Experts provide panacea for incessant building collapse

The issue of incessant building collapse again formed the fulcrum of discussions at the just concluded 2013 NIOB Builders’ conference in Abuja. OLUFEMI ADEOSUN who witnessed the two-day event examines the latest efforts of stakeholders at stemming the scourge.

All over the world, one of the safest places to seek shelter is one’s home. After daily toil, a man is expected to retire to the comfort of his home and have a deserved rest. However, the increasing spate of building collapse across the country is not only casting a shadow on that concept, but has also become a source of concern to the professionals in the built environment and the government.

Apart from the fact that the incessant occurrence of building collapse cast doubt on the competence level of the nation’s indigenous professionals in the building industry, the enormous loss of huge investments in housing, properties and human lives is too grave to contemplate by a nation already caught in the web of huge infrastructure deficit. Hardly would a month pass in the country without one or two cases of building collapse with its attendant loss of human lives and valuable properties.

For instance, in Lagos alone, no fewer than 13 persons were allegedly killed between May and August in three separate incidents of building collapse. In Abuja, latest incident which occurred last week in Maitama district of the nation’s capital, claimed three more lives. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) official, Mr. Sani Datti had said that the incident occurred when an uncompleted building collapsed and trapped work-men casting the concrete.

Little wonder that the just concluded 43rd Builders conference organised by the Nigerian Institute of Building(NIOB), dedicated substantial time to discussing the plethora of avoidable tragedies. The theme of the year’s conference which was chaired by the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed Uwais, is entitled, “Transformation of the Building Industry- Possibilities and Realities.

Opening the discussion at the well attended two-day event, NIOB President, Mr. Chucks Omeife, said that although various issues such as use of substandard material, poor worksmanship, shoddy works, quackery and all other malpractices in the built environment could be the primary causes of building collapse, the outright lack of political power on the part of government to put an end to the scourge through effective regulatory framework, allegedly legitimised the scourge.

He explained that there must be deliberate attempts by policy makers and other stakeholders in the housing sector to address the policy gap and the disconnect between design and construction if meaningful success was to be recorded in stemming the tide of building collapse.

Stressing the importance of builders in this respect, Omeife noted that,” the builder remains the missing link between design and construction for the enthronement of quality delivery of the sector products. Presently, in the building procurement process, the builder is the only professional solely responsible for building production management.

This role engenders the application of good quality management processes, and the adoption of project specific health and safety procedures for the successful delivery of projects with good quality outcomes.

“One of the solutions to the building collapse syndrome is to consciously bridge this yawning gap between design and construction, and this requires the immediate situation of the appropriate legislation to redefine the regulatory framework to make the engagement of the builder mandatory both at the design stage and at the construction stage for any development.”

The NIOB boss added that the fact that some of the owners of the buildings that had collapsed in the past duly obtained required government approval punctured the effectiveness of the prevailing respective building plan approval documentation regimes across the country, stressing that the system “is inadequate in ensuring qualitative delivery of building projects.”

He stressed the need to include builders’ documents such as quality management plan, health and safety plan and construction programme of work as a pre-condition for building plan approval.

According to him, although attempts have been made to capture some of these fundamental omissions in the National Building Code, the non-implementation arising from lack of enforcement legislation has made quackery thrive in the industry.

Similarly, Former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Justice Mohammed Uwais harped on the urgent need to institutionalise a legal framework that would cater for all the identified lapses in the building sub-sector. He noted that the passage of the Building Code Bill before the National Assembly would go a long way to tackling the challenges.

According to the former CJN, some of the challenges it would help to address include inadequate regulatory framework, menace of quacks, greed, professional misconduct on the part of the practitioners and incessant building collapse.

Others, which he termed secondary menace, are use of sub-standard materials, absence of building plan approval by the concerned government agencies, poor design and workmanship, alteration of approved design, non-implementation of specification.

On the effects of collapse building on the nation, Uwais said, “The collapse of building is one of the most challenging 26 National Mirror Real Estate & Environment Tuesday, September 3, 2013 www.nationalmirroronline.net problems facing the urbanising of the nation as of today. “This is a source of concern not only to the professionals and the government, but also to everyone.

The frequency of collapse of buildings and the associated negative consequences have continued to place doubts on the effectiveness of all the efforts being made to stem the menace. Lives are being lost, investments in building development are regrettably being wasted, and the helplessness of the situation is turning into hopelessness.

Apart from the passage of building code bill, the former CJN also stressed the need for all professionals in the building sub-sector to keep abreast of evolving technologies with a view to meeting new challenges.

In her remarks, the Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ms. Amal Pepple, informed the gathering that a revised National Building Code would soon be presented to the Federal Executive Council for approval. She said that the challenges facing the housing sector could only be surmounted through the collaboration of all the critical stakeholders.

She said,” I wish to ensure you that we shall continue to partner with your Institute to ensure that we all work cooperatively and collaboratively to achieve our mutual objective of bringing a new lease of life to the citizenry in the built environment.”

This even as the minister read the Riot Act to all the professionals in the sector, insisting that the present administration would no longer tolerate sharp practices.

“I wish to sound a note of warning, though that the present administration has zero tolerance for ineptitude, tardiness, impunity, negligence,indiscipline and all forms of unethical conduct in the built environment.

The mark of professionalism is excellence, hence it is our expectation that professionals in the built environment will carry out their duties with the highest level of responsibility.

“The preponderance of quacks in the built environment is very distressing, and needs to be addressed. Other sharp practices such as the use of inferior building materials, inadequate supervision, change of building design on site after approval, inadequate use of building materials for construction, and failing to abide by planning rules and regulations will no longer be tolerated.’’

The minister admonished the NIOB members to familiarise themselves with the provisions of the revised NBC, adding that once, ‘it is approved; priority attention will be accorded to its strict enforcement by which time there will be no excuse.”

Prior to the NIOB event, the Chairman National Building Code Advisory Committee, Arc. Muhammed Faworaja had noted that the revised document was a product of wider consultation with all relevant professionals and other stakeholders in the building industry.

Faworaja, who spoke during the stakeholders’ meeting on the revised National Building Code, added that the document had been worked on in such as way that it addressed all the lapses in the housing sector, particularly the issue of collapsed building, which had become national a embarrassment.

He said,” The consequences of an ineffective and non-operational National Building Code (NBC) in social and economic terms are so monumental for any sane society to ignore. Understandably, this prompted the Hon. Minister to keep on driving us hard and never to rest until the review is completed.

“The review has therefore addressed lapses noticed in the 1st edition with structural re-alignment and in-depth additional inputs to adequately take care of peculiar national challenges as they relate to the built environment.”

Faworaja therefore stressed the need for a collective effort to ensure the implementation of the document to arrest the national embracement often occasioned by the increasing cases of the built environment failures and the near dominance and take-over of the industry by quacks.

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