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Collapse of buildings under construction raises concern

The recent collapse of a seven-storey building under construction in Woji GRA in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, tends to suggest that building collapse has become a recurring decimal in Nigeria.

A four-storey building under construction in Jabi District of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) collapsed two months ago leaving many with serious injuries, particularly the workers on site, who were trapped under the debris.

The building collapse in Port Harcourt which claimed eight lives and left several others injured has left in its trail anguish, anger, and frustration.

The Federal Ministry of Power, Works, and Housing’s recent report revealed that between 2012 and 2016 about 54 buildings collapsed in Nigeria.

Rivers State has had its fair share of building collapse, including the recent one. Between 2001 and 2017, the state recorded six cases of building collapse where many persons lost their lives. In 2001, a four-storey building under construction collapsed on the Abacha Road with three deaths recorded. In 2016 another four-storey building went down at the Elelenwo part of the state. Fortunately, there was no death recorded in the incident.

In 2017 a three-storey building collapsed in Alakahia community in Obio Akpor Local Government Area of the state. The building located along the NYSC road, Alakahia, collapsed at about 6.00am while its occupants were still asleep. Fortunately again, no life was lost.

The recent incident has left tongues wagging with all sorts of questions. There are also blame games on who played what role in the incident. About 38 people have been rescued so far. Those that sustained injuries are receiving treatment in various hospitals.

An eyewitness, John Okoro, said the incident occurred at about 5.30pm when many of the workers had gathered to receive their weekly pay.

Okoro said, “As they were waiting to receive their pay there was a loud bang and this was followed by the sound of falling rubbles. At that point, people started running out of the building. In less than 15 minutes the entire building went down. Some lucky people were able to run out of the building while the unlucky ones were trapped.”

There are so many accounts about what might be responsible for the collapse. One version attributed the collapse to the use of substandard materials and another had it that the approval given for the building was for a four-storey because of the nature of the soil.

The latter version is that the structure collapsed on the day the decking on the seventh floor was completed.

“I was made to understand that the original approval for the structure was four-storey building but the contractor added three floors. If you recall, the building collapsed on the day the seventh decking was completed. They just finished casting the seventh decking when the entire building collapsed. A panel of inquiry will unravel the truth about what actually transpired,” said a source.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON) congress in Abuja, the Chairman of CORBON, Prof. Kabir Bala said the incessant building collapse in the country was a serious cause of concern to the body.

He said the body was collaborating with relevant government agencies to stop quackery and standardize the building profession.

“Let me say here that CORBON is deeply concerned with the incident of incessant building collapse across the country,” he said.

“We will not rest until we rid the building profession of bad eggs and quacks. We have been working with government agencies on this and we shall keep this on,” he said.

Human rights lawyer Femi Falana in a keynote lecture at the Builders Congress called on the Federal Government and the CORBON to go after quacks infiltrating the ranks of professional builders in order to reduce incidents of building collapse in the country.

‘’Most of those practicing building profession in the country are not registered with CORBON. Most of them are quacks and they are mostly responsible for building collapse. The government and your body must go after them and fish them out for sanction,’’ he said.

He said the body should make a strong case against giving building contracts to foreigners at the expense local professionals.

“Our leaders are still being affected by colonial mentality that is why they still prefer to award contracts to foreign firms when local ones can actually handle such works. But I will urge to make a strong case so that henceforth you will no longer be left for foreign contractors’’ he said.

Credit: Daily Trust

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