements after building collapses,  if they were diligent in the enforcement of building standards and protocols.

HURIWA particularly asked the government of Lagos State Government to take concrete punitive measures against her officials that connive with land speculators to erect substandard structures that have collapsed in quick succession in the state if recent. The Rights group asked the Lagos State House of Assembly and the Governor to declare a state of emergency on building collapses in the state.

HURIWA expressed concerns at the quick succession of building collapses in the month of August and September. From Lagos to Abuja, Kano and Akwa-Ibom, the spate of wreckages in the last four weeks cut across the country.

“HURIWA recommends the passage of criminal law making the using of substandard materials for public building and infrastructure punishable by stiff penalties for culpable engineers. This is important because until a crime attracts specified enforceable sanctions, offenders of such crimes will continue in it with impunity. Negligence and unprofessional conduct such as cutting of building steps as well as administrational connivance must be stamped out forcibly through a legal instrument. We similarly demand legal sanctions for Customs officials and officials of Standards Organisation of Nigeria that are compromised by sellers and importers of substandard building materials into Nigeria. HURIWA urges the Engineering Registration Council of Nigeria to partner with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria and security forces to rid Nigerian markets of substandard building materials including cement materials no matter how powerfully connected the manufacturers are if they are made in Nigeria.

“HURIWA recalls that a Bill for Act to establish the Construction Materials Standardization Agency to standardize and control the use of materials for the construction industry in Nigeria in December 2021 scaled second reading in the House of Representatives  but nothing has been heard of the bill. It is important for the bill to come fully to life and become a law to enthrone sanity in the construction sector in the country.

“Also, the Council for the Regulations of Engineering in Nigeria, the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria, the Nigerian Institute of Building, the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers, and other related organisations must up their regulatory games and say no to official compromises and collusion.

“State Governments must stop paying lip services to the menacing trend. State Governments must enthrone the ‘Never Again’ culture. Officials and appointees found colluding with building contractors to compromise standards must be shamed and named. Governor should institute judges-led public inquiries into every building disaster to curb the serial game of death and sorrow in Nigeria as past occurrences have been traced to quackery, faulty designs, the use of substandard materials, foundation failures, and corruption. Persons and firms indicted must be assiduously prosecuted, their licensees seized and exposed in the media so that innocent potential homeowners won’t fall into their hands.

“Governors must further re-examine standards of the 2006 National Building Code to enforce regulations and ensure quality, standards and safety are enthroned in Nigeria’s built industry,” he stated.