11th July, 2011
There is usually an outpouring of grief whenever a building collapses. You also hear government officials talk tough about bringing erring developers to book and vowing to demolish defective structures.
This was the case last Tuesday when a 4-storey building collapsed in Idumota area of Lagos, killing 18 residents.
Reports say the building was a two-storey structure which a developer converted to a four-storey building. Whether this is true or false, it is immaterial. What is worrisome is that the building was among the 300 defective structures earmarked for demolition by the state government but because the relevant agency did not act fast, the building eventually collapsed and with it came the huge death toll.
With no National Building Code coupled with corruption and greed on the part of private developers, we might still witness many more incidents of collapsed buildings across the country. A situation where developers decide to convert bungalows into storey buildings is a recipe for disaster, the type which we are witnessing now.
How can the foundation for a bungalow withstand the pressure of a storey building to which it was converted? Where were government officials who were expected to ensure that this did not happen? Why do they look the other way when developers use substandard materials to build residential houses, offices and shopping malls? These structures are erected without approved building plans and yet the developers get away with their illegal act that endangers the lives of occupants of such poorly constructed buildings.
There are so many old, defective buildings on Lagos Island and other parts of the state that should be demolished before they collapse and kill the occupants. The Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development is taking the flak for the incidence of collapsed buildings for failing to prevent the tragedies that have happened and may still happen.
Structures that are already weak are further weakened by the consistent rain that has been falling in recent weeks. The relevant ministry must muster the will to demolish the defective structures that have already been marked for such exercise. The government must not wait until another building collapses before it acts.
The time has come for the government and private developers to place greater value on human life by taking decisions that will safeguard the lives of occupants of buildings being constructed.
Proper regulation and close monitoring of buildings under construction, prompt demolition of defective buildings and bringing developers who use substandard materials for building construction to book, may bring some sanity into the built industry in our country.