Building collapse in Nigeria needs solution beyond rhetorics 


Wednesday’s Banana Island building collapse in Lagos has returned attention to the danger to the lives and properties of Nigerians.

The Deputy Director of Public Affairs at the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mukaila Sanusi, said a few persons sustained injuries and have been given proper medical treatment.

From Abuja to Lagos and other parts of the country, the incidents of building collapse have become routine. Yes, a routine of tragedy, pains, and loss of lives and properties, yet the best solution echoed by the Government is “We will do this, or We shall do that” that never sees the light of day.

In other climes, buildings don’t just collapse every other day. From the architectural design stage to civil and structural engineering, actual construction and completion of a project, efforts are made to ensure that regulations are strictly adhered to. And there are no shortcuts aimed at minimizing costs. In Nigeria, the failure of the regulating agencies to properly perform their supervisory roles has given way to a situation where quacks have taken over with dire consequences. In 2022, several buildings of various heights collapsed around the Country, with the highest number recorded in Lagos State. Going to statistics from the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), between January and July 2022, there were no fewer than 24 cases of total building collapse. Most of these collapses, complete or partial, occurred in high-rise buildings, with dozens of lives lost.

Too much blood is being spilt needlessly in Nigeria’s building industry for all sorts of reasons that even professionals recognize as avoidable. Recall the collapse of a nine-storey building in Victoria Island had compelled Lagos stakeholders in the construction industry to meet to proffer solutions to this ongoing menace. The Lagos Building and Control Agency organised the meeting with architects, builders, surveyors, town planners, and engineers, among others, in attendance. But this is a national problem that requires a more holistic approach for the authorities to deal with.

There are procedures to follow when constructing a building anywhere, even on water. But in Nigeria, these conventions/regulations are hardly adhered to because of poor enforcement of laws. Meanwhile, cases of building collapse cut across offices, residential areas, churches, and business premises.

Generally, building collapse in Nigeria could be attributed to quacks and unqualified builders (property owners adopt a one-size-fits-all approach sometimes by using an architect to design and build). There is also the failure to comply with policies of regulating bodies in the building, the use of substandard materials, undue and notorious sharp practices to maximize profits, and undue compromise by bodies saddled to ensure compliance with standards.

NewsDirect, in this editorial, writes that the ongoing collapse of buildings in the country reflects poorly on professionals in the industry who are struggling to wrest construction jobs from the few foreign companies operating in Nigeria. But they cannot compete if their building sites become killing fields. There are indications that building collapse is also often caused by attitudinal problems. Therefore, it is important to have a register of every professional in the industry to check their activities and documentation. Given the volume of work in the construction industry, it is also necessary to engage external but trustworthy certifiers to monitor construction sites.

According to those gathered at the Lagos Building and Control Agency meeting, experts in the construction industry have proffered many solutions and recommendations to stem this ugly trend. They all recognized the problem as a need for more implementation of regulations, particularly stage/phase inspection.

Confronting all the faults thrown up by years of investigation of various incidences of building collapse across the nation has also been highlighted.

For instance, it is observed that the regulations that compel every developer to submit the name of the structural engineering firm supervising their work is often ignored. Testing is another issue that should be addressed in the industry because of the influx and use of substandard building materials by developers who want to cut corners in the execution of their projects. This should include the design of the building’s foundation to match the load it would carry.

Importantly, the government must jettison politics and tackle the menace of building collapse head-on without ado. The number of lives and properties lost to the reoccurring building collapse in Nigeria has become a tough call to duty for the Government, Nigerians and professionals in the building industry to act unanimously to end the ugly trend.