By Odunayo Joseph
An ex-Chairman of Lagos State Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Building, Mr. Kunle Awobodu, while lamenting the collapse of the upper part of a building which was preceded by the blowing off of a three-year old bungalow in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital sometime in April 2009 as reported in Saturday Punch of May 2, 2009, opined that the use of sub-standard products in the course of building a structure, especially adulterated cement, has continued to be the bane of recurring building collapse in Nigeria. He also made reference to a young man who had spent so much on his house’s foundation, and who was able to raise the building to the lintel stage only for the building to collapse like a pack of cards two days after the completion of the lintel. The young man had no option but to start all over again.
He further recounted how the outcome of a research conducted by the Lagos State Chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Building showed that walls that were constructed several years ago during the colonial period tended to withstand harsh weather condition more than the recently constructed walls. Again he traced the quality of cement as the main contributory factor to this finding.
Considering the rampant reports bordering on collapse of buildings in the Lagos metropolis, there is need for all stakeholders in the building industry in Lagos to come together and brainstorm, as a matter of urgency, on the views expressed by Awobodu with a view to preventing the growing loss of precious lives owing to building collapse in the state. With the abundance of eggheads in the building industry in Lagos State, much can be achieved in this direction so as to lend credence to the state’s acronym – State of Excellence.
There is no doubt that there is need to complement the efforts of the indefatigable Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) starting from the grassroots in checking the menace of building collapse in the state. A tour around the Lagos metropolis, and possibly other areas, would reveal the abysmal low quality of blocks being churned out by some block makers who either consciously or unconsciously endanger the lives of users of their blocks which from mere looking is better described as mere moulding of sand together with the use of a spoonful of cement to hold the sand together all in a bid at preventing the ‘blocks’ from collapse before getting to the unwary customers, who, for economic reasons often make do with the cheapest products in the market without giving consideration and a second thought to the danger they court. It is high time the appropriate and relevant state government organs such as the Ministry of Physical Planning & Urban Development, Ministry of Housing, Lagos State Property Development Corporation Ministry of Rural Development and Ministry of Environment sensitized all block makers operating in the state to search their conscience and see the money made from production of sub-standard blocks for public consumption as a clear example of ‘blood money’.
Also, all other stakeholders and professionals in the building industry in the state such as Architects, Quantity Surveyors, Builders and building contractors need come together and brainstorm on prevention of rampant building collapse in the state. There is also the need for them to take the supervisory aspect of their job with much more seriousness. With adequate job supervision, some, if not all untoward acts of cost cutting at the expense of job quality, will be nipped in the bud and thus prevent any form of calamity arising from avoidable defective structures, that is presently the case today not only in Lagos but in Nigeria as a whole. The decision by the Lagos state government, as revealed by the Commissioner for Special Duties, Dr. Wale Ahmed and the Commissioner for Justice, Ade Ipaye to commence prosecution of those found to be culpable in a recent building that collapsed on Ishaga Road in Surulere, Lagos, will go a long way as a warning that the day of reckoning for impunity, dereliction of duties and avoidable professional misconduct in the building industry in the state is around the corner. It is hoped that all other states and the Federal Capital Development Authority will take a cue from the Lagos State government in line with the age long adage that says that “prevention is better than cure”. Waiting to take measures after loss of precious lives of the people is no doubt tantamount to prescription of drug after death.
The proactive measure already embarked upon by the state government through the setting up of Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) is laudable. The writer had the opportunity to watch the presentation of the agency’s documentary on MITV on Wednesday, July 24, 2013, that was packaged to sensitize landlords and tenants of the myriad of inherent dangers in living in distressed buildings which could collapse at any time and result in the loss of precious lives. I will strongly advise the Lagos state government that this kind of important and educative documentary should be televised to the public on continuous basis for now during weekends when people are usually indoors especially on Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings. If possible it should be shown simultaneously by more than one station at the same time to create awareness for a greater number of people. In addition, there is need for the public to be aware of the agency’s telephone numbers and their e-mail address for communication with the agency.
In the last segment of the documentary during which the views of some of the affected evictees from the distressed buildings already marked by the agency for demolition were sought, an old man of between 70 and 75 years who claimed to have been residing in his apartment in the low cost housing estate built by the Lagos State government, pathetically appealed to Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola to provide those affected by the planned demolition exercise to, as a matter of urgency, provide them an alternative housing. The old man who could be said to be speaking the minds of the people, recalled that the carrot of alternative accommodation had been dangled before them times without number in the past by the state government but that no action has so far been taken in fulfilment of the avalanche promises and assurances. There is no doubt that the governor of Lagos State and his team will give the old man’s plea a humanitarian consideration along with those living in the state’s low cost housing estates including those building owners who have live all their lives in Lagos, the majority of whom have no other place to go before their departure to the Almighty Creator. Thank God, our Governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, is a full blooded and caring Lagosian who will quickly have a grasp of the point being made here.
Without gainsaying, we are in a country where we give scant attention to the welfare of old citizens. The writer googled for ‘Old people’s Home’ on the internet and surprisingly it was found that it is only in Lagos State, to be precise, Yaba Local Council Development Area, that such home where welfare of old people are being addressed exist in the country. It is in this regard that the public-spirited and listening Governor Fashola is implored to go a step further by considering payment of adequate compensation to landlords who fall victims of the planned demolition of buildings that have been found to be defective in the state and which pose danger to the lives of the people living in such buildings. In taking over the land on which buildings demolished had been built by the state government, it is hoped that the government, while considering compensation for the affected landlords, will take cognizance of the prevailing maximum current value of such lands when taken over. By so doing, the pains, agony and hardship of the affected landlords arising from the demolition exercise would be mitigated. The government is advised not to stop at payment of adequate compensation alone but should also embark on immediate construction of affordable low cost housing either on the dispossessed lands or elsewhere in the state which can in turn be purchased solely by displaced landlords through compensation received from the state government.
Eko oni baje oo. Long live Lagos State.
•Joseph is the Publicity Secretary, South-West Zone of Okun Dev. Association. E-mail: odunayo_ [email protected]
Source: PM News
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