Building collapse: HURIWA advocates death penalty for contractors using substandard materials

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BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, ABUJA

Uba Group

In a bid to completely eradicate the unpleasant experiences of building collapse in the country, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, a civil rights advocacy group, on Monday, proposed death penalty for all contractors and building engineers found to have used sub-standard materials for any collapsed building.

Thee group deplored the huge number of building collapses across the country, saying state governments, town planning authorities and building-controlled agencies must step up regulatory standards to stop the menacing trend which, it said, had claimed hundreds of lives, especially in the last three month.

HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, in statement canvassed the passage of a bill to criminalise the usage of substandard materials by building engineers and builders even as the rights group said it would be sending a letter to the National Assembly and the President to canvass the passage of the Bill on building collapses due to engineering lapses and corruption as offences punishable by the death penalty.

HURIWA, particularly, asked the Lagos State government to take concrete punitive measures against her officials that connive with land speculators to erect substandard structures that have collapsed in quick succession in the state of recent. The rights group asked the Lagos State House of Assembly and the Governor to declare a state of emergency on building collapses in the state.

HURIWA expressed concern at the rate of building collapses in the months of August and September from Lagos to Abuja, Kano and Akwa-Ibom.

“For instance, in September 2022, a four-story building under construction collapsed on Iman Street off Aka Road in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital. In the Amukoko area of Lagos State, the fence of a school, Covenant Point Academy, collapsed on pupils. Also this month, a three-storey building caved in in the Bodija area of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. Last week, a seven-storey building caved in in the Victoria Island area of Lagos.

“August also had a devastating share of tragedy as a building collapsed in the Bariga area of Lagos. In far north, a three-storey building collapsed on Beirut road in Kano State. Also, a three-storey building under construction caved in in Kubwa Satellite town, Abuja.

“Sadly, scores of persons lost their lives while many others were injured in all of these recent tragic incidents.”

HURIWA lamented that building collapses have been at its highest since last November when a high-rise building crumbled in the Ikoyi area of Lagos, killing at least 44 people and injuring many others.

According to the group, “Similarly, eight bodies were recovered after a three-storey building collapsed in Ebute-Metta in May. Also in May, another building in the Ago Palace Way area of Lagos State collapsed.

“Aside from building collapses, a portion of the Ado–Ilawe Road this month collapsed, plunging motorists plying the road to their destinations in the states, into untold hardship.

“Beyond going for an on-the-spot assessment and photo ops, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu must stop the menacing trend and prosecute the quack contractors. The ugly trend of collapsed buildings, bridges and newly built road all over the country shows ineffectual leadership at the state level. Governors, commissioners and local council officials who connive with rogue contractors to build roads that collapse as soon as they are commissioned deserve the death penalty and in the case of such Governors, they should be arrested, prosecuted and punished the moment their constitutional immunity lapses with the expiration of their tenures in office.

“HURIWA recommends the passage of criminal law making the using of substandard materials for public building and infrastructure punishable by stiff penalties for culpable engineers. This is important because until a crime attracts specified enforceable sanctions, offenders of such crimes will continue in it with impunity. Negligence and unprofessional conduct such as cutting of building steps as well as administrational connivance must be stamped out forcibly through a legal instrument. We similarly demand legal sanctions for Customs officials and officials of Standards Organisation of Nigeria that are compromised by sellers and importers of substandard building materials into Nigeria. HURIWA urges the Engineering Registration Council of Nigeria to partner with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria and security forces to rid Nigerian markets of substandard building materials including cement materials no matter how powerfully connected the manufacturers are if they are made in Nigeria.

“HURIWA recalls that a Bill for Act to establish the Construction Materials Standardization Agency to standardize and control the use of materials for the construction industry in Nigeria in December 2021 scaled second reading in the House of Representatives but nothing has been heard of the bill. It is important for the bill to come fully to life and become a law to enthrone sanity in the construction sector in the country.

“Also, the Council for the Regulations of Engineering in Nigeria, the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria, the Nigerian Institute of Building, the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers, and other related organisations must up their regulatory games and say no to official compromises and collusion.

“State governments must stop paying lip services to the menacing trend. State governments must enthrone the ‘Never Again’ culture. Officials and appointees found colluding with building contractors to compromise standards must be shamed and named. Governor should institute judges-led public inquiries into every building disaster to curb the serial game of death and sorrow in Nigeria as past occurrences have been traced to quackery, faulty designs, the use of substandard materials, foundation failures, and corruption. Persons and firms indicted must be assiduously prosecuted, their licensees seized and exposed in the media so that innocent potential homeowners won’t fall into their hands.

“Governors must further re-examine standards of the 2006 National Building Code to enforce regulations and ensure quality, standards and safety are enthroned in Nigeria’s built industry,” HURIWA insisted

“CBN"