By Emeka Aginam
In the bid to eradicate the incessant collapse of buildings in the country, Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and other stakeholders in the construction sector of the economy have moved for the speedy passage of the bill that will penalize any professional in the building industry involved in cutting corners and doing shoddy job in the process of building construction in the country.
The stakeholders have also called on the federal government to have the political will of investigating the root cause of any collapse building no matter the individuals involved in order to apply appropriate sanctions on defaulters.
The stakeholders told Vanguard the need for the appropriate authorities to implement the building code which was published in August 2006 after about 19 years of commencement of work on it.
Director General of SON, Dr. John Ndanusa Akanya during a technical session at the National dialogue on Building Safe, Living Safe, Curbing the Menace of Collapsed Building organised by Lafarge Cement WAPCO Nigeria Plc as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to celebrate its 50 years of operation in Nigeria harped on the use of sub standard materials in the building and construction industry.
He disclosed that whenever there is a case of collapsed building, the SON will be the first organisation to be blamed. In his words “ Whenever a building collapses, the people will start calling me to say what is SON doing. Let me categorically say that it is not the duty of SON to supervise building.
Our job is to set standards for people to follow. We are not meant to supervise builders nor even enforce penalty on offenders. There is need for a legislation to be enacted to punish professionals who indulge in using substandard materials as well as quacks who pretend to act as professionals in the building industry”
He further disclosed that SON has been making frantic effort in the area of standard elaboration and quality assurance in building and construction materials, adding, “ if I have the best of materials that meet standard requirements and are put together by unqualified personnel, there is that probability that the structure will not stand the test of time”.
To this extent, he called on professional bodies like Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and CORBON, and other professional bodies to ensure proper monitoring and that only qualified personnel handle building/construction projects. These bodies should work together to eliminate these quacks.
In his remark, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Housing and Habitat, Hon. Abubakar Shehu Matazu decried the incessant collapse of buildings, saying that stakeholders in the sector should collaborate to fight the use of substandard materials.
According to him, “ We in the House of Representatives have sponsored a bill meant to take care of quacks and professionals in the building industry that make use of sub standard materials which normally contributes to collapse of building.
The lives of people are very important to us and we try our best to ensure that the bill is passed into law before the current tenure of the House of Representatives comes to an end. The bill has under gone a public hearing and we hope to pass it to law”.
The Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Hon. Nduese Essien commended Lafarge Cement WAPCO for organizing the National Dialogue on Collapsed Building and setting the pace for others to follow.
He stated that his Ministry has always cautioned Nigerians to desist from changing approved building plans and hiring quacks to design and build houses for them
According to him, “ We had also advised block moulders to adhere to the standard mixture in the production of blocks. It is sad to report that despite the meeting, which was well attended, we have continued to recorded cases of collapsed buildings especially in Lagos and Abuja. We cannot accept the growing threat posed to life and property by the activities of criminally minded builders and developers. That is why all stakeholders in the building sector must now accept their share of responsibility to stop further collapse of buildings in the country”.
Nduese announced that very soon his Ministry will inaugurate an Advisory Committee to drive the implementation of the National Building Code. In his words, “ I want to use this medium to appeal to the National Assembly to give accelerated passage to some of the housing sector bills currently before it. We have found that without a strong legal framework, our dream of having a robust housing sector will continue to elude us”.
Speaking to Vanguard, President of Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Mallam Mohammed Yari urged builders to always seek approvals of building plans before they commence construction.
According to him, “ Planning is the first thing to do when any person wants to build. You have to start by looking at the place you want to build and do appropriate survey and then you get architect to do the drawing and design before engaging other professionals. Another thing, government should not encourage individuals to be building, but should create enabling environment for property developers in the private sector to build strong large scale houses for people to buy. In that way, individuals will not be cutting corners and using sub standard materials in building their houses.”
Engr. Victor Oyenuga, President, Nigeria Institute of Structural Engineering, said a civil engineer who is not a corporate member of COREN should not be entrusted with the structural safety of any structure_building, culverts, bridges, dams, etc.
According to him, “ Building, designer must be someone who is certified to carry out design. However the best design by the most qualified designer does not guarantee safe structure except the materials for construction are of the right quality”
To this extent, he enjoined practitioners to always use right materials that suit a particular structure they intend to build. “ In addition to good design and good materials, good workmanship with adequate quality control is desired” he added.