Editorial: Stemming the tide of building collapse in Nigeria

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Last month, in the highbrow area of Ikoyi, in the commercial capital of the country, Lagos, a high-rise building under construction located along Gerrard Road collapsed. The building collapse claimed over forty lives including the owner of the structure, Femi Osibona. The developer according to the Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority, LAPPPA, had ignored the directive to insure the structure.

The building collapse brings to the fore, once again, the need for stakeholders to ensure strict compliance to extant regulations on building construction in the country. According to the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Obafemi Hamzat, the construction at the collapsed building was once stopped due to failure to pass a structural integrity test.

Although, there were reports that the building was approved for a 15-storey and not 21 but the state government dispelled this, however, the collapse of that structure calls for serious concern on the integrity of buildings in the country.

Two days after the Ikoyi building collapse, two more building collapsed in the state due to heavy rainfall. For IMPACT NEWS, it is a source of concern that Lagos state has witnessed more building collapse in the country more than any other states.

In 2014, a six-storey building collapse during a service at the Synagogue Church of Nations, killing 116 people.

 We also recalled that in March 2016, the state government published a list of about 40 buildings identified as distressed or abandoned. The buildings were located across, Ikoyi, Arowojobe, Maryland, Ikorodu, Oke-Alo, Lekki, Ilubirin, Lagos Island, Oworoshoki/Bariga, Somolu, Ebute-Metta, Mushin, Ajegunle and Surulere.

In 2019, 10 people died when a building containing a school collapsed in Ita Faji of the state. Out of the rubble of the collapsed building, 40 pupils were pulled out alive as the building housed a school on the top floor.

According to a planning expert, Dr. Okunola Olasunkanmi, between 2005 and 2020, 152 buildings collapsed in the state. He said that more than three-quarters of the properties were residential and many were multi-storey.

A report by the Nigerian lnstitution of Structural Engineers (NIStructE) on the collapsed 21-story building revealed evidence of structural inadequacy in construction, design brief changes, and lack of proper quality control as a possible cause of the failed structure.

Dr. Kehinde Osifala, the President of NIStructE, who presents the report, said there were clear indications of several design brief changes on the project.

Osifala said, “The building that collapsed was initially designed for six floors and later to 12 before this was further changed to 15 floors. It could not yet be established the adequacy of any properly designed and documented further revision to the eventual and tragically final 21 floors that were being implemented and which collapsed.

“There are also indications that more than two structural engineering design firms worked on the project at different times. These findings remain preliminary until the recommended comprehensive investigation is carried out and the outcome of governmental and institutional panels has been determined.”

The institute said its investigation revealed some evidence of structural inadequacy in the construction. It also indicated that signs of some structural distress had already started to show within certain elements of the building.

Osifala stated further, “Lack of proper quality control and quality assurance measures and process during the construction was becoming noticeable as seen in the poor quality of concrete materials and workmanship observed during the examination of the collapsed debris. All these, which are very significant from the structural engineering point of view, need to be investigated further during the detailed investigation stage so that all factors related to the cause of the collapse can be truly established and appropriate lessons identified and implemented.”

Apart from the loss of precious lives to this collapse, billions of naira is also lost in investment. There is therefore the need to put a lasting halt to this preventive and avoidable misfortune.

Some of the reasons that has allowed collapsed buildings to reoccur in Lagos State are not far from failure of regulatory agencies in monitoring and enforcement, alleged sharp practices by representatives of regulators, the inability of professional bodies to fulfil oversight functions, failure of government at different levels to prosecute offenders conclusively which is believed to help perpetuate impunity, and preponderance of substandard building materials in the country, among others.

It is therefore important that the Lagos state government should use the findings of the probe panel set up to proffer a lasting solution to this monster.

Ikoyi 21 high rise collapsed building

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