Building Collapse: A Threat To The Development Of Real Estate In Nigeria

Building collapse in Nigeria has been on the increase over the years and has been a cause for concern to real estate investors. Buildings are essential because it offers humans the desired shelter. Apart from that, nearly all human activities take place in a building. Investment in real estate involves substantial financial involvement, so investors do everything within their capacity to guide against building collapse. Building of a house requires adequate planning and following every requirement and specifications religiously but the reverse is the case in most of the houses in Nigeria leading to these incessant collapse of buildings and loss of precious lives.

The recent collapse of a building in Lagos Island of Lagos State is a case too many and the Property Advisory Network is joining the people of Nigeria in calling the governments of Nigeria (Federal, State and Local) to wake up to its responsibilities in this area to save the real estate industry and save Nigeria from this obvious and avoidable embarrassment of building collapse.

A building that is on the verge of collapse will show some signs. In most cases, victims disregard these warning signs. In most cases even when these signs are reported to the authorities, they turn blind eyes to them and in some cases they go and see the impending disaster but instead of doing the needy, they take money from the owners and walk away.

According to some experts, the repeated occurrence of building collapse in Nigeria is as a result of lack of punishment for those responsible for these collapses. When adequate punishments are meted out to the culprits, it will serve as a deterrent to others who might want to go the same way.  In this section, we will be looking at some case of building collapse in Nigeria.

  1. Three story building at Ita Faaji area of Lagos Island of Lagos State

This incident is the most recent case of building collapse in Nigeria. Tragedy struck at the Ita Faaji area of Lagos Island, Lagos State on the 13th day of March 2019 where a three-story building collapsed leaving scores of innocent school children died. A school having a total number of about 100 students was located on the third storey of the building. The school was said to be operating illegally. An ex-teacher who heard about the incident reportedly said that she resigned because of the condition of the building. The collapsed structured trapped a lot of people who died alongside the children.

  1. The synagogue building Collapse

The Synagogue building collapse occurred in September 2014. The structure was a six-story building guest house of the synagogue church of all Nation. The wreck claimed the life of 116 people while over 100 were injured. Majority of the people that died were South Africans.

  1. Lekki Building Collapse

Another tragic building collapse occurred on Tuesday, March 8, 2017 at Lekki Ajaa in Eti Osa Local Government Area.  The incident happened around 3 am not too long after a windstorm, a five-story building that is under construction belonging to Lekki Gardens collapsed.  The Lekki Building Collapse killed no fewer than thirty-four people and injured many others according to newspaper reports.  Majority of those that died as a result of the accident were workers. It was later discovered that the building had been sealed before the collapse by the Lagos State building agency.  Therefore, the tragedy could have been averted if the property owners heeded the warning of the government.

  1. Jos School building collapse

The Jos school building collapse occurred in September 2014. The name of the school involved is Abu Naima Primary school situated in Bukuru. The two-story building went down claiming the lives of about 30 pupils. The pupils killed were below ten years.  The National Emergency Management Agency said the building was converted from a bungalow to a two-story building. They attributed the collapse of the school building to a structural defect. They added that the foundation of the building was meant to support a bungalow and not a two-storey building.

  1. Building Collapse in Abuja

There have been several building collapses in Abuja, 11th August 2010.  A four-storey building located at Gimbiya Street in Garki collapsed.  More than thirty people were inside the building when the unfortunate incident happened. Out of the thirty people, twenty one died, and the rest were injured.  We can go on and on to list incidences of building collapse. A lot of market buildings have also collapsed and our investigation reveal that quite a good number of these collapses are not even reported on national news medium leaving these to the knowledge of only the locals. It happens everywhere in Nigeria.

Causes and the Solution to the Menace of Building Collapse in Nigeria

A building cannot just collapse without a cause; many factors are responsible for building collapse. As seen in the preceding session, some building collapse could have been averted if the people involved had listened to the warnings of the government. Investigation reveal that in most of these cases ,the authorities has noticed the fact that these buildings would collapse and have indeed marked them for demolition, putting the residents/owners on notice but this is very wrong. A government that cares for its people would not wait a minute more to demolish any building that has been discovered to be defective or at least ensure that no human being is allowed to remain there if they are not ready to demolish. Unfortunately, the authorities are complicit in this regard because they lack the will power to do their job. They get reports of these problems and fail to act until tragedy occurs.

When it comes to legislation, the federal government of Nigeria came up with Nigeria building Code. This code is formulated to regulate the operation and conduct of people involved in the building construction industry but unfortunately, people are not complying with this code. The collapses of buildings in most cases are due to lack of adherence to the law guiding building construction. So, we cannot blame it all on government or attribute it to lack of proper legislation. If the professionals and stakeholders adhere strictly to the building code as provided by the government, building collapse will be alien to the country. However knowing that there is lack of will in our people to obey the laws unless when they feel they would be sanctioned or when they are actually sanctioned. The government should wake up to its responsibility in this regard. They should enforce vigorously this building code.

 

Here are some of the identified causes and solution to building collapse in Nigeria

  • Defective construction

In Nigeria, the primary cause of building collapse is faulty construction. When a contractor fails to follow the specifications that were laid down by the engineers and the architects etc, the result is a faulty construction. Contractors indulge in this act to maximize their undue profit. The way out of this situation is to hire a trustworthy worthy contractor with a good track record. Ensure the use of qualified professionals in the building of a house. In this regard, the Property Advisory Network is advising the government to put up a law that the names of the professionals who did a house should be boldly printed on the building to ensure compliance. You will be surprised the number of brick layers who have elevated themselves to contractors and are building houses. Surprisingly, people are patronizing them.

  • Use of substandard material

The use of inferior material is another cause of building collapse in Nigeria. As mentioned earlier, the primary motive of some fraudulent contractors for buying substandard material is to increase their profit. Contractors must be monitored closely throughout the building process to prevent them from engaging in sharp practices that may result have a detrimental effect on the building.

  • Lack of planning or Building Permit

Before the commencement of any construction work, there must be approval from the necessary authorities.  It is therefore illegal for construction work to commence without the required permit. This is where the government comes in.  The three tiers of government have the authority to approve developers. It has been discovered that the government does not approve the majority of the building that went down. The government should prosecute any developer that fails to get approval to serve as an example to others .However it must be noted that securing the approval is one thing and ensuring that what is approved is what is built is another. This is the case in practice as the government officials in most cases are interested in collecting the official fees and in other cases their compromise fees (egunje).

  • Deviation from the approved building Plan

The reason why some buildings collapse is because of unauthorized alteration of the approved building plan. For instance, Instead of in-situ concreting which was originally stated for the construction, the contractor employed a pre-cast method because of the foreign contractor that ships in a prefabricated component. This practice, if not well managed, can spell doom for the building after many years. It is advisable to follow the specification of the engineers and the architect during construction.

  • Lack of adequate supervision of on-going work

The government should not stop at issuing a notice to defaulters; they should take part in the monitoring of all constructions works going on in their jurisdiction. The three tiers of government need to be alive to their responsibilities in this regard. If concerned agencies are monitoring constructions works, the menace of the constant building collapse in Nigeria will be a thing of the past.

  • Unapproved alteration, addition, and conversion of an existing structure

In one of the cases of building collapse mentioned above, it was stated that the building was converted from a bungalow to a two-storey building. This alteration led to the destruction of the building. Homeowners and developers should be aware of the fact that unauthorized modification increases the likelihood of a building collapse. The school building collapse that occurred in Jos would not have happened if the property owner had not altered the building.

How to Avoid Being a Victim of Building Collapse in Nigeria (Advice for investors)

If you are planning to invest in real estate or you are already into it, you are aware of the fact that it involves a considerable investment. So, you must guide against anything that may spoil your reputation and make your hard-earned money go down the drain.

You must not rush into buying a house. It is essential that you carry out proper investigation before investing in a property. Make sure the property is not contravening any government regulation, and you should engage the services of those who are trained in house inspection. Also, you should check the original design of the house and look out for any alteration or addition. Do not buy a home that is not built according to the design and specification.

In conclusion, the solution to building collapse in Nigeria lies in the hands of the Government. Any government that have regards to the life of its subjects should take this issue very serious. The Government should ensure that there is strict compliance to the building regulations in Nigeria .This is simple. They should have the will power to do so. Investigation has shown that a lot of houses that are being built in our high braw and fast developing areas today do not conform to building regulations and these are disasters waiting to happen. For instance, if you go to some areas in our urban cities like Lekki in Lagos, you will see where developers put up as much as three, four houses in one plot of land meant for one or two houses and no one is supervising them. The unfortunate thing is that the general public will continue to buy and rent because of the pressing need for accommodations.

The government should be reminded that the primary duty of government as enshrined in our constitution is the protection of life and property. It is not only the army and the police that protects life and property. The government should do more by ensuring that no building that has fallen short of prescribed standard is still standing. They should take steps now to ensure that buildings coming up today comply with government recommended standards to avoid future collapses. The governments all over Nigeria should not wait for a building to collapse before they are demolished .According to reports, the Lagos State Government has ordered that a lot of houses in Lagos Island should be demolished for falling short of living standard. Good as it may sound but the Lagos state government shouldn’t have waited for innocent school children to die before giving this order. However The Lagos State government should extend this order to so many other places in Lagos as thousands of houses in other areas of Lagos state are disasters waiting to happen .Other state governors of the federation should take the same step. We must not wait until a building collapses before these orders are given.

Property Advisory Network is advising the people of Nigeria to take note of a traditional African adage that says “when people refuse you, do not refuse yourself”. If the government fails to protect us in this regard, we should protect ourselves by understanding that nothing can be valued more than life. Use professionals to build your houses and save yourself first and then save Nigeria of this embarrassment of one month one building collapse. Developers should comply with building codes and regulations .It is for our own interest.

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