Nigeria: How to Curb the Menace of Building Collapse by Bosun Jeje, Ex-Lagos Housing Commissioner
By RAZAQ BAMIDELE
London, March 24, 2019 (AltAfrica)-The high spate of building collapse in Nigeria and the seeming inability of the nation’s policy makers to stem the ugly trend has reached a disturbing proportion
According to a report from the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing 54 buildings collapsed across the country within a period of four years with countless lives lost and billions of Naira property ruined in the process
This is more so, considering the huge losses in lives and property each time a building collapsed; besides, there are also the agony and trauma suffered by the injured and loved ones of those who die in such tragedy.
The nagging question is why has the phenomenon of building collapse proved intractable over the years?
Honourable Bosun Jeje, a lawyer and grassroots politician and rights activist was Former Commissioner for Housing in Lagos State when the current Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), was the state governor.
In this interview with Alternativeafrica.com in Lagos, Jeje explained in details some of the causes of building collapse and proffer solutions that could curb re occurrence of the menace.
AltAfrica)-How do you feel about the recent building collapse at Ita Faji in Lagos?
Well, the building collapse of recent in Lagos State is a sad thing more so when people lost their lives in it. As a commissioner for Housing, we were very concerned about the structures we had in Lagos State. And the government had been always on top of anything like that.
But after the collapse in Itafaji, I really appreciate the role of Lagos State Government for being pro-active in the step taken. Many of those houses need to be removed really. When you look at the structures in Lagos Island, having worked there in my banking days, I could remember that many of the buildings were packed up. But it is a crowded place. But if you want to remove a house, you must also provide alternatives.
And when I listened to Lagos State Government asking those to be removed to move to a resettlement at Imota and Badagry, I could see that the government is really prepared to take the bull by the horns. Yes, the houses are there and the structures are very defective, they have to be moved and government is really prepared to take a political will to do it. But they have decided to wield the political will . I really commend the Lagos Government for that.
AltAfrica-What again should the government do to forestall re-occurrence of the sad incident?
Well, the next step to take is to look at the approvals for construction and strict monitoring of constructions in the state. It is not just the approval, you see many of the developers taking the approvals and going ahead to have sub-standard materials in the construction of those approvals they have. So, we need to have effective monitoring of those approvals after they have gotten them so that we don’t have issues of collapse buildings again.
So far, it is good, what the government has done in the recent collapse. I must commend the government for the steps taken.
AltAfrica-In specific terms, what are the real causes of building collapse in any environment?
Mostly it is the use of sub-standard materials. People are ready to make profit at any cost. So, you see people that where they should use ten bags of cement, they are ready to use five. So, they are ready to compromise at any level so that they can have the construction going on. But it is now the duty of the monitoring team to ensure that right materials are used.
And then we have to appeal to the citizens again to ensure that they use the right materials so that we don’t have repeat of the sad incident.
AltAfrica-In that wise, who are to blame for the compromise?
Okay, while we blame developers, we have an aspect to encourage the government also to have the political will to take decisions on whatever it has said. It is about the political will that led to some of the building still standing. But once you decide and you are ready to take the bull by the horns, you would not have the buildings still standing up. Once they are marked for demolition, you go ahead and demolish them. And if you need to rehabilitate some people, then you have to make provision for that.
As a lawyer, where does prosecution come in here?
There is nothing wrong in prosecuting anybody found culpable in the matter. Once a building has gone down, and it is discovered that sub-standard materials are the root cause of the collapse, there is nothing wrong in prosecuting the developer.
What advice do you then have for the government over this dangerous trend?
The approval aspect is going to be looked into. We have to ensure that every building has an approval. Outside the approval, there must be the monitoring aspect. We must monitor structures that are being constructed. We must look at it and ensure that right materials are used. These are the measures that will stop the collapse of building. Once you don’t monitor them, developers are ready to compromise at any level. But when they know that the monitoring agents would soon be around, or that they could come around at any time, they would try as much as possible to ensure that they comply with the building instructions. Those are just the aspects we have to reinforce. If we don’t do that, the menace would continue.
Do you suggest compensation for the collapse building owner and the victims affected?
Well, if the government removed a structure, compensation might come in. But when you have a collapsed building, in fact, the government needs to take control and confiscate the collapsed building. But if it is pulled down for right of ways, then the government has to pay compensation.
But when it collapsed due to sub-standard materials used, government would confiscate it.
Well, on the issue of victims, government can come to their aid. It is not compulsory.
How do you see the in-coming governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu vis a vis ability in handling issue of building collapse?
I am happy that the in-coming governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu visited the collapsed building site and has talked about regeneration of buildings in Lagos Island. I am happy about that. That shows the direction the governor-elect would go. Lagos Island actually needs a lot of regeneration. So, since the Governor-elect has even said it, it is heart-warming.
He has been in the system for long and he knows what we have been discussing in the administration of government in Lagos State. So, since he has said he would do that, I would encourage him to go ahead and do it so that we would not continue to have issues of collapsed building any more in Lagos State.
Do you have any Agenda for him?
Well, I handled housing when I was in Lagos Government and I know it is the heart beat for a Mega City. So, I will re-encourage him to focus more on housing. We did a lot when I was in Lagos State Government when I was Commissioner for Housing. And I want him to focus more on housing. Since he has also been in government, I know he has a lot of agenda himself. So, I will just encourage him to go ahead.