Professionals in the Nigerian building and construction sector have faulted the Lagos State government on its total stop worker order in Banana Island as a response to the collapse of a 7-storey building under construction in that elite settlement.
The professionals, who commended the state government and its agencies on their spirited efforts at ensuring that the survivors of the collapsed site were well taken care of, said it was wrong for the government to place a blanket ban on all project sites on the island because of one developer.
The professionals also sympathized with the developer/investor, injured, survivors and Lagos State government. “I agree with all the measures taken by the state government, but I am totally in disagreement with the blanket ban or stop work order on all other construction sites in Banana Island,” H.O.Badejo, a town planner, said in statement at the weekend.
Badejo described that government action as “a panic reaction to an accident,” adding, “panic reaction is the worst enemy of a disaster.”
In addition to loss of investment and injuries sustained by construction workers who were trapped in the unfortunate incident, the directive given by the state governor will create serious economic problems for developers in Banana Island, and investment in the construction industry in Lagos and, by extension, in Nigeria.
According to Badejo, there is no known place, anywhere in the world, where such drastic measure was taken on a multi-billion-dollar construction area just to take an audit of ongoing construction sites.
“What have the Lagos State construction sites monitoring officers been doing before the collapse?” he queried, saying that the action taken by the governor could be likened to preventing all banks in Lagos from opening to the public because there are many incidents of bank robberies in state.
Or immediately stopping the salaries of all field officers due to the collapse. Does it make sense? Again, unless the state can prove that the frequency of collapsed buildings in Lagos is now in a pandemic state,” the town planner said.
A Lagos resident who did not want to be named agrees that government should take action when buildings fall, adding however that such action should not be one that punishes both the innocent and the guilty alike.
“Government’s action must be weighed at all times. What the state government has done, for me, is panic reaction. Buildings had collapsed before in Lagos and so, there should be, by now, a well thought out process and mechanism for dealing with building collapse incidents instead of acting on case-by-case basis,” the anonymous resident said.
Badejo looked beyond the governor’s stop work order to its implications for developers, investors, construction workers/job market, the real estate sector and even the Lagos State economy.
“Whoever advised Mr Governor to take that action acted in panic and did not take into consideration the far-reaching economic implications on the primary and secondary investors, contractors, supplies, teaming construction site workforce, daily oiling of Lagos economy and payment of bills,” he said.
He estimated that, within the week, several billions of payment cheques must have been honoured on different construction sites in Banana Island, wondering who would be liable for non-performance on the payments honoured.
Asides that, he said, delivery dates for several projects would be truncated and nobody knows who will be liable. He noted that the state government was advertently creating more litigations in the over-congested Lagos court rooms.
“Only God knows how many people travelled from outside Nigeria to Lagos to inspect their projects, but only to meet a stop work order due to an accident they are not connected with. Who will console this set of people or pay their travel expenses, and hotel bills and for how long?” he queried.
Continuing, he said, “this is a serious drawback to the ease of doing business in Lagos and Nigeria at large; there is no economic sense in this decision when everybody including the state government is just recovering from the CBN cash confiscation policy of Godwin Emefiele—the governor.”
Another implication of this action, Badejo said, was that the state government would be discouraging good investors in the construction industry, adding that there were thousands and one negative implications on micro and macro levels that cannot be quantified now.
Though he acknowledged that the safety of lives and properties was priceless, Badejo did not think that severing the head was a solution to headache which is why, according to him, a blanket ban on construction in Banana Island without a time limit was suicidal to investors and the economy of the state.
“All on-going construction sites in Banana Island are less than 100. If Lagos State staff cannot carry out site audit of these projects within a week, then there is a big problem and we should expect more buildings to collapse,” he said.