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Lagos’ 2013 building collapse tribunal report yet to be acted upon

Two years after a tribunal of inquiry into collapsed buildings in Lagos State was set up, the building collapse tribunal report has not been acted upon, while more defective buildings are going down, MAUREEN IHUA-MADUENYI writes

A tribunal of inquiry into collapsed buildings was set up by the Lagos State Government on May 20, 2013 to determine the causes of the incessant collapse of buildings, the attendant loss of lives and properties, and recommend appropriate sanctions for individual professionals and groups indicted, but the wait is still on for the implementation or review of the report.

Experts in the industry are of the opinion that ignoring such a report is risky for not just the built environment, but the state and the country in general.

While the wait is on, more buildings have collapsed in the period, including the 2014 Synagogue Church of All Nations, which claimed the lives of about 115 people, and a multi-storey building in Yaba area of the state recently.

The President, Building Collapse Prevention Guild, Mr. Kunle Awobodu, said the group was concerned that despite the efforts by professionals in the built environment to contain the problem of building collapse, governments at both the federal and state levels were not showing enough commitment.

He said, “We feel very concerned that up till now, nothing has been done. The BCPG, at a meeting, resolved to encourage the government to bring this work into fruition; that is, to implement the recommendations of the tribunal; but unfortunately, up till now, there is no sign of positive response from the government.

“I think the issue of building collapse may no longer be in the top priority of the government and more buildings are collapsing unfortunately.”

The immediate past Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, had in 2013 constituted the tribunal in accordance with Section 1 of the Tribunal of Inquiry Law, Cap T6, Laws of Lagos State 2003, to find a lasting solution to the spate of building collapse and failures that had defied solutions in the state.

The decision came after the collapse of Block M20, LSDPC Estate, Oke Afa in Isolo area of the state, which was one of several such incidents in the state that year.

The tribunal members included representatives of the state government and the private sector, with a former Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Architects in the state, Mrs. Abimbola Ajayi as its chairman. Mr. Debo Adewale, an engineer; Mrs. Roli Craig, a lawyer; Mr. Moses Ogunleye, a town planner; Mr. Segun Adedeji, an engineer; and Mr. Biodun Rufai, an architect, were members, while Mr. Kehinde David, lawyer was the secretary.

The tribunal, had among other things, observed that the existing monitoring, control and enforcement procedure in the state was grossly inadequate and that the procedure for monitoring needed to be synchronised between the Lagos State Building Control Agency and the Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority.

It recommended that the government should carry out an audit of all structurally defective buildings in the state for appropriate action; complete action on the forfeiture of collapsed building sites; and that the Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law, 2010 should be effectively implemented in its entirety, particularly with respect to the immediate setting up of the appeals committee and the technical advisory committee, and drafting of regulations pursuant to the law.

Others are that the state government should commence extensive public enlightenment campaign and public education programmes to enhance compliance and facilitate effective enforcement of the law, while the Lagos State Materials Testing Laboratory should establish a monitoring and enforcement unit in compliance with the provisions of Sections 9 and 13 of the Building and Civil Engineering (Construction) Materials Law, 2006, among others.

The report also urged the state to embark on urban regeneration and renewal of its low-cost housing estates through the involvement of key stakeholders, professionals, residents and the appropriate ministries and agencies of government with concurrent responsibilities.

While presenting the report, Ajayi had said that the tribunal found the provisions of the laws regulating the building industry to be adequate and if implemented and strictly adhered to, would ensure reduction in the incidence of building collapse to the barest minimum, but that the laws were rendered ineffective by non-adherence and indiscipline.

She had said then, “Although there is provision for summary trial of violators and offenders in the laws examined by the tribunal, this has never been carried out. There is no record of persons prosecuted or sanctioned for incidence of building collapse by the Ministry of Justice, the Nigeria Police and other law enforcement organs because of political, cultural, administrative and other interventions.

“The recommendations will not only assist the government in finding lasting and sustainable solutions to the incidences of building collapse, but will also provide the needed relief for the issues of distressed buildings, unapproved construction, non-compliance with construction standards and eradication of the practice, and unscrupulous activities of unqualified persons.”

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According to her, all stakeholders, including the government and its agencies, professional bodies, developers, project owners and the general public, need to cooperate with the government to achieve its policy statements and objectives.

During the presentation of the report, Fashola had pledged that the recommendations would be examined and appropriate actions taken.

A professional in the built environment, who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, said that no responsible government would set up an inquiry into something as serious as building collapse and ignore the report thereafter.

“Building collapse is a problem all over the world, but for a government to feel responsible for its citizens enough to set up a tribunal to look into the matter and then ignore the report, which I learnt was classified into short-term to be implemented within 12 months and medium-term to be implemented within 36 months in the past two years, is unfortunate. I don’t know if the state has met on the issue but I know nothing has happened since then. By now, we should have a white paper on the report,” the source stated.

The immediate past Chairman, Lagos Branch of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Mr. Stephen Jagun, said that the new government of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode should be given time to address the issue and others since the past administration did not have time to implement the report.

“The current governments, both at the federal and state levels, are still trying to find their feet and settle down. Most of them are still fresh and not on second term; so, they are overwhelmed and I believe that they will settle down to see all the challenges on ground and take them one after the other,” he said.

Jagun added that the onus was now on the supervising ministry in the state to push for those things, especially the report, which should be implemented.

Awobodu also urged the Ambode administration to look not only into the report, but all the efforts being made to solve the issue of frequent collapse of buildings holistically.

“This should be on the priority list of the current government,” he said.


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