Nigerian Junk Houses Recurrent Collapse

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Houses collapse in Nigeria without a gap of time leaving many killed and others with degrees of injuries, and government policies on this are better not imagined let alone hoped on, ODIMEGWU ONWUMERE writes.

Building collapse has become a frequent occurrence in Nigeria with authorities paying lip service to arrest the situation. There had never been stringent punitive measures and policies that could spur building engineers and regulatory bodies to wake up from their aged-long slumber. The successive governments in Nigeria are best known for setting up Commission of Inquiry to look into the root cause of the collapse, which dies immediately it’s set up. Statement that could follow such make-believe commission would be, “Federal and state agencies are investigating the cause of the collapse of the building”.

Such lackadaisical policies that the Nigerian Government operates had held it back not to prod into action and demolish a three storey building housing a school, at Itafaji, Lagos Island that was marked for demolition since 2014, till it killed over 20 pupils on March 23 2019, with over 100 trapped. Moved by the tragedy, the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), a regulatory body in the state where the incident occurred, stirred to demolish 180 affected buildings around the area. The body barefacedly traded blame that they would not understand why property owners were unconcern to bring down their marked houses, having been served notice to do so, dating back to 2013.

It did not meet the eyes why authorities could not go after such building having found them ineffective. On Monday, March 25 2019, barely two weeks for the bubbles of the collapsed school building to settle, a two-storey edifice collapsed in the middle of the day at the same Lagos Island. Another side to the story was that no one died given that occupants of the building had noticed its junk nature and exited their apartments. This building had also, been marked for demolition by the Lagos State building control agency, few days before it collapsed.

While no death was recorded in the two-storey building collapse, no fewer than 34 people were killed on 8 March 2016, when a five-storey building under construction in Lekki District, Lagos, collapsed.  Death was also the fate of 115 people, when a guesthouse that was situated inside the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) property in Ikotun-Egbe, Lagos State, collapsed on 12 September 2014. It was noted that the National Emergency Management Agency (NAMA), supposedly withheld information pertaining to the incident but this singular act, earned them condemnation from the citizens.

Without a doubt, junk houses sprinkle Nigeria but they are majorly in Lagos, the country’s former seat of power. This trend of building collapse started happening like every day event, after the country got its independence from Britain in 1960. Notwithstanding, reports from the authorities suggested that many of the buildings exceeded the number of allowed floors, but property owners connived with corrupt government officials and exceeded approved plan. Some government agencies like the Nigeria Building And Road Research Institute (NBBRI), the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), and the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG), had warned against inadequacies in building construction.