Whilst Nigerians await the next building collapse
As Nigerians continue to mull gory reports of repeated building collapses in the country, it remains an indisputable fact that given the inherent defects in obtaining building licences, monitoring compliance with regulatory standards as well as the existing lapses in operational bureaucracies in the country, there is no ruling out the fact that sad as this may sound, it is only a matter of time before another building caves in.
At the risk of sounding like a prophet of doom, the usual government’s response after the next collapse would be to condemn the collapse as well as the owners of the building, the media would again be awash with reports of how many lives were lost and how many injured, questions would be asked as to who is culpable or what was responsible for the collapse, few arrests would be made here and there, religious organisations would again pray for the repose of the lost souls and that the almighty God should intervene, common Nigerians on the streets would hiss and sigh and say “e don happen again”, and perhaps the heads of the concerned building agency may be suspended pending investigation on the remote and immediate causes of the building collapse or in rare cases as our experiences have shown, may be asked to vacate their office with immediate effect.
Oh, I dare not forget the committees upon committees that would be set-up and funded with tax-payers’ money to design a blueprint to foreclose a recurrence of the malady only for the committee as well as their report to disappear to the Cameroun mountains. Welcome to Naija, where we love drama and enjoy talks!
Again, as is usual with us, there are few documented reports of collapsed buildings. The very few reported in our media include the following: October 1974, building collapsed in Ibadan and killed 27 persons, August 1977, building collapsed in Kaduna and killed 28 persons, June 1990, 3 storey building collapsed in Port Harcourt killing at least 50 persons, March 2006, Bank of Industry Lagos collapsed and killed 2, July 2006, four-storey building collapsed in Lagos and killed 28 persons, August 2010, building collapsed in Abuja and killed 21, December 2011, church collapsed in Kaduna killing 4 persons, July 11, 2013: building collapse in Kaduna, September 2014, School building collapsed in Jos and killed 10 pupils, September 2014, Synagogue church building collapsed in Lagos and killed 116, October 20, 2015, three-storey building collapsed in Lagos, 3 rescued and only a few days ago on March 8, 2016, a five-storey building under construction at Lekki, Lagos collapsed and killed at least 34 persons. In all the above articulated reports, hundreds of persons sustained various types of injuries many of whom would remain maimed for life.
The pertinent question that should agitate the minds of every concerned Nigerian is, when would this anomaly stop? Quite unfortunate is the fact that as a nation we seem to have lost our sense of shock given the repeated instances of building collapses; we go about our normal businesses as though nothing has happened. Even more unfortunate is the fact that we are not unaware of the causes of these collapses which includes poorly – designed buildings, mis-interpretation of building designs, foundation challenge, non-compliance with standard construction methods, use of sub-standard building materials, lack of understanding and investigation of the soil nature, lack of maintenance or proper maintenance, failure and complicity of the regulatory bodies in the performance of their functions, to mention just a few.
As recently as September 2015, the building authority in Lagos was reported to have sealed more than 1,104 buildings across the state due to defective or illegal construction between June and September of the same year. Worthy of note is that most of these buildings have been unsealed by the builders and construction work have either been completed or reached advanced stages. It is curious to note that these builders continue work in defiance of the sealing order having given various sums of monies as bribes to the building inspectors or whoever represents the face of government at any level.
Corruption has permeated every facet of our polity and the building sector is no exception. Recently in another part of Lagos, a building which was put on hold by the Lagos State authorities for various reasons, re-commenced construction work after giving a bribe of N350,000. The authorities simply look the other way once a builder grease their palms. Who cares? Everyone has devised unscrupulous means of staying afloat while our Naira continues to bleed.
No one knows when the next building will collapse and how many lives will be lost or bodies maimed. But surely it will happen again because this is Naija. Whilst we all await the next building collapse, perhaps our builders will come to one realisation that no edifice is worth the soul of any person, perhaps our building authorities would rise to the occasion and insist that builders “do the right thing”, perhaps building equipment vendors will have a little fear of God and sell the right materials, perhaps true Nigerians would bring to the attention of the concerned bodies who is doing that wrong thing somewhere in their neighbourhood, perhaps and only perhaps we may together prevent a recurrence. Who knows?
Olushola Abiloye is a legal practitioner with Messrs Adepetun, Caxton-Martins, Agbor & Segun, a law firm based in Lagos, Nigeria.
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