Nigeria’s rising building collapses get solutions

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In the last decade, Nigeria has seen increasing incidences of building collapses and people who play in the country’s building industry have reiterated pathways to the solutions.

At a webinar titled ‘Addressing the Root Cause of Building Collapse in Nigeria’ organised by Lafarge Plc, the second episode in its quarterly Concrete Ideas series, developers, engineers, regulators and cement makers gathered to highlight the root causes of building collapses and suggest solutions.

The 10 years between 2010 and 2020 saw building collapses rise by 77 percent, Joseph Makoju, chairman of, Cement Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (CMAN) stated during the webinar.

Building collapse is a phenomenon characterised by the compromise in the structural integrity of a building’s component elements, resulting in its eventual failure. Structural failure refers to the loss of load-carrying capacity of a structural component or structure itself that is the failure of the structural component to perform as designed.

Reasons for the failure in structural integrity have been traced to the desire of some developers to cut corners in the face of the high cost of building materials. Many developers tend to use sub-standard materials to cut costs and raise profit margins thereby endangering lives. Inefficient regulation, poor supervision, incompetent artisans, and ignorance on the part of the part about building codes and specifications have also contributed to this menace to lives.

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Olamilekan Adegbite, minister of Mines and Steel Development and a builder and an architect by training said Lagos State has a template that works. In the 1980s and the 90s, he argued, there was no strict supervision of buildings but this is no more in Lagos.

The state government has expanded its building supervision function and it is often the case that the moment anyone lays the foundation for a building, one finds government officials sniff it out and mark the building. There might still be some lapses but this a step towards addressing the situation.

Adegbite also recommended that procurement processes set up by the government are formulated in such a way that trained, competent small players in the industry find it easier to ply their trade.

Nigeria is a developing country. This is all the more important because the federal government of Nigeria plans to construct 300, 000 homes across Nigeria for low-income earners under its National Social Housing Programme (NSHP). Adherence to best practices would be crucial.

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“There is too much documentation, which excludes the smaller players leading to their not being mainstreamed and supervised,” Adegbite said. “It is important to learn from Lagos, but also to ease the documentation process.”

Other factors the minister alluded to as the root causes of building collapses were sheer negligence, illegal conversion of buildings, lack of site supervision, poor concrete mixture ratio, and low budget projects.

Lafarge Plc is already leading the charge in reinventing how the world builds with an emphasis on greener, more sustainable structures. This prioritises people and the planet.

For instance, the company now has pre-mixed concrete to checkmate the poor concrete mixture ratio.

Taking responsibility is the name of the game. We have trained 5, 000 artisans as part of efforts to ensure the industry has the best workpeople,” Michael Scharpf, head of Sustainable Construction at LafargeHolcim said. “Lives are at risk on every construction site and afterwards. So, it is important to be conservative, no room for experiments.”

As the African Continental Free Trade Agreement kicks in, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) says is arguing that it is important to restore their place at the ports.

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“We were kicked out of the port 10 years ago to reduce the number of agencies operating there. This has negative implications especially because there are no scanners at these ports,” Farouk Salim, director-general of SON said.

Salim regretted those culprits of sub-standard products are not punished as deterrents. Without consequences for such offences, nothing changes.

One important component of the solution was the place of building insurance. Insurance is a risk mitigation device, which reduces the liabilities of the insured. Both material and human failures are responsible for the building collapses in Nigeria.

“There is a compulsory builders’ liability policy but this has been rarely invoked in cases of building collapse. Implementation is deficient,” Bola Onigbogi, president of the Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers (NCRIB) said.

Quackery was also highlighted are a major cause of building collapses. The Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria has been recently empowered to prosecute offenders.

The key takeaways from the webinar include taking responsibility by developers, engineers, regulators and cement makers. Ensuring there are consequences for misbehaviour and malpractice. Above all collaboration among stakeholders was recommended.

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