Housing deficit: FG moves to tackle building collapse

Despite its huge housing deficits, Nigeria is also battling with the menace of building collapse. However, the federal government has shown its commitment to address the tide. TOPE SUNDAY reports.

Barely will any week pass in Nigeria that the case of building collapse will not dominate the media. The development is taking a new dimension as souls are being lost whenever the incident occurs. To this end, the federal government in 2018 set up the National Building Code Advisory Committee to work out modalities against building collapse and other infractions in the built environment.    

A peep into the committee’s work

Last week, the committee, which is headed by Architect Mohammed Jimoh Faworaja, paid a courtesy call on the Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola in Abuja.

During the visit, which lasted for almost one hour, Faworaja informed the minster of the activities of the committee since inauguration on July 26, 2018 to include conclusion of work on the guidelines for gas piping to buildings in the form of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).

He added that a draft code has been prepared to be procedurally presented to a Stakeholders’ Workshop between now and November before incorporating it in the National Building Code.

Faworaja, a veteran in the building construction with an experience spanning decades, said the committee had also set up some needed technical committees which include the Design, the Construction and Post–construction sections adding that the sub-committees have already commenced work monitoring the day-to-day activities of the Committee.

Other activities, he said, include monitoring building related activities nationwide, adding that one of the most worrisome outcomes of the monitoring was the incidences of building collapse across the country particularly in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and other cities in the country.

How to address the menace

For the Fashola,  the best way to tackle the menace of the building collapse is through the prosecution of builders found culpable in the building collapse incidents in any part of the country.

Fashola, who responded to the presentation made by the leader of the committee, said where an investigation has been concluded in any event of building collapse and someone was found not to have complied to any of the building standards, such a person should be prosecuted as an example to others.

“Somebody must have acted wrongly, either in the design stage, whether it is in the material supply, whether it is in the compliance stage, somebody did something that he or she should not have done.

“I think that we have come to a point where after each unfortunate collapse we go back to the investigations, let us find one person who has acted wrongly.

“Somebody must have acted wrongly, either in the design stage, whether it is in the material stage, whether it is in the compliance stage, somebody did something that he or she should not have done. Find that person and let us take him up for prosecution”, the Minister said.

The Minister said people needed to know that there would be consequences for non-compliance to the law, adding that because people have died in any event of building collapse, the culprit could become answerable for manslaughter or for criminal negligence or answerable for so many other things.

“It is important for people to know that those laws are there to affect how people behave and that when people don’t comply with those laws there would be consequences”, he said.

Culpable professionals shouldn’t be protected

Fashola, who recalled an incident in Lagos when he was governor, pointed out that while investigation was getting close to the culprit of a building collapse, there was “conspiratorial silence” in the industry which enabled the culprit to escape prosecution.

“In places where investigations have been concluded, there will be findings; that there were substandard materials used, who supplied; or wrong design , who designed it? That is the person to hold. Or that designs were okay and materials were appropriate but they removed some, so who removed, who supplied? We can track all these things down. We have that ability”, he said.

Students’ involvement very key

The minister, who commended the advocacy plan of the committee aimed at sensitizing members of the public on the basic building standards, advised that such sensitization should start from primary up to tertiary levels.

Describing students as the “more critical stakeholders” in the built industry,  Fashola said they were going to be more involved in the industry from now, adding that unless they were exposed early in life to the global best practices in the industry, they would learn it very late.

“Every level of education is important; the undergraduate level, the secondary school and even the primary school level. You can breakdown what they need to learn in easy modules and easy bites.

Just like you learn something at the primary school level and it gets tougher as you progress to the secondary and university levels”.

The minister promised that government would get involved at this point with school teachers and principals as well as state ministries of education.

 He said: “With this, some basic essentials of the building are to be inculcated to the people in childhood”, adding that there was the need “to be sufficiently connected with our habitats like in other communities”.

Fashola also advised the committee to use street level conversation strategy in their interaction with the public during their sensitization programme for a better and effective sensitization, adding that such programmes had failed in situations where professionals used technical languages and codes while explaining matters of public importance to them.

“All too often, professionals cannot breakdown the essential elements of their profession to street level conversation. We speak in such technical terms that make no connection with the ordinary people”, the Minister said.

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