Continued from last week…
Professional bodies should be conducting mandatory workshops from time to time for their members in order to keep them abreast of the recent developments in the profession – similar to what Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria, CORBON, in conjunction with the Nigerian Institute of Building, NIOB, are doing, on daily bases. Professional bodies should also give equal attention to middle level man power. Artisan and construction craftsmen are operatives who contribute skillfully with their hands in the practical realization of a project in the construction industry. The impact of the artisan and construction craftsmen in the industry is very clear in its end products, especially where competent craftsmen are involved. However, it is a known fact that, there is shortage of quality craftsmen in the Nigerian construction industry, to the extent that the industry relies on craftsmen from other countries. Professional bodies should make sincere effort to recognise and regulate their practice. In this regard, there is the need for other regulatory bodies to emulate the effort made by the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, COREN, in registering, regulating and monitoring the work of technologists. Professional bodies should put more effort to ensure the adherence to professional ethics such effort should cut across the entire class of Nigerian professionals as well as expatriate professionals. There should be close and coordinated effort to curb quackery. Also, surveillance on the activities of quack professionals in the built environment should be stepped up in order to bring them to book. The professional body should set up joint committee that will examine, from time to time, developments in the construction industry, most especially problem facing the nation in general and construction industry in particular.
Results of studies on building collapse in Nigeria revealed that 70%, 23.3% and 6.7% of collapsed buildings belong to private, public and corporate organizations respectively. Besides that, most of the affected buildings are residential buildings belonging to individuals. When the percentage of collapsed buildings owned by corporate organizations, is compared with that of private individuals, it will be observed that, it is by far, smaller, compared to that of private or even public sector. This is to be expected; in view of the fact that corporate bodies almost always engage professionals to provide all or most of the services needed in building production and they respect, value and accept the decisions or views of professionals. However, in the case of private individuals, some or many avoid hiring professionals; instead, they prefer cheap labour by engaging unqualified professionals. There are many instances where draughtsmen are engaged as architects while mason or craftsmen as professional builders. Additionally, majority of the clients use direct labour or “Labour only” type of contract; in which the owner employ a professional to carry out building production only while he (the client) buys building materials and in many instances, clients purchase substandard materials and take some or many of the critical decisions, all in an effort to save cost. I have witnessed situations where, professionals had to withdraw their services as consultants in some building projects because the clients were always insisting on having the final say on purely technical issues. Besides that, some clients don’t care to find out the right professionals to employ for the execution of building project.
The general public most especially clients, have a role to play in preventing building collapse in Nigeria. Firstly, sincere and concerted effort should be made to make sure that prospective building owners are well informed on caliber of professionals to engage. Secondly, they should make sure they hire the right and competent professionals when and where the need arise; they should, also give professionals all the necessary support for them to discharge their duties. Clients should not give more prominence to saving cost over saving lives and properties.
One important point that should always be at the back of government officials, built environment professionals – most especially executive members of regulatory bodies and professionals associations, and the general public, is that sooner or later, we will not be in our present position. As such, we need to have the consolation that we made determined, honest and sincere effort to improve the lives of Nigerians, irrespective of their tribe, religion, ideology, social backgrounds, etc. whenever we are reviewing our life history. After all, people will always remember us – either for the problem we’ve solved (for good) or for the ones we’ve created (for bad). Above all, we will account of our actions someday. Many of us are, “far from where we started and so near to where we are going”. Sincere attempts must be made by stakeholders to prevent building collapse and hence, save lives and properties.
Danwata is an Associate Professor at the Department of Building, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; firstname.lastname@example.org, 08022601115.