Recently, the media was awash with the horrendous news of a high-rise building collapse in one of the strategic locations in the nation’s commercial capital, Ikoyi, making the incident a deeply concerning one for every Nigerian based on the scale of destruction and the collateral damages that ensued in the aftermath.
The tragedy which struck on Monday 1, November,2021 in Lagos has so far resulted in 42 deaths and 15 survivors who are now critically affected and now receiving medical attention at various hospitals, even as rescue operations from the rubble is yet to be over, it is hard to surmise that so far, an end to the death toll being recorded has finally come.
For us as frontline real estate promoters in the country, the incident has dealt another major blow to the real estate sector and in deed other critical stakeholders, including the regulators of the industry.
But, most importantly, we want to call on the Lagos State government, within whose purview it is to ensure that subsisting regulations are strictly adhered to, because the current state of affairs as it concerns the 21-storey building at Gerrard Road Ikoyi Lagos is a monumental disaster to the nation.
We also find the work of the building developer, in this case, Fourscore Heights Limited, highly reprehensible as we call on the authorities to subject the whole matter to thorough investigation with a view to bringing the culprits to book. We believe this will help to prevent recurrence of an incident, which in our views took place due to abject negligence, circumvention of enabling rules and best practices, penchant for pecuniary rewards at the expense of human life.
We also support opinions in some quarters that only a judge-led public inquiry and sincere implementation of its report will help placate the bereaved families, the bewildered public and help curb the serial incident of building collapse in the country.
We are constrained to toe this line because there had been similar cases in the past, in Lagos state, where the outcome or reports of building collapse were swept under the carpet, in spite of widespread condemnations despite seeming demonstration of a resolve by the authorities concern to stem the evil tide of avoidable building collapse. One of such incidents was the collapse of a guesthouse within the Synagogue Church of All Nation, SCON, which left in its wake loss of about 116 human lives. Experts from their report had blamed the building collapse on ‘structural failure.’ There were other similar tragedies of this nature which should call for redefinition of the rules guiding the operations of the real estate sector in the country as a whole.
To make matters worse, pundits who have been critical of this serial development across the length and breadth of the country have even traced the development to the use of substandard materials, quackery in the industry, faulty designs from conception, foundation failure, overloads beyond the carrying capacity and above all corruption. While it is a known fact that in many parts of the country, especially the nation’s major cities, quacks and greedy developers have taken the center stage, masquerading as expert developers who alter original building plan and permits to ply their illegal trade. This is not acceptable anymore.
Therefore, beyond the incident which was recorded in Lagos, we need a holistic review of the building and construction industry in the country. This calls for a far-reaching reform in the sector to ensure conformity with the global best practices where quality assurance is elevated above other considerations.
And, since the Lagos State government has failed repeatedly both to ensure that measures were in place to curb the menace of building collapse, and punish offenders, we call on the Nigerian Building, Town Planning, the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers , the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors and other relevant professionals to work in synergy to safe the nation the pain of incurring damages, including loss of valuable human lives due to perennial building collapse which can be traced to human factors.
We also call on governments at different levels and regulators, independent bodies and other critical stakeholders to take up the challenge of harping on the observance of standard practice in the delivery of quality housing and real estate construction to avert potential dangers to lives and property and safe the nation the embarrassment of being tagged as ‘people who bend the rules.’
With the huge potentials in the built industry and enormous direct and indirect opportunities available to us as a nation, operators cannot afford to water down the standards expected of them.
We sincerely commiserate with families of those who lost their lives in the hope of doing genuine business and wish the victims who got caught up in the disaster and are receiving treatments at various hospitals a quick recovery, while appreciating individuals, volunteers and organizations who joined efforts to ensure the emergency rescue of the trapped victims.
As we approach this year Africa/Nigeria Housing Awards, we call on stakeholders in the built industry that all hands should be on deck by striving to promote excellence so as to enthrone confidence in the system for our overall benefits as a nation.