LAGOS, which the state government considers as a work in progress mega-city, is not new to buildings collapse having recorded several tragedies in that regard in the past few years. Indeed Lagos has once again been in the news since Tuesday following the collapse of a five-storey building in the Lekki area of the state that claimed over 30 lives.
As with past building collapse tragedies, this recent chapter has expectedly elicited reactions bordering on grief, outrage and condemnations by members of the public while the state government had responded with punitive action by sanctioning the contractor which handled the building construction on behalf of Lekki Gardens, the property owners.
Obviously outraged at the high toll in lives lost, the Lagos State government had vowed to bring all those responsible for the tragedy to book.
Meantime, built environment professionals have reacted to the tragic development by saying that lack of due process, due diligence as well as usage of sub-standard building materials could have been responsible for the collapse.
Indeed, the professionals believed the tragedy could have been avoided as the building had been sealed earlier by the Lagos State Building Control Agency.
The vice chairman, Nigerian Institute of Building, Lagos chapter, Adelaja Adekanbi blamed the owners of the collapsed Lekki building who he accused as having unprofessionally added the last two floors of the building.
According to the professional builder, the builders failed to put up a stable structure. “All the work that has been done here is nothing to write home about; it is work that was done under no supervision, under no professional engineer or builder.
“Let them bring the engineer or builder that is involved in the construction. The first two building here, I was involved in it; I taught them what to do. They wanted to raise two floors and they did a piling of six metres for this kind of structure so the structural stability is failure and where we are standing, if you don’t know, was purely water two years ago.
“Imagine someone building on water and doing a piling of six metres for a seven-storeyed building. I recommend to Lagos state government that every building here painted or not, should be tested. This house we are looking at should also be pulled down in a week. If not, we are looking for another trouble. At this point, I recommend that every house here should be tested to ascertain the structural stability because I don’t think they are habitable”, Adekanbi said
For the president of the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers, a division of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, NSE, Oreoluwa Fadayomi, although it is too early to explain the cause of the collapse because investigations are still ongoing, however if due process, due diligence and standard materials were used during the construction, the collapse wouldn’t have happened.
According to him, a combination of design and construction supervision could have been responsible for the collapse, adding no one is certain about quality control applied by the firm which constructed the building on behalf of Lekki Gardens. “But if due process was adhered to, by using the services of built environment professionals and adhering strictly to due diligence, the collapse would not have happened”, he noted.
Speaking in a similar vein, Mr. Kunle Awobodu, president, Building Collapse Prevention Guild, BCPG, and a former chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Building, NIOB, said due process was not followed during the construction of the property, as built environment professionals were not engaged by the developers and promoters of Lekki Gardens, owners of the collapse structure, just as due diligence was not applied in the construction process of the project.
Awobodu who stated that standard should have been introduced right from the beginning of the project to the end while monitoring from stage to stage was equally neglected, said a six-storey building on reclaimed land will no go through normal, insisting that Lagos state Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development would have given the developers of the project approval on a six-storey building project on a reclaimed land. He said approval was given for three-storey building by Lagos state Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban development, but the developers raised the structure to six-storey building.
“The fact that we are in dire need of housing does not mean that we should build shoddy or substandard houses. Professionals should be engaged to play necessary roles in the built environment sector,” he said.
A statement by Lagos state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, said the preliminary reports and investigation by the state revealed that the collapsed building was served contravention notice for exceeding the approved floors and thereafter sealed by the Lagos State Building Control Agency.
It added that it has also been discovered that in a brazen act of defiance and impunity, the owners of the building, Messrs Lekki Worldwide Estate Limited, the promoters of Lekki Gardens, criminally unsealed the property and continued building beyond the approved floors until the unfortunate incident of Tuesday which has led to loss of lives.
The statement added that arising from the Lagos State Executive Council meeting decision on Wednesday, the State Government will no longer tolerate the action of unscrupulous owners and builders who challenge its supervisory control thereby endangering the lives of Lagosians. The State Government has consequently directed the suspension of work at the site and ordered the Lagos State Police Command to cordon it off as it is now a crime scene.
The government also directed further integrity tests be carried out on every other construction project which has or is currently being handled by Messrs Lekki Worldwide Estate Limited in the interest of public safety. Furthermore, the release quoted the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode as saying that all directors of Lekki Worldwide Estate Limited are strongly advised to submit themselves to the Lagos State Commissioner of Police within the next twenty four hours in their own interest or face immediate arrest.
The statement also commended the timely response and remarkable intervention by the combined men of the Lagos State Emergency Authority (LASEMA), the Lagos State Fire Service, Lagos State Ambulance Service (LASAMBUS), Red Cross, National Emergency Agency (NEMA), Lagos State Building Control Agency and the Rapid Response Squad (RRS).
The Lagos State Government also warned that it will no longer be business as usual stating that any developer either on existing or new building projects who fails to comply with building and construction regulations or attempts to subvert the law will henceforth face criminal prosecution.
Meanwhile, an Ebute Metta Magistrate court in Lagos has ordered that the Managing Director of Lekki Garden Homes, Richard Nyong and the contractor Taiwo Odofin involved in the construction of the collapsed building be held in police custody until investigation into the building collapse is completed.