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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Double tragedy: Survivors, victims’ families bear the brunt over uninsured collapsed buildings

Ita-Faaji building collapse site. Inset: Survivor, Jamiu; Balogun and late daughter

Mr Hassan Jamiu is one of the survivors of the building collapse that occurred at No. 53 Massey Street, Ita Faaji area of Lagos Island, on March 13, 2019.

Twenty people, mostly children, were confirmed dead while many others sustained different degrees of injuries as there was a school, Ohen Nursery and Primary School, and residential apartments in the three-storey building.

More than two years after, Jamiu told our correspondent that his life was drastically altered by the incident and he had not recovered from its impact.

“The building suddenly caved in, and I was in the dark rubble. I could hear cries of some others who were trapped like me but we only continued to pray, not sure of making it,” he said.

He was one of those who were pulled out of the collapsed building alive, taken to the hospital for treatment, but suffering from the aftermath of the disaster.

“I suffered from a lot of complications after the incidence. Right now, I cannot urinate on my own. I have done several operations. One foundation helped me to pay my bills to an extent but it stopped. I have not been able to work for more than two years; it is my wife that has been working,” he lamented.

“When it collapsed, we were looking for my child till 6am the following day. We sent out her picture and we were told that the corpse was in the mortuary,” she said.

Balogun demanded compensation for the suffering of the victims and their families over the incidence that was not their fault.

She said, “We should be supported the way things are done abroad. The government went to see those in the hospital but neglected those that died.

“Some people initially came and gave us provision for feeding. Some foundations helped us but not the government. Since then, I have been suffering from high blood pressure. My health has been deteriorating; I have been in and out of hospital since then.”

Another victim of the Ita Faaji building collapse is Maria Adeyemo, who lost one of her twins and all her properties.

She said when the incident happened, her twins were studying in the school inside the building.

Struggling to speak amid tears, she said, “Taiye died while Kehinde battled for her life. We lived in the house, and I took my two children to their class that morning. I went out to the market and not long after, I was called back. When I got there, I saw the whole thing and fainted.


“I was resuscitated. The two twins were taken to separate hospitals; I went to one, and my husband went to the other.”

As the family had no roof over their heads again, a foundation came to their rescue and took them to Igando, a suburb in Lagos State, for a temporary accommodation which was quite far from their former home.

Adeyemo said they had no savings, and the family had to struggle to enrol Kehinde, the surviving twin, in another school, even as she was still recuperating.

“A foundation came and gave Kehinde a temporary scholarship but later they did not pay the school fees again. They only put her in school and stopped paying the school fees. We have not told her Taiye is dead,” she said.

Victims of building collapse in Nigeria are mostly the poor, whose situations are worsened by the lack of any form of insurance compensation that is necessary to enable them to readjust their lives.

Mrs Koforola Bello, who lost her 10-year-old daughter, Basit, to the Ita Faaji building collapse, said her child died because there was no oxygen in the ambulance that took her to the hospital.

“When we got to the general hospital, my child was still alive. They just laid the child in the ambulance. Since then, I have been battling with high blood pressure,” she said.

Mr Olajide Adebayo told our correspondent that he found his son, Khaliq, aged 6, in the mortuary a day after the collapse.

“Since then, government has said they will do something. But up till now, nothing has been done,” he said.

Incessant building collapse

Many buildings have collapsed across the country, especially in Lagos, in recent years, leading to the loss of lives.

Last month, a 21-storey building on Gerard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos State collapsed and 46 people, including the owner and developer of the 21-storey building, Mr Femi Osibona; and his personal assistant, Oyinye Enekwe, were confirmed dead.

In 2016, a five-storey under construction by Lekki Gardens collapsed, killing 35 people, while 115 people died in the 2014 Synagogue Church Guest House collapse.

Operators in the insurance industry launched an investigation to unravel if there was any form of insurance cover for the Ikoyi high-rise to ensure compensation for the victims since the owner was not alive to say if the building was insured or not.

But the Nigerian Insurers Association, the umbrella body for 61 licensed insurance companies in the country, later said none of its 41 members licensed to provide building insurance cover had shown up as the insurer of the property.

The Lagos State Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat, promised that the state government would take full responsibility for the treatment and medical bills of rescued victims of the Ikoyi building collapse.

Although the state government swung into action to assist the survivors, there are fears in some quarters that the survivors might have to face future health challenges caused by the incident without any compensation, just like many victims of past building collapses.

Unfortunately, nothing is usually said of the compensation of the dead, some of whom were breadwinners of their families.

The President, Nigerian Institute of Building, Kunle Awobodu, lamented the devastating consequences of building collapse in the country.

He noted that the first storey buildings in Nigeria, the Shiita Bey Mosquein and Water House by Candido Da Rocha, were built in the 1890s.

“The majority of the construction materials used for some of these pre-Independence buildings were not imported but yet they are still durable while many buildings nowadays collapse while construction works are ongoing,” he said.

According to him, the spate of building collapse in the country leaves much to be desired, considering the advancement in technology.

He said 59 per cent of the buildings that collapsed in Lagos State were existing structures while 41 per cent were under construction.

“This is an indictment on the building control agency because it seems the control mechanism or policy has some shortcomings.”

According to him, the record of the Nigerian Institute of Building shows that most of the building collapses in the country occurred because of lack of professionalism in the construction process.

Insurance compensation abroad

While building collapse is very common in Nigeria, it is not peculiar to the country. But unlike in Nigeria, insurance compensation is common in many other countries when buildings collapse because they are insured.

Experts have said that with insurance compensation, losses and pains could be reduced.

Abcnews.go.com reported in July this year that a court in Florida, in the United States, said victims and families who suffered losses in the collapse of a 12-story oceanfront Florida condominium would get a minimum of $150m in compensation initially.

The sum included about $50m insurance compensation for about 97 people who perished in the collapse or suffered bodily injury and property damage.

A human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), said at a recent event, said, “In the past 44 years, about 461 buildings collapsed in Nigeria. While 1,090 people lost their lives, hundreds of others were injured.

“Owing to official impunity on the part of the government, majority of the owners of the collapsed buildings and the builders were not prosecuted.

“And due to ignorance, the victims and the family members of those who lost their lives did not sue the owners of collapsed buildings with a view to compelling them to pay compensation for their negligence.”

Falana noted that to end the disturbing menace of building collapse, the Senate had proposed a bill for compulsory insurance of buildings under construction.

According to him, the bill seeks to make it mandatory for victims of building collapse to be compensated by insurance companies.

He quoted Senator Ibikunle Amosun, the sponsor of the bill, as saying, “The need for the amendment of this Bill was necessitated by the prevalence of collapsed buildings in many Nigerian cities which has led to unquantifiable loss of lives and property as well as permanent disability.”

Insurance companies, according to Falana, are made to pay compensation to victims of collapsed buildings in many countries.

According to figures obtained from the Nigerian Insurers Association, no record of claims payment has been recorded from building collapse in Nigeria.

The President, Nigerian Council of Registered Insurance Brokers, Rotimi Edu, noted that Sections 64 and 65 of the Insurance Act of 2003 makes it mandatory for all contractors and their agents to, among others, undertake insurance against death or injuries to third parties to a public building in the event of a disaster of this nature.

Understanding building insurance

The Director-General, NIA, Mrs Yetunde Ilori, in an interview with our correspondent, explained the provisions in the Insurance Act 2003.

She said, “Section 65 of the Insurance Act 2003 stipulates that all public buildings shall be adequately insured, while Section 64 of the Act provides that all buildings under construction above two floors shall be adequately insured with a registered insurance company.

“The law explains that every public building should be insured against the hazards of collapse, fire, earthquake, storm and flood.

“Public building include a tenement house, hostel, a building occupied by a tenant, lodger or licensee and any building to which members of the public have ingress and aggress for the purpose of obtaining educational or medical service, or for the purpose of recreation or transaction of business.”

While lamenting that the nation had lost so much to “the carelessness of a few unpatriotic builders”, Ilori said compliance with insurance laws would ensure that the right things were done in the built industry.

According to her, taking insurance for buildings under construction requires adhering to building rules.

Citing an example, she said, “If the Ikoyi building that collapsed had been insured, and [the developer] obtained approval to build 15 floors, but went ahead to build 21 floors, in the advent of a building collapse, insurers would say that was not the building that they insured, and so claim not to be liable.

“The insurers will say we insured 15 floors and not 21 floors.”

According to her, in terms of building insurance, there is a need to know the risks that are covered about the property or building under construction.

Ilori said, “Does the insurance cover the workers? Is it professional indemnity? There are different risks that are covered.

“You need to know the things covered to know what you will be compensated for.”

According to her, if insurers are asked to insure a building, they will want to know where it is built to be sure it is not a distressed building.

“Insurers would want to know if the place is prone to catastrophe. It is not just about taking premiums,” Ilori added.


When there is no premium paid, there cannot be an insurance cover. But once the premium has been paid by the client to the insurance company, insurance compensation must be paid when a loss happens.

The Chairman, NIA, Mr Ganiyu Musa, said, “In terms of premium, the insurance company needs to get a lot of information from the person which is the proposal from the person that will be used to evaluate and determine the premium. That is the whole essence of underwriting.

“Insurers will look at the risks and put quantitative and qualitative considerations to the underwriting process and then come up with not just the pricing, but the pricing and other terms and conditions. It will be examined on a case-by-case basis before coming up with other terms and conditions.”

According to Musa, states have different building requirements, which must be adhered to while constructing.

“You can’t build illegality on legality. Accidents can happen; if you comply with all the rules and take insurance, insurance will pay,” he said.


The NIA chairman said the insurance industry is trying to ensure that insurance cover is made a requirement before the approval of building plans.

Musa said, “We are engaging with the authorities in a number of states, especially in Lagos, and the National Insurance Commission, the regulator, is also leading the charge.

“A few times, we have gone to meet with specific state governments or the Governors’ Forum. Even, at the just-concluded Chartered Insurance Institute of Nigeria’s professionals’ forum, whose opening ceremony was graced by the governor of Ogun State, the issue was discussed.

“The governor promised the full cooperation of the state in terms of the enforcement of all the compulsory insurances and even putting in place technology and the infrastructure to try to ease that.

“The regulator and the operators are actively engaging the government, not just in Lagos, but across the country.”

According to Musa, most of the serious-minded professionals, builders, construction companies and architects have the required insurance for Construction All Risk cover, professional indemnity for the professionals and the rest.

“We have that for the major standard construction. The challenge is to really propagate it when you move down beyond the prime market to the next layer, which is really where you have quite a number of the mid-sized construction projects.”

Implementation challenges

In 2010, NAICOM launched what it called the Market Development and Restructuring Initiative to enforce the compulsory insurance policies in the country’s statutory laws, including the building insurance laws.

But more than a decade after, the MDRI has been unable to achieve its set objectives. This is because the industry did not have enough support of the states and relevant government agencies to achieve its set objectives, according to industry operators.

In 2019, NAICOM launched the State Insurance Producers programme, with the aim of getting non-insurance practitioners involved in the sale of insurance.

Through this, it sought to get the support of the state governments and other sectors to sell the compulsory insurance policies, which would help to deepen insurance penetration.

Unfortunately, the project was cancelled a year after because some operators in the industry saw the move as a threat to their business.

The spokesperson for NAICOM, Rasaaq Salami, said the commission was creating awareness on the relevance of compulsory insurance.

He said that the commission had planned to work with different states to ensure the implementation of compulsory insurance through the SIP programme.

Salami said, “SIP was to ensure synergy with states on compulsory insurance because the states have the machinery to enforce it. When the state is determined to enforce anything, the compliance level is high.

“Despite the fact that the SIP was stopped, we are not relenting but will see how to collaborate with state governments.”

In July 2020, Lagos made building insurance a compulsory requirement for construction.

Lagos has the highest number of buildings, including many high-rise structures, and has recorded the highest number of building collapses in the country.

The insurance industry has also been engaging Lagos in enforcing compulsory insurance in the state.

The Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr Idris Salako, said the state had been enlightening residents to let them understand physical planning and building control regulations in order to forestall building collapse.

“The Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning and Development (Amended) Law 2019 was aimed at achieving zero tolerance to incidences of building collapse, illegal development and non-conforming development, among others, with a view to ensuring a better physical environment for sustainable development,” he said.

NAICOM’s efforts

The Commissioner for Insurance, NAICOM, Mr Sunday Thomas, noted that the Insurance Act 2003 and other relevant laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria made some insurances mandatory.

He said insurance is compulsory for “all buildings under construction that are more than two floors; all public buildings, including schools, offices, hotels, hospitals, and shopping malls, among others.”

He said the commission had visited some state governors to seek their collaboration to jointly ensure the enforcement of the compulsory building insurance.

According to Thomas, the industry is also seeking the cooperation of relevant agencies of the government on the enforcement.

During a recent sensitisation event in Abuja for the Federal Fire Service and state fire service officers on insurance of public buildings and buildings under construction above two floors, he said the commission could better achieve this task with the full cooperation of the federal and state agencies in charge of fire service.

He said, “It is very worrisome to the commission that most public buildings and buildings under construction above two floors are never adequately and appropriately insured, which further accentuated the need for urgent measures to be put in place by the commission to ensure that these buildings are adequately insured. It is the desire of NAICOM to change this narrative for good.

“The essence of insurance of public buildings and buildings under construction above two floors is to cushion the impact and reduce the burden and liabilities that the owner/government would have to bear in likely occurrences of catastrophic events, such as natural disasters, fire, accidents, building collapse, injuries or death to third parties, among others.”

He said this would save the government money that could be channelled towards augmenting the needs of the citizenry, providing infrastructure, and creating employment, among others.

Capacity to insure high-rises

High-rise buildings are worth several billions of naira. This means that insurance companies will have to pay huge claims on them if something bad happens to the buildings.

Operators have said there is capacity in the Nigerian insurance industry to insure the assets.

The Managing Director, Niger Insurance Plc, Mr Edwin Igbiti, said that buildings should be insured, “not necessarily because there is a compulsory insurance law on them but because they have risks and benefits.”

He said, “As regards the skyscrapers, the issue is that every construction work has a master plan, and this master plan stipulates how many floors and the value of that floor.

“Insurance also has reinsurance because of capacity. And based on that capacity, the insurers will know whether their treaty capacity can carry it.

“And if a particular underwriter cannot carry it, that is when coinsurers come in to play, which means that capacity-wise, there is a provision that we can cover it. That is not an excuse that a contractor should not take up an All Risk Insurance cover that is available in the market.”

He explained that there must be disclosure in an insurance cover to know the type of risks covered.

source: punch ng

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