The recent collapse of residential buildings in Lagos and Ibadan, two of Nigeria’s most populous cities, is worrisome. About 20 people died with close to 45 injured in Lagos two weeks ago. In Ibadan, although no life was lost, five people were trapped in a collapsed building in the same week. These tragedies were partly caused by the bad works done by unqualified building contractors and the use of sub-standard materials for construction. Also, state inspectors have failed to ensure that these weak buildings are pulled down before collapsing.

Over the last four years, though, Nigeria has recorded over 56 cases of building collapse. But putting an end to this, however, will require a tremendous amount of commitment by all concerned; the building owners, their contractors, policymakers, state inspectors, and the public, too.

Developers should stop Bribing Inspectors while Using poor Materials

Across the country, the use of bad building materials is rampant among developers. A 2016 study, revealed that 13.5 percent of the building that collapsed between 1971 and 2016 were as a result of the use of bad materials.

One of the reasons why good quality materials seem to be expensive—since most of them are imported—and fake materials rampant, is because of the absence of sufficient test laboratories. Although, many house developers are also guilty of cutting corners to reduce costs. But having enough laboratories will improve the efficiency of the Standard Organization of Nigeria in evaluating the quality of building materials.

…state governments should start a nationwide inspection of buildings immediately. This national mobilization will ensure that unsafe buildings are marked and demolished. Nigerians should support these efforts by reporting any dilapidated buildings to relevant authorities.

Developers often settle for unqualified building contractors—also called bricklayers—rather than hiring qualified engineers and architects. With this, crucial undertakings like material testing and pedologic investigation are neglected. As a consequence, the developers could go ahead to add more floors exceeding the strength of the foundation. But these bricklayers only proceed with the additions through estimates, not calculation.

Some of them had never even used any state-of-the-art types of equipment before other than the obsolete ones. And to make matters worse, they mostly patronize local block factories. Local block factories only mix and build blocks with rudiment machines too, without necessarily reducing them to rigorous durability tests.  

The eventual end of these array of bad decisions, as we recently saw, is the fatal collapse of buildings. It is unbelievable how human lives and property can be at the whims of some selfish developers and unlicensed contractors. This has to stop.

The public should hold developers accountable and request that their elected representatives take actions against neglects. Commencement of construction works in Nigeria without approval from the relevant authorities is illegal and should be enforced. However, bribery is another problem. It has made these inspections useless. Some officials don’t even go through the building plans and drawings before approving them after receiving bribes.

Federal and state inspecting agencies should review their mode of operation to ensure corrupt officials do not continue to put innocent Nigerians at risk in their homes and rented spaces.

More Buiding Inspections will Help

Following the collapse in the Ita-Faji area of Lagos, the state government commenced an immediate demolition of the 180 buildings already marked for demolition. Although the move is commendable, it should be extended to other parts of the state. The Oyo State government should also not limit punishment to engineers and owners of the collapsed building in Ibadan alone. It must replicate the same across the state.

Other state governments should start a nationwide inspection of buildings immediately. This national mobilization will ensure that unsafe buildings are marked and demolished. Nigerians should also support these efforts by reporting any dilapidated buildings to the relevant authorities.

Muneer Yaqub is a Writing Fellow at African Liberty, a Nigerian social commentator, and journalist. He is a student of microbiology at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Nigeria. He can be reached on Twitter via @elmunir5.

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