LAGOS: What Experts Think About Involvement Of Private Sector In Approval Process To Curb Building Collapse

On November 1, 2021, a tragedy occurred in Lagos State when a 21-storey building under construction collapsed in the Ikoyi area of the state, killing 46 persons, including the developer of the building, Femi Osibona.

According to reports, while approval was given for only 15 floors, the developer added an extra seven floors, making it 21 floors.

In August 2022, a coroner’s inquest revealed that the building collapsed due to negligence by agencies responsible for the approval and supervision of the building project.

Another high-rise building also collapsed in the same Ikoyi area of the state in April this year. One body was recovered from the rubble of the seven-storey building, located on the Banana Island. The state government said 25 people were rescued from the site.

A renowned architect, Dr Olanrewaju Towry-Coker, had said then that the seven-storey building was designed by unknown ‘architects’ and ‘engineers’ and being built by ‘unknown’ persons!

According to the state government, preliminary investigations revealed that the building collapsed as a result of a concrete mixer truck that rammed into some load-bearing columns of the building.

However, Towry-Coke who visited the site of the collapsed building said there was no way the load-bearing columns could support the structure because they were too narrow in thickness.

He wondered how this could be possible in Lagos Island which, he noted, has been a construction hub since the 1800’s.

“I had the rare privilege of visiting the site of the latest collapsed building in Banana Island yesterday afternoon, 13th April in order to be in a position to comment in a knowledgeable and professional manner,” the former Commissioner of Housing in Lagos under the administration of Bola Tinubu had said in a statement.

“What I also noticed was the fact that, there was no way, the reinforced concrete columns, could support the seven-storey, structure because they were just too narrow in thickness, and it was obvious to a trained eye that they were already beginning to show signs of buckling!

“I looked for the names of the design team on a signboard and, all I saw was a name on a site lift, which was apparently the name of the company as well as the contractor who was also the ‘architect’ and ‘engineer’!

“In other words, the project was designed by unknown ‘architects’ and ‘engineers’ and being built by ‘unknown’ persons!

“How this can be possible in Lagos Island which has been construction hub since the 1800’s, still beats me.”

Lagos has witnessed several buildings collapse with a number of fatalities. This has become a source of concern for the government.

In the last 10 years, over 271 buildings have collapsed in Nigeria, according to the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG). This represents 50 percent of a total of 541 recorded cases in the country between 1974 and 2022.

Out of the 271 collapses reported during the period, 115 cases, representing 42.4 percent of all cases—were reported in Lagos.

The BCPG is made up of seven professional bodies, which include the Nigerian Institute of Architect (NIA), Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), NIESV, Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS), and Nigerian Institute of Surveyors (NIS).

Private Professionals In Regulatory Activities

To bolster regulation of the built sector and enhance efficiency, the state government recently introduced the Certified Accreditor Programme(CAP) and the Certificate of Structural Integrity Programme ( CSIP). These new initiatives intend to eliminate delays in planning permit approvals, enhance compliance monitoring and eradicate building collapse in the state by involving private professionals in regulatory activities in physical planning.

“It is my belief that to give the much deserved progress in the system, the Lagos State Urban Development Policy will reinforce the new initiatives of involving private professionals in regulatory activities in Physical Planning through the Certified Accreditor Programme, CAP and the Certified Structural Integrity Programme, CSIP”, said the former Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Engr. Bamgbose-Martins, at an Agenda Setting Workshop for the preparation of the Lagos State Urban Development Policy in May.

According to him, “The Lagos State Urban Development Policy, when in place, will set the right tone for the development of Lagos State while taking cognisance of all planning index”.

The Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development announced about two weeks ago that CAP registration portal is now open for interested professionals in the private sector of the built environment to enrol and collaborate with the government.

The ministry informed that the portal is programmed to accept applications as Certified Accreditors from teams of professionals as against individuals.

“The programme is now at the critical stage of enrolling tested and trusted private sector professionals to team up with the government as Certified Accreditors in the bid to sanitise the system,” the Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Mukaila Sanusi, said in a statement.

Experts Perspectives

An estate surveyor and valuer, Samuel Akanbi, while reacting to the introduction of CAP and CSIP by the state government, said that such synergy between the government and private professionals will help to achieve the desired result in the state’s built sector.

Akanbi who is the CEO/MD of Samak Limited, stated that private professionals can play an important role in the policy formulation of government, adding that taking into cognizance of the stakeholders will go a long way in the state’s quest to eliminate delays in planning permit approvals, enhance compliance monitoring and eradicate building collapse.

“Any policy of government that bring in to bear the input of the professionals will definitely go a long way at getting to the targeted result,” he told THE WHISTLER.

“But in a situation whereby government just sits down in the comfort of their office and make policies without recourse to the public, without recourse to the masses, at the end of the day, it will be one-sided. Planning should be from the bottom up. It shouldn’t be from the up (to) down. It should take into cognizance of the stakeholders.”

Akanbi believes that there will be no lapses with the involvement of private professionals, noting that they will be careful not to lose their licence or dent their image.

“As a matter of fact, when you’re talking about building collapse in Lagos and other states, it’s because the government or those in government are cutting corners. If the private (professionals) are involved and they know their name is going to be in whatever they’re going to do, they wouldn’t want to toil with their certificates and their licences.

“For instance, if a private practitioner is involved in a particular policy, maybe to give an approval or give a go-ahead before such a project can be approved, if anything happens along the line, his name is at stake; his licence is at stake. It’s like a medical doctor that carried out a surgical operation and something went wrong,” he said.

“I believe (that) if private practitioners are included in (regulatory activities in physical planning), they’ll definitely be so careful. They’ll be thinking of their certificates because once their certificate is withdrawn, they can’t practice,” Akanbi added.

Also speaking with THE WHISTLER, former Chairman of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Abuja Chapter, Charles Oghenero Ebiai, stated that integrating private professionals is a good one.

However, he attributed building collapse to mainly the use of non-professionals by some developers in a bid to cut costs.

Attitudinal Change

According to the General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), Arc. Gbolahan Oki, attitudinal change is a major key to tackling building collapse in the state.

Delivering a keynote address on Thursday at a seminar organised by BusinessDay Media on Sustainable Building with the theme: “Addressing the Challenges of Building Collapse”, Oki emphasised that one of the key challenges contributing to building collapse is the prevalent lackadaisical attitude towards construction and maintenance by the people.

He noted that a change of attitude would go a long way in reducing cases of building collapse in the state.

The LASBCA boss identified the lack of adherence to proper processes which includes non-inclusion of professionals in building construction, use of substandard materials, conversion of buildings without adequate supervision and engagement of quacks.

Oki maintained that for there to be an end or reduction in the spate of collapse, all hands must be on deck and everyone including the developers and owners must do the right thing by adhering strictly to the building codes of the state.

“We have an issue of attitude which manifests in different ways,” Oki noted.

“If someone graduates from the university and registers as an architect with an association, does that qualify him to be a professional architect? What do you want to say to someone who did not go to school and is now practising architecture?”, he asked rhetorically.

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