Averting incessant building collapse

A four-storey building still under construction collapsed on August 17 in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, killing three persons and injuring about 18 people. Located at the IT Igbani/NBRRI road, Off Obafemi Awolowo road, Jabi, Abuja, the building was temporarily abandoned for over 15 years before the said owner commenced reconstruction at the site this year.

Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, who visited the scene of the incident, described the collapse of a four-storey building as very unfortunate, the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Musa Bello sympathized with those who lost their loved ones and called on the security operatives to apprehend the contractor handling the project.

The spates of building collapse in Nigeria in recent times have assumed a very worrisome dimension as many lives were lost and huge investments wasted.

Building collapse incidence is still regularly occurring despite the fact that there has been an increase in the diffusion of engineering knowledge over the years. Building collapse could be attributed to many factors including structural defects, poor supervision or workmanship, use of substandard materials, faulty structural design or absence of structural design, carelessness, weak and faulty foundation, illegal conversion, non-compliance with approved building plans or disregard for building regulations among others.

Majorly, building collapses have been linked to infiltration of quacks in the sector. Regulatory agencies such as the development control departments in cities and states whose responsibility was to monitor the activities of builders and civil engineering have been relegated or neglected over the years over the years.

In the case of the Abuja collapse, question has been asked whether the FCT Department of Development Control and Abuja Metropolitan Management Council (AMMC) had failed to monitor the building to ascertain its quality and strength. We reckon that as long as artisans are left to manage construction processes, and until defaulters are convicted and jailed, building collapse would persist in the country.

Therefore, to avert a repeat of this sad development the prevailing disregard for professionalism must stop henceforth. Professionals engaged in building projects should be sanctioned if found culpable. Professional bodies in the built sector should as a matter of urgency demand the immediate reconciliation of all the urban and physical planning laws as well as the immediate domestication of the National Building Code.

Development control departments in cities and states must be on their toes in checking building plan violations, regulating development as well as punishing offenders to act as deterrent. Every site abandoned for years must be reassessed, redesigned and the structural competency assured before resumption of further construction.

There should be synergy between relevant stakeholders in the building environment in reviewing and enforcing urban planning laws to regulate building products and processes.

There should be a regular check of blocks industries to ensure their products are of good quality and certified by the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON).  In addition, building service workers on electricity, water and sewage lines should be mindful of structural integrity.

We enjoin developers to harness and use the services of intelligent and experienced registered professionals on their structures and avoid cutting corners.

All stakeholders in the sector should imbibe the culture of standards in all aspects and ramifications of construction projects. They should also continually build capacity of builders and work to checkmate the activities of quacks on building sites.

There should be a check for policy makers to ensure specifications are thoroughly followed by contractors. Town planning authorities should maintain and have adequate competent professionals and provide necessary training for design approval.

While we commiserate with the families of victims, an improved level of conformance to and compliance with construction principles by construction industry stakeholders is required to check building collapse.

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