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Building collapse: Stakeholders tackle Lagos govt, demand prosecution

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Building collapse: Stakeholders tackle Lagos govt, demand prosecution

The incessant building collapse in Lagos State is now a national concern.

Lagos is number one on the list of states with record of building collapse and fatalities in the last 10 years, according to the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG).

Its findings showed that 271 incidents occurred in Nigeria between 2012 to 2022, representing 50 percent of the 541 total cases between 1974 and 2022.

The organisation said at least 530 people lost their lives in the 271 incidents. 115 cases, which represents 42.4 percent, happened in Lagos.

Although the Babatunde Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode administrations faced the problem, the Babajide Sanwo-Olu government is still trying to put it under control.

The regulator, Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) is repeatedly accused of going soft on defaulters as residents wonder why the agency allows structures due for demolition remain.

After the 21-storey building on Gerrard Road in Ikoyi crumbled in November 2021, Sanwo-Olu suspended but later recalled LASBCA GM Gbolahan Oki.

Months later, the report of the Coroner, Chief Magistrate O. A. Komolafe, indicated “gross violation of regulations” and indicted the leadership of state agencies.

In September 2022 after the collapse in Oniru, the Governor replaced the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Idris Salako with Tayo Bamgbose-Martins.

Before then, Salako blamed the contractor he described as powerful for the incident which killed about five people, mostly workers who passed the night.

“We have a hostile developer who contravenes the law…drops names any time our officers visit the place. We sealed the site three times and he kept breaking the seal,” he added.

After the latest incident, Sanwo-Olu lambasted the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) for allegedly extending the Banana Island shoreline.

Stakeholders insist friendship with government officials, negligent monitoring, weak foundation, alteration of design, use of substandard materials, among others must be addressed.

Already, the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB) has threatened to sue the Lagos government to force it to fully implement the amended 2019 laws.

Speaking to DAILY POST, a Civil Engineer, Atolagbe Oloruntoba declared the authorities “complicit” for failing to properly keep an eye on construction.

“The personnel sent out from LABSCA visit many sites but are they really doing their jobs? From experience, what they do is collect PR.

“We see this especially when the ‘project owner’ is rich and well-connected. He/she calls those at the top to stop their agents from harassing them at the site,” he said.

On how to achieve a lasting solution, Oloruntoba called for compulsion to ensure all project owners complied with laid down regulations.

He added that, “By now, a professional, such as a civil engineer, must be on ground to supervise workers at sites that have suspended floor(s). Strict adherence should be key.

“Let us all remember that we are human first before riches. Some moneybags call just anybody to handle projects for them.

“Developers are so powerful that they dictate to engineers; they question choices/decisions. Impunity must end, the government must prosecute culprits.”

On the NIOB threat, the expert endorsed the proposed lawsuit but advised that the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) be joined as plaintiff.

“I support a legal action but COREN needs to join them. I say this because they cannot win without the input of the structural body,” Oloruntoba added.

Another stakeholder, Olakunle Aderibigbe stated that prosecution will go a long way to tackle the problem of building collapse in the nation’s commercial hub.

“The government has now stopped construction in Banana Island, Parkview and environs but when will they charge those who caused the collapse.

“It is not only about sealing and demolition. As long as there are sacred cows, the so-called big men, it will be one step forward, two steps backward,” the builder stressed.

However, to prove it is up to the task, LASBCA pulled down illegal/unapproved structures in Banana Island and Ajao Estate between late April and early May.

Assistant Director, Public Affairs, Adetayo Akitoye-Asagba told DAILY POST that the agency’s team was at Banana Island on Sunday.

The official said in continuation of enforcement, “four more structures have been sealed, while one was removed for public safety”.

Meanwhile, the BCPG has appealed to developers to abide by regulations and engage professionals in the pre-construction, construction, and post-construction stages.

The President, Sulaimon Yusuf noted that real estate and housing development have become “an alternative booming business for investors”.

“Many business-oriented people, who possess nil training in building construction have flooded the construction sphere with little respect for professionalism and due process.

“When there are no eligibility criteria, requirements or qualifications that restrict admission into a sensitive and critical sector, the consequence will endanger human life and property,” he warned.

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