•Calls on Rivers State to appoint professionals to man its Urban & Regional Ministry
By Kingsley Adegboye
Disturbed by the spate of collapsed buildings across the country, Otuoke Augustine, Principal Partner, Stino Partnership, an architectural firm, and spokesperson, Building Collapse Prevention Guild, BCPG, an organisation championing an end to incessant building collapse in the country, has called on state governments in Nigeria to embrace BCPG as a way of reducing the menace of building collapse in the country to the barest minimum.
Augustine who spoke to Vanguard Homes & Property in an exclusive interview, commended the state of construction industry in the country which he said has improved tremendously from what it used to be in the past, judging from the quality of construction, the quality of technology deployed and the quality of professionals now being used, many of whom are well trained and very experienced.
He noted, however, that inspite of this significant improvement, there has been attendant problems which can be referred to as natural challenges that go with development. Some of these problems, according to him, are quacks in the industry playing crucial, vital and sensitive roles that ordinarily should be played by professionals in the industry.
On challenging issues of building collapse across the country, he said government at state level is not playing its role adequately in ensuring effective control and sanity in the industry.
He said Building Collapse Prevention Guild’s operations in Lagos State have been very effective because of the willingness of the state government to embrace the body as partners to find solution to the rampant incidents of building collapse in the state and generally improve the lot of the industry in the state.
He pointed out that over the years, BCPG has recorded a lot of success, disclosing that one of such achievements is that it has assisted in training artisans by way of organising workshops, training and seminars for artisans in the industry to ensure safety and adherence to building standards.
The second achievement according to him, is that BCPG has been carrying out enlightenment programme on vital issues in the industry such as issues of regulation, policies as it affects the industry in general, adding that the organisation has been sensitising the government at various levels and relevant regulatory agencies as whistle-blower to discover distressed buildings in order to avert catastrophic consequences in the building industry.
“The body has always assisted in most of the administrative/judicial enquiries into collapsed buildings in Lagos State. For instance, the BCPG played a very crucial role in the enquiries into the Synagogue building collapse, Lekki Garden building collapse and others.
“The support of BCPG in Lagos State has also helped to reduce enormously the incidents of building collapse in the state. My appeal is that all state governments should emulate Lagos State and embrace BCPG.
“Specifically, the recent building collapse in Rivers State could have been averted if things were done properly and professionally. Buildings don’t collapse by accident; basic and necessary things are usually done wrongly, and by the wrong people to necessitate and facilitate a building to collapse.
“This starts from the inception of a project which is procurement of building permit, construction by qualified and certified professionals, adherence of these professionals to quality and standard of construction methodology as demanded by the project type, use of standard and quality materials as well as regulatory control by appropriate control agencies to ensure compliance.
“I will appeal to Rivers State Government to embrace BCPG because by its reason of whistle-blowing activity, it would have been able to detect the challenge of this collapsed building early enough before it collapsed. Rivers State Government should equally improve her regulatory activities in the building industry in the state.
“The government should ensure it appoints professionals to man the State Ministry of Urban & Regional Planning just as medical doctors are appointed to man Ministry of Health and lawyers are appointed to man Ministry of Justice, the state government needs to review the regulatory law and policies governing planning and building construction in the state. It may amaze you to know that since 2003 the Rivers state Urban & Regional Law was enacted, no review has been carried out on that law, neither has any policy review consequent on the law been done for the past 15 years.
“Even the administrative structures which ought to be creations of that law like the state Planning Board and Local Planning Authority have not been created. So, how have they been carrying out the function of issuing building permit and controlling developments outside the purview of that law?
“Since the inception of that law, no building regulations and bye-laws have been issued pursuant to that law. Again, what has been the instrument of development control in that state? This means that all that has been going on in the state has been the rule of arbitrariness”, he noted.