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Engineers suggest ways to tackle building collapse in Nigeria

Amid recent incidents of building collapse in the Lagos area, members of the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers (NISTRUCTE), last week, sought for collaboration among professional bodies in the built environment as a means of tackling structural failures in the country.

The institution noted that recent developments in the housing sector are reaching alarming heights and all bodies should rise up to the occasion.

NISTRUCTE’s President, Dr. Samuel Ilugbekhai, who spoke at a press briefing in Lagos, said the institution was not surprised at the higher frequency and fatality rate of collapse of buildings in the country at present. “We are deeply concerned because the situation can get worse and more lives may be lost”.

To address the situation the group came up with 18- point recommendation that included the following: That Structural design should be handled by only competent and qualified Structural Engineers; Checking and approval of buildings for construction should be done by, or under, the supervision of a competent and qualified Structural Engineer in the office of the relevant approving authorities, and that construction of buildings should be handled by a team of competent technical personnel one of whom must be a Structural Engineer to ensure the structural integrity and efficiency of the structure throughout its life span.

Besides, it recommended that government should appreciate the professional competencies of the Nigerian engineers, especially, structural engineers and engage them meaningfully for positive growth and development of country, noting that a nation that berates her professionals “only bolsters in the euphoria of peripheral development that is not deep rooted and not sustainable on the long run”.

It was also suggested that engineers in general and Structural engineers in particular, should request for a revisit of the Engineering Policy of Nigeria and restructure it for the accelerated development of the country and should be involved in the formulation of a Structural Engineering Policy for Nigeria.

“Engineering being the bedrock of development, as a Nation we should realize that there is no truthful technology transfer from one Country to the other. Rather, technology is conceived, nurtured and developed by patriotic professionals of the nation. We must therefore have a deliberate plan to develop the Nigerian professional, including the Nigerian engineers, especially, structural engineer”.

They also canvassed for effective enforcement of production of high yield steel of appropriate sizes by the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) and also to compel steel manufacturers to clearly label their steel products by size, yield strength and issue certificates of quality assurance on every consignment.

Other recommendations are that more Nigerian Universities should offer courses in Structural Engineering at undergraduate level as only the University of Benin is currently doing in Nigeria.

“The University of Benin Structural Engineering programme which was accredited several years ago should be better funded and well equipped with state of the art laboratories, learning materials and more qualified personnel to produce very Competent Young Structural Engineers for Nigeria, while the Governments at all levels should have a deliberate policy for engaging the services of the indigenous qualified structural engineer who will in turn provide employment opportunities for the young and inexperienced graduates, where the can gain experience and be equipped to take future structural engineering responsibilities for the positive development of the country.

The group also warned against the use of beach sand, especially, in Lagos for block making and construction of buildings, citing the negative effects of salt on reinforcement and other components of concrete. Also, it suggested that only clean water should be used for construction of buildings to avoid chemical impurities that react negatively with the components of Concrete.

The immediate past president of the association, Mr. Busola Awojobi, also an engineer, advised that quarries should be effectively monitored in order to ensure that the coarse aggregates (granite) they produce are not permanently damaged and are produced to the appropriate sizes for different types of construction.

He also advocated for skills acquisition certification to be encouraged for construction industry practitioners including professionals and artisans”, adding that despite the lack of will by the appropriate authorities to nip the collapse of buildings in the bud before they happen, the group have consistently taken steps aimed, at least, at creating purposeful awareness.

Similarly, NISTRUCTE’S National Vice-Chairman, Mr. Eddy Atumonyogo, an engineer, also advocate for collective efforts by all professional bodies in the built environment. “We need to protect our environment, our buildings and infrastructure. They are not meant to be a liability to us, but rather assets capable of promoting our general well being”, said Atumonoyogo.

Credit: Guardian Newspaper

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