By Olamide Udoma
On Friday 12th September a six-storey guesthouse at the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos State collapsed. As of the 18th September, 80 people were declared dead, while others have been left with various degrees of injuries. Investigations into the disaster are ongoing but so far the Lagos State Government claims that approval for the building was not obtained and therefore the addition of more floors to the existing two-storey building was unlawful.
This is not an isolated case. Between 2007 and 2013 there were 130 reported cases of collapsed buildings. The frequent loss of life and property led to the tribunal of inquiry on collapsed building, constituted May 20, 2013. Before the end of 2013, the tribunal had submitted their findings. The tribunal found the provisions of the law (Urban and Regional Planning Law 2010, the National Building Code and the Lagos State Building Regulation) regulating the building industry to be adequate, but were rendered ineffective by non-adherence and crass indiscipline among others. They also found that prosecution was rare. Mrs Abimbola Ajayi, tribunal chairperson, explained at the launch of the report that ‘there is no record of persons prosecuted or sanctioned for incidence of building collapse by the Ministry of Justice, the Nigeria Police and other law organ because of political, cultural, administrative and other interventions’. Recommendations were made to the Lagos State Government by the panel for short, medium and long term solutions to reduce the number of buildings collapsing in the State.
Despite the tribunal, regular reporting of collapsed buildings in local and national media and regular sensitization exercises by Lagos State Building Control Agency the number of buildings collapsing in Lagos continues to increase. It is reported that more than 135 buildings collapsed in 2013.
Even though the Lagos State Government has woken up to the enormity of building failure it is evident that policies and regulations are yet to be implemented and followed with rigor. I hope this incident has been a wake up call to the public, developers, and the construction industry to ensure buildings are of habitable standards. Due to the national and international coverage it is also important to reprimand and follow due process, creating an example for future construction companies, developers and individuals. The frequency of collapsed buildings in Lagos can not solely be attributed to developers cutting corners or inadequate materials, the Lagos State Government needs to build capacity of the authorities and staff members who police, manage, administer building regulations and planning permission.