Ikoyi building collapse

THE collapse of a 21-storey building on Gerrard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, a week ago, was a tragedy of international proportions due to the involvement of indigenous and expatriate casualties and the scale of the project.

Though the Lagos State Government has established a committee of experts to probe the catastrophe, prima facie evidence shows that the “Nigerian factor” which has kept us backward, was allowed to creep into the construction of such a gigantic and sensitive edifice.

The failure of regulation and governance are obvious. Whenever there is a difference in the facts provided over an issue by different levels of the same government, then someone is attempting to conceal something.

The General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, LASBCA, Gbolahan Oki, had disclosed at the site of the collapsed building that the developer over-reached his approval limits. According to him: “He got an approval for a 15-storey building and he exceeded his limits. I am on ground here, and the materials he used are inferior and terrible”.

Surprisingly, the Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat, later on came to the site and countered Oki.

He said the developer, Femi Osibona, got approval for 21 storeys, but that the problem was in the manner he went about the construction. Oki was suspended indefinitely by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

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Either way, the Lagos State Government did not do enough to prevent this tragedy. If the developer was given approval for 15 floors, why did the LASBCA fail to stop work at the site when he went higher than that? Why did government fail to monitor the quality of materials used? How safe are other numerous high-rise buildings springing up all over Lagos?

The classification of Lagos as a “mega” city or “smart” city should go beyond demolishing slums to build high-rises or collecting humongous tenement rents.

Those high-rise buildings being built in places like Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lagos Island and Ikeja must follow international standards in terms of professionalism by the developers and uncompromised enforcement of regulation by government officials.

In this case, both failed; people died with billions of naira lost. This cannot go unpunished to serve as a deterrence.

The ongoing probe must uncover all those who, by acts of commission and omission, failed to play their roles to prevent the tragedy. The truth must be told.

As suggested in some quarters, the probe panel should go beyond government’s hand-picked members. The conflicting facts show that elements within government failed in their duty. To minimise the possibility of concealment, let there be independent observers in the panel.

We commend the consultants, Prowess Engineering,  for an exemplary act of professionalism in pulling out of the project when the developer allegedly started to compromise standards.

That is sterling conduct.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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