EDITORIAL: INCESSANT BUILDING COLLAPSE: Time to enforce National Building Code


Uba Group

Uba Group

Houses are built to provide shelter and security for human beings. Sadly, the recurring tragedy of building collapse, either as completed or those undergoing construction, has made nonsense of that purpose. Frankly speaking, the rate of building collapse in our urban cities is alarmingly unacceptable.

The collapse last Monday of a 21-storey building under construction on Gerard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State, a property being developed by Fourscore Homes Limited, no doubt, remains a major tragedy.

The number of precious promising lives lost, put at 39 as at press time, the huge investments gone down the drain, the psychological trauma on government and society and all other associated loses, cannot be quantified.

The Lagos State Government has demonstrated commendable empathy and a reasonable level of determination to perform all its governmental duties and obligations to the society. It has set up a probe panel to unravel the remote and immediate causes of the tragedy and how to avoid a re-occurrence in the future. It also declared a three-day mourning period with a directive that flags be flown at half-mast – commendable.

Without prejudice to the probe panel and terms of reference, the sad incident has thrown up some ugly sides of what goes on in the society.

There have been claims and counterclaims of the number of floors approved. Officials claimed initially only 15 floors were approved. It was later disclosed that 21 floors were actually approved.

One more disconcerting thing was the revelation that the Structural Engineering firm that handled the project from the word go, Prowess Engineering Ltd, at some point in February 2020, withdrew its services because it no longer shared the same vision with the owners and developers, Fourscore Homes Limited.

The firm claimed that at that time, it could not guarantee the integrity of the building from anything above the fourth floor.

That such a major development occurred in the process of constructing a project of that magnitude almost 20 months ago and nothing spectacular came out of it, speaks volume.

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Tuesday, however, directed the indefinite suspension of the General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, Gbolahan Oki.

His suspension, according to a statement signed by Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, was a “first step” towards finding out “what went wrong”.

The panel set up was made up of people drawn from the Nigeria Institute of Architects, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Nigeria Society of Engineers and other professional bodies.

According to the statement, “It will independently investigate the remote and immediate causes of the incident and make recommendations on how to prevent future occurrence. The investigation is not part of the internal probe already being conducted by the government,” Omotoso said.

Saying that all is not well with the building industry in Nigeria would be stating the obvious.

On August 2, 2006, Olusegun Mimiko, then Minister of Housing and Urban Development, wrote in a preface to the National Building Code that, “In view of the above, the National Council on Housing and Urban Development deemed it necessary and initiated the process of evolving a National Building Code to put a stop to the ugly trends in the Building Industry.

“When Prowess Engineering Ltd made a voluntary withdrawal from the Gerard Road, Ikoyi, project, were the supervising authorities made aware? If yes, what further steps and actions were taken? If not, why were they not informed?

“It is my hope that this National Building Code will open a new vista in the Building Industry and eliminate or reduce to the bare minimum the incidents of collapsed building syndrome in Nigeria; promote safety and qualitative housing for every Nigerian.

“To achieve these laudable objectives, every tier of government, (federal, state and local) must imbibe the spirit and intent of this Code. To this end, State Governments are implored to integrate the provisions of this Code into their local laws particularly those relating to Design, Construction and Maintenance (Post Construction) and efficiently monitor the implementation of the Code.


“I also charge the relevant professional bodies who have participated in producing this Code not to rest on their oars. They should encourage their members to religiously observe the provisions of this Code by organising various seminars to educate their members on the implications of this Code. You should self-regulate yourselves to prevent incessant governmental interventions in the practice of your professions. I must counsel various professional bodies to establish a monitoring unit to ensure effective compliance with the Code and punish erring members within the confines of the ethics of the professions in order to complement the efforts of the Building Code Enforcement Officers.” Mimiko wrote.

Strangely, the birthing of the National Building Code which began way back in 1987, took a whole of 19 years to be approved by the National Executive Council in 2006.

The provisions in this document continue to exist more in the breach than in observance. It is even doubtful if many states actually know it exists. Otherwise, with 15 years of existence, a faithful and religious application and observance of its provisions should have reduced to the barest minimum, the ugly incident of incessant building collapse in the country.

There are questions to be asked. First, how long shall officials and those in a position to enforce compliance continue to pay lips services to the issue of following the rules in terms of building? In 2014, there was a major tragedy involving the Synagogue Church of All Nations in the suburb of Lagos. Part of its building collapsed and about 110 people were killed, mostly foreigners. There are other sundry buildings in the state that have since then collapsed, killing people. But the nagging question is how many people have been made to answer for the occurrence? The failure to hold people accountable is the debilitating challenge facing Nigeria as a country.

Certainly, at one point or another in the history of such unfortunate buildings, some people must have worked on them as engineers. How many engineers have been sentenced to jail for the deaths of workers and residents in such buildings? How many owners of such buildings are behind the bars of a prison?

When Prowess Engineering Ltd made a voluntary withdrawal from the Gerard Road, Ikoyi, project, were the supervising authorities made aware? If yes, what further steps and actions were taken? If not, why were they not informed?

All these avoidable casualties and painful deaths in the course of trying to eke out a living by artisans must stop. This is one case of building collapse too many. Just imagine for a second such a gigantic edifice completed and fully occupied by the high and mighty in the society, and this sort of unfortunate incident happens, what would one say?

To prevent such a scenario that is better imagined than experienced, officials must go all out and get acquitted with the National Building Code and master all its provisions. They must wake up to their responsibilities; develop the willpower and courage to do their best to stem this rising trend of building collapse with attendant casualties and ensure that anyone who runs foul of the provisions of the code is appropriately sanctioned to serve as a deterrent to others.
As a corporate organization, we sympathise with Lagos State, families and friends of loved ones who were victims of the tragic incident. May their souls rest in peace.