Home Opinion Appeal to developers, by Building Collapse Prevention Guild

Appeal to developers, by Building Collapse Prevention Guild

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When the seven-storey building collapsed at Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos on 12th April 2023, killing a person and – in a quick succession – another one, a three-storey building collapsed on Sunday, 23rd April 2023, at the GRA, Apapa, Lagos (45, Ladipo Oluwole Street), the holy month of Lent/Easter and Ramadan/Eid-ul-Fitri seemed desecrated. Death or injury could have been associated with the Apapa building collapse if not for the Eid-ul- Fitri holiday observed by the construction workers.

However, for building collapse to have occurred in highbrow locations around this sacred period, an auspicious time to intensify the evangelism against building collapse and stir the conscience of those who are currently the domineering factor in the Nigerian Housing sector is NOW!

Those two buildings collapsed while under construction, and they were being constructed by developers. The recurring decimal brings to mind the four-storey building – under construction – that collapsed at 4th Avenue, Gwarimpa Estate, Abuja on 2nd February  2023, resulting in the death of two persons ; nine-storey building, under construction that collapsed at Oniru Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos on 4th September 2022, recording four deaths; and the 20- storey building – also under construction – that collapsed at Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos on 1st November 2021, claiming the lives of the developer and 51 others. Many got injured in these incidents. All the aforementioned buildings flouted building approval regulations.

Real estate and housing development have become an alternative booming business for investors following the collapse of the stock exchange and manufacturing in Nigeria. So many business-oriented people, who possess nil training in building construction have flooded the nation’s construction sphere with little respect for professionalism and due process.

When there are no eligibility criteria, requirements or qualifications that restrict admission into a sensitive and critical sector, the consequence will endanger the much-cherished human life and property. And in ‘all comers affair’, where professional advice is hardly adhered to as profiteering is elevated above safety, compromise becomes the order of the day.

This abnormal and unacceptable situation became a concern to those of us in the built environment professional services. Town Planners, (Land) Surveyors, Architects, Engineers, Quantity Surveyors, Builders, and Estate Surveyors and Valuers came together to form a coalition named Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG) in 2011. Of course, the membership was huge and well spread across different localities and reticulated into various cell formations.

The ubiquitousness of our members was to augment the low capacity of the government staff at monitoring the massive expanse of developed and rapidly developing built environment. The extensive BCPG network enabled information on substandard building construction works and distressed buildings get to the notice of the relevant government staff. The system was result-oriented, effective, and still subsisted in a unity and sincerity of purpose.

When people are passionate about a cause, performance in a voluntary service becomes remarkable. What could have motivated BCPG members into doing a work that lacked material gains? In this global village, every news of building collapse causes an incalculable damage to the reputation of the Nigerian built environment professional. He or she is regarded as inferior in the eye of foreign counterparts.

The price being paid by the Nigerian construction professionals is high in image damaging due to the activities of quacks. Hence, the earlier the menace of building collapse is put to rest, the better for the practitioners in the Nigerian building industry. The spirit of giving back to the industry/society, where we earn our income, in order to uplift our professional image is a form of social responsibility that we naturally align with. Hence, we shall continue to expend our personal resources to fight causes of building collapse. Twelve years of collective, relentless and consistent service to humanity! Despite series of disappointment and discouragement, we cannot afford to give up. We are resolute in this mission. There is no man made problem that defies solution.

The size of developers has become enormous, thereby overwhelming the government monitoring apparatus. Ninety per cent of developers do not belong to the relevant association such as REDAN (Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria); and quite a number of these unregulated developers are very influential. The culture of inducement being promoted by many developers has encouraged compromise in the circles of government officials.

In the light of the foregoing, we hereby appeal to developers to abide by the building regulations and engage the appropriate professionals in the pre-construction, construction and post-construction stages of building. They should consider the risk involved in building construction more than the gains.

Developers embarking on multi-storey building construction should desist from direct labour method and engage the services of reputable construction companies. It is a clever way of mortgaging risk. Subscribers are becoming scared of high-rise buildings constructed by developers. Saving cost at the expense of human life could result in huge financial losses, chorusing the foolhardiness of pennywise pound foolish.

We equally appeal to the government to lessen the burden on developers by reducing the high development fees and taxation. Expensive preliminary costs incurred in building plan approval, etc tempt developers to cut corners/cheat. Moreover, delays and bureaucratic bottlenecks in building plan approval process embolden developers to commence construction before the approval is granted in order to avert inflation.

Greed is the major weakness of most developers. That is why, for instance, many do not comply with setback requirements for building. We pray to God to help them overcome this evil spirit.

Investment in the housing sector is an important developmental contribution that provides appreciable returns. However, investment in buildings that will not stand the test of time, endangering the lives of occupants, is an investment in futility. Every developer should endeavour to deliver a building with the heart and intention of occupying it by himself or herself.

Importance of insurance for buildings cannot be overemphasised. Any developer that is in doubt of the stability or quality of building(s) already constructed by him or her should have the courage to contact the relevant professionals for remedy or do the needful by demolishing. Keeping quiet on such defective buildings might spell imponderable disaster for many.

It is pertinent to seize this opportunity to remind those handling building projects for their relations and friends in the Diaspora to bear in mind that God has a way of rewarding sincere people that do not engage in the diversion of project fund to the detriment of building production quality.

Morality and ethics can help raise the bar for our entire building industry.

Earnestly, if any of our professional colleagues performs below expectations, please do not hesitate to report him or her early to the relevant professional regulatory body for necessary disciplinary actions.

Those who invest rightly are considered wise developers. May the developers in our building construction realm become wise and lessen the fears of incessant building collapse.

May the Almighty God double the blessing of developers that build conscientiously. Amen.

Signed:

Sulaimon Yusuf – Town Planner (National President, Building Collapse Prevention Guild – BCPG)

Mrs. Adenike Ayanda – Quantity Surveyor (National General Secretary, BCPG)

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