The construction industry in Nigeria eagerly awaits the wind of change that is currently blowing across the energy, financial and civil service sectors of the nation.

The discipline of Buharism and the indomitable spirit of a Nasir El-Rufai are required to sanitize the Nigerian building environment.

Low staff strength, bureaucracy, experience, poor methodology, sentiments, cowardliness, compromise, corruption and lack of enforcement are the major bane of physical planning and building control operations across Nigeria. When the majority’s interest in a service is not determined by passion but by immediate pecuniary gains in a deteriorating societal value, the collective desire for an organized society will remain a mirage. 

If people entrusted with the duty of implementing regulations and laws on physical planning and building control have been knowledgeable, sincere, steadfast and committed, the danger of slum growth and defective buildings would have been nipped in the bud from the outset. Preventing haphazard development and substandard building construction is less expensive and more effective to demolition.

The latest tragedy at Bukuru, Jos in the recurring decimal of building collapse in the Nigerian built environment is a grim evidence of an extremely slow progress in the revival of standard construction in Nigeria. Earlier in the month, exactly Wednesday, September 9, the Mekaval Hotel at Effurun area of Warri collapsed, with many people sustaining injury.

The collapse of the two-story building of Abu Naib Islamic School in Bukuru near Jos on Sunday, September 13, 2015 was a painful reminder of the Synagogue Church of All Nations’ seven-storey building that collapsed at Ikotun, Lagos on Friday, September 12, 2014. In the collapse of these two religious buildings, lives were lost.

The collapse of buildings in this peculiar month of September when Buhari's government marked its 100 days is a wakeup call on the issue of substandard construction in the Nigerian built environment. The unfortunate incidents that coincided with this government’s preparation time for the greater activities ahead should arouse the interest of the President and Governors on building collapse prevention. Hence, the issue of safe built environment should be placed on the priority list.

The problem of building collapse in Nigeria is largely of man-made. In those days when there was orderliness in the system, building collapse was a rare occurrence. As the system gradually collapsed, the nation descended to the era of impunity and lack of respect for rules and regulations.

In this dire situation, professionals in the built environment rose to the challenge and buckled up to rescue their building profession from the ignoble state of dereliction. Construction professionals and building artisans, who have passion for humanitarian service, formed a common front called Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG), and using their personal resources, they embarked on various activities to complement government's efforts at promoting safe built environment.

An issue that bothers the BCPG most today is that of the developers. The collapse of the Nigerian stock market and acute shortage in the nation’s housing provision became a reason for the bombardment of construction sector by investors, who are the untrained developers that dominate the housing business today. Their primary interest is profit, not quality. Estates are springing up across the nation with inadequate attention to the monitoring of construction works. How many of those developers engage qualified and experienced construction professionals for project supervision? Solving the problem of housing shortage by creating another problem of defective buildings that will be inherited by innocent occupants is counterproductive.

The government should institute a system for registering developers towards effective monitoring of their construction works.

In this new dispensation, we hereby appeal to the President and the Governors to do the needful:

Both the Federal and States’ Ministries of Physical Planning and Building Control Agencies should be re-organised, sanitized and strengthened for better implementation of the established regulations. Such ministries, agencies and departments should be headed by professionals of high integrity that have the natural passion for standard construction and enviable physical planning.

2. Strong enlightenment and enforcement units should be established to support the ministries and agencies.

3. Enumeration of building sites should be carried out in our cities so as to determine the staff strength required to monitor such sites.

4. The cost of Certificate of Occupancy and building plan approval should be reduced to encourage prospective land owners and developers to obtain them. Possession of land title documents and building plan approval documents enables landlords and landladies to access bank facilities and reduce the rate of litigation on land matters.

5. The government should outsource professionals to boost the staff strength to facilitate/quicken building approval process and ensure effective monitoring of construction works.

6. Eradication of substandard building materials in the Nigerian market.

Signed.

Kunle Awobodu
President
Building Collapse Prevention Guild

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