About 300,000 houses are built yearly in Nigeria according to the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria and this number is a combination of efforts by government and developers in the private sector.
One problem, though, is the perception that quality materials are not being used in a building project or that those in charge of giving approval for a building plan accept bribe and would turn a blind eye and approve any building plan.
Other perceptions are that professional architects are not used in drawing up a building plan or that a qualified engineer is not used in supervising a building project.
Maybe in a bid to spend less, a private developer could hire quacks to draw up a building plan, get the building plan approved dishonestly and would give go-ahead for construction of a building.
There have been several cases of building collapse in Nigeria particularly in Lagos State and in the recent past in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, and each time a building collapses in any part of the country, professionals in the sector would give reasons why a building would collapse and their reasons would include the use of unqualified personnel by those in charge of the project or an alleged dishonest behaviour where money would change hands between government officials and private developers who want their building plans approved.
In every case of building collapse, there could be loss of human life as well as possible damage to property nearby.
A seven-storey building collapsed in Port-Harcourt in December last year and trapped about forty-five persons and there were casualties from the collapse of the building as almost twenty persons reportedly lost their lives while over twenty were rescued and some sustained injuries.
The seven-storey building collapsed on 22nd November, 2018, on Woji Road, GRA Phase Two, Port-Harcourt and quickly attracted the attention of people who came to the site of the collapsed seven-storey building and made spirited effort to rescue those who were trapped in the rubbles of the collapsed building.
At the site were also those who expressed views on what they thought led to the collapse of the seven-storey building. While some of them said that the building probably collapsed because of the use of poor- quality materials, others said that the seven-storey building collapsed because the developers or the contractors did not use qualified engineers and architects in the building project.
However, the Chairman of Rivers State branch of the Nigerian Institute of Architects, Architect Asomba Egbuonu, had held the view that officials of the Rivers State Ministry of Urban Development and Physical Planning needed to be changed to ensure professionalism in the ministry.
He had said that those in charge of giving approval for building plans and those in charge of development control processes in the ministry were not professional architects and engineers, noting that they were only “town planners” and were not equipped to approve any architectural drawing or “look at, vet and approve” structural or electrical and mechanical drawings.
“The state government has to get it right and ensure that the approval process and the building and development control processes are rejigged. Right now, what we have there is a situation where only one profession is looking at approving drawings done by architects, structural engineers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, and all the other service engineering team. This is wrong. Those people in the ministry who are doing these are not trained to do this”, he said at the time.
“What happened was that the building sank down under its own weight which means it was a structural failure that could have emanated either from the foundation or even from the super structure of the building”, he further said.
People at the scene of the collapsed seven-storey building showed empathy and expressed sadness and when once one of those who were trapped in the rubbles of the collapsed building was brought out dead, some persons at the scene went into an emotional breakdown.
The Rivers State government was quick to respond to the collapse of the seven-storey building as officials of the government were at the site to supervise rescue effort to bring out those who were trapped in the rubbles of the collapsed building.
The Chief of Staff in Government House, Emeka Woke, who was at the site of the collapsed seven-storey building had said that the state government was touched by the incident and condoled with the families of those who were trapped in the rubbles of the collapsed seven-storey building.
“As a government, we responded immediately. Those of you … who were here… will agree with me that the Rivers State Government, led by the Rivers State deputy governor, had been here and mobilized all the resources available to us including some companies operating in the state, to carry out this rescue mission and so far to the glory of God, over twenty-something persons have been rescued”, he had said.
Apart from the huge crowd of onlookers who were at the site of the collapsed seven-storey building, there were also officials of the Nigerian Red Cross, the Fire Service, the Police, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), and mobile clinics and ambulances on standby at the scene of the collapsed building.
At the site was also a governorship aspirant in Rivers State in this year's general elections on platform of the All Progressives Congress, Architect Tonye Cole, who while speaking with the press, had said that the collapse of the seven-storey building was “one of the saddest things” to happen, particularly when the lives of people were involved and observed that there could be structural defect which led to the collapse of the seven-storey building.
“Obviously, there is a structural defect. If not, it would not have collapsed. So, once you have a structural defect, you now have to investigate exactly what happened to lead to that defect”, he said.
That was exactly what the governor of Rivers State did as he set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the collapse of the seven-storey building.
At the site of the collapsed seven-storey building, the governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, said that it was “unfortunate” that people were to lose their lives in the collapsed building and sympathized with those who lost loved ones in the collapsed seven-storey building.
He was later to say that all those involved in giving approval for the building plan of the seven-storey building would be handled by the government and called for the arrest of the owner of the collapsed seven-storey building.
The then Commissioner for Urban Development and Physical Planning whose ministry was directly involved in the approval of the building plan of the seven-storey building refused to speak with newsmen when he was being approached at the site to react on the collapsed seven-storey building.
He was later to step aside as commissioner when investigation into the collapse of the seven-storey building was underway and eventually lost his job as the state government said that it would not recall him because of his actions and omissions as commissioner in the state ministry of urban development and physical planning. That was after the state government had received report of the commission set up to investigate the collapse of the seven-storey building.
According to the National Vice President of the Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Taiwo Ogunbodede, the collapse of buildings in Nigeria could be linked to inadequate preliminary works, adoption of wrong foundation, poor concrete mix ratio, absence of approved structural design and poor building material specification among others.
The Coordinator of Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG) in Lagos State, Mr. Solomon Ogunseye, said that it was shown to be the case that building projects are now all-comers' affair, saying that the “frequent collapse of buildings in Nigeria with its attendant loss of lives and properties should be addressed by all professionals in the building industry”.
The chairman of the Rivers State branch of Nigerian Institute of Architects, Architect Asomba Egbuonu, had in a reaction on the collapse of buildings in Nigeria alleged that there were sharp practices which were responsible for the collapse of buildings in the country.
According to him, the sharp practices take place at the point building plans are to be approved.
“You have a lot of corruption (and) sharp practices at the approval stage and unfortunately these are done by Nigerians and government officials who should know better. At the approval stage, some Nigerians throw money around and get approval for buildings that ought not to be approved,” he had said, adding that this was a major problem in the design and construction of buildings in Nigeria.
He further said that it was important for state ministries of urban development and physical planning across the country to have qualified personnel to do thorough work before any building plan should be approved.
The Chairman of the Commission of inquiry into the collapse of the seven-storey building, Justice Adolphus Enebeli, who recently presented report of the commission to Governor Nyesom Wike in Government House in Port-Harcourt, observed that the process for getting building approval in the State Ministry of Urban Development and Physical Planning was “mangled in (a) mess of procedures”.
By what the state government has decided to do in line with recommendations by the Commission, the owner of the seven-storey building seems to be in danger as he is to bear responsibility concerning all compensation to families of those who lost loved ones in the collapsed seven-storey building.
The State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Barrister Emma Okah, who addressed the press in Government House after a State Executive Council meeting had said that “The Rivers State Government accepts that the owner of the building, Sir Francis J. Allagoa, should bear all liability regarding compensation to families of the deceased persons and individual expenses of those injured”.
Okah also said that “Sir Francis J. Allagoa is also to bear the cost and make good the damage done to the adjoining property owned by…Edna Ezekiel Hart”.
This will be too much of a cost for anyone to bear and the owner of the collapsed seven-storey building would pay as much as the affected families would ask for, when all these could have been avoided had the building not collapsed.
The Rivers State government directed that the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the state should prosecute the owner of the collapsed seven-storey building, and also prosecute Engr. Adeniyi Ibiyeye and Architect Timiebi Reuben who were part of the building project for professional misconduct.
The government said that it would report Engr. Ademiyi Ibiyeye to the Nigerian Society of Engineers and to the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), for necessary disciplinary action.
It also asked the State Civil Service Commission to take disciplinary action against Edmund Obinna, who is Director of Building and Plan Approval in the Rivers State Ministry of Urban Development and Physical Planning, saying that his actions fell short of expectations.
The state government also asked the State Civil Service Commission to take disciplinary action against Rev. Dr. Mina Aprioku, who is the Director of Development Control in the Rivers State Ministry of Urban Development and Physical Planning, saying that disciplinary action be taken against him for his professional deficiency.
In all these, we can only learn one thing which is that to do the right thing is the best and that any job that requires a professional to handle it should only be handled by a professional.