- Only Government Can End Building Collapse, Say Experts
Except the government makes a commitment to go tough on enforcement of relevant laws, the scourge of building collapse may not end soon, experts in the built environment have said.
They noted that the cause of the recent collapse on Lagos Island which claimed no fewer than 20 lives was not different from the causes of previous ones in the same area and other parts of the state as well as the entire country.
Some of the building construction experts, who spoke with The PUNCH, lamented that the menace of building collapse had remained because the regulatory bodies lacked the will to enforce laws.
They explained that while the issues had been overflogged and the causes known to almost everyone in the society, only the government had the power to go tough on errant developers, landlords, traditional rulers, thugs or anyone found contravening planning laws or engaging in activities that could lead to the collapse of a building.
“I have visited several sites of collapsed buildings on Lagos Island, these buildings have similar causes and the major reason is that the buildings were not properly constructed. When you talk of quality, many of them were lacking in the area of workmanship and material. Lagos Island also, especially this Ita Faaji area, used to be a swampy area which should not take five-storey buildings,” the 1st Vice -President of the Nigerian Institute of Building, Mr Kunle Awobodu, said.
Awobodu, a former President of Building Collapse Prevention Guild, described the problem of building construction on Lagos Island as huge, adding that those in the government knew the unfortunate situation.
“So how could a serious government official allow some kind of development in that area, I believe it is either as a result of compromise or they have some other issues we don’t know about. When you talk about regulations, I think there has been so much negligence. The government has tolerated illegal development. Regulation failed or became too tolerant to have encouraged shoddy development,” he said.
He stated that as a matter of urgency, the Lagos State Government should suspend construction of any kind of building, especially residential on Lagos Island to forestall more disasters.
The President, Nigerian Institute of Structural Engineers, Mr Eddy Atumonyogo, said there had been a lot of actions and inactions on the part of the government and other stakeholders that had promoted collapse of buildings.
“If faulty designs are approved for construction, there will be a collapse. If design standards are not enforced during construction, there will be a collapse. If fake materials are not detected and are used in construction, it will lead to a collapse,” he explained.
On March 13, a four-storey building on Massey Street, Ita-Faaji, Lagos Island, collapsed in the early hours of the day, killing at least 20 pupils and other tenants, with many others injured.
The incident was one of several cases in the area and in Lagos as a state as well as other parts of the country.
It is estimated that there had been over 100 cases of building collapse in the last seven years with Lagos recording the highest number of both collapsed buildings and number of casualties.
According to Awobodu, the persistency of building collapse in Nigeria brings to fore two categories of failure: those buildings that lacked durability due to past construction errors and buildings that collapsed before maturity, under construction due to design error or substandard human and material resources.
He stated that the cost of conducting structural integrity test and subsequent demolition remained a major reason why old buildings still collapsed and killed occupants while circumvention of due process was responsible for the collapse of buildings under construction.
A Past Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Builders, Lagos State Chapter, Mr Olatunde Jaiyesinmi, said if the government was serious about curbing the problem of building collapse, the professionals in the built environment should be listened to.
“The laws setting up these professional bodies specify their roles in the industry. If these roles are adhered to, building collapse will be minimised if not eliminated,” he said.
Jaiyesinmi, who is also a former chairman of the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Lagos Branch, said about 11 years ago, the then governor of Lagos State had assembled all professionals in the built environment and charged them to proffer solutions to the issue of building collapse.
“Solutions were proffered, but government had no will power to implement them,” he added.
Atumonyogo, however, stated that apart from the government which had a major role to play in enforcing building regulations, there were other actors in the industry such as developers that also needed to act responsibly.
Awobodu stated that some of developers had said they did not have confidence in most of the buildings they ignorantly constructed in the past.
He said such builders had said they would not mind a situation where such buildings could be pulled down for safety purposes but the challenge had always been who would bear the cost of demolition and where the occupants of such building would be accommodated.
But apart from developers, the experts also called on the government to pay more attention to manufacturers and importers of building materials.
They alleged that some importers of building materials were guilty of encouraging factories in China to produce low quality materials that did not conform with the specifications of standard building materials.
The President, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Mr Lekwa Ezutah, said no aspect or detail of building construction should be treated with levity.
“All legislative provisions must be reviewed by the National Assembly and strictly observed, failing which appropriate sanctions must be meted to defaulters,” he said.
On the way forward, the experts said the government especially the Lagos State Government should intensify effort towards urban regeneration in older parts of the city such as on Lagos Island, and also employ more officials to monitor construction of new buildings as well as renovation of older ones.
“The government should find a way of relocating the residents in the areas around Lagos Island towards urban regeneration. It requires huge financial resources because you can’t demolish people’s buildings without providing alternative accommodation but it has to be done. If not, more buildings will still collapse,” Awobodu said.
Ezutah opined that the government, as a matter of urgent necessity, should commission professional planners to carry out in-depth studies of cities with a view to recommending sustainable policies and plans to address the matter.
He stated that cities were the engines of growth in any society; hence matters that affected their viability and liveability should be priorities to the government and all stakeholders.
He also called on the professionals who either build or undertake to supervise buildings on the need to verify the brand, quality, and quantity of materials used for buildings.
“Professional bodies need to step-up in their responsibilities to sanction members who compromise standards. The implementation of Site Analysis Report and Environmental Impact Assessment are to be strictly undertaken for every development,” he said.
Atumonyogo also called on the governments at all levels to ensure they had registered structural engineers in the building approval and control agencies.
“They must ensure that buildings above two floors, and buildings to be erected on poor soil, must be designed and supervised by registered structural engineers. Legislation must be passed to back up this practice. Structural engineering is a specialist branch of civil engineering. We have had enough of these avoidable deaths and the time to act is now,” he added.
COVID-19: CBN Has Disbursed N83B Loans to Healthcare Sector
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday, said the central bank had disbursed over N83.9 billion to pharmaceutical and healthcare practitioners in the country since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Also, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has stressed the need for a slash in the cost of governance in the country, saying a lot more resources could be dedicated towards healthcare and critical infrastructure.
They both said this yesterday, at the premiere of ‘Unmasked’, a documentary on Nigeria’s response to the pandemic held in Lagos.
Emefiele, who was represented by the CBN’s Director of Corporate Communications, Osita Nwasinobi, explained: “Building a robust healthcare infrastructure was also vital from a security perspective, as some nations had imposed restrictions on the exports of vital medical drugs as well as the use of drug patents that could aid in containing the spread of the pandemic.
“As a result, we focused our interventions in the healthcare sector on three areas. Building the capacity of our healthcare institutions supporting the domestic manufacturing of drugs by businesses, and providing grants to researchers in the medical field, in order to encourage them to develop breakthrough innovations that would address health challenges faced by Nigerians.
“In this regard, we disbursed over N83.9 billion in loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners, which is supporting 26 pharmaceutical and 56 medical projects across the country. We were also able to mobilise key stakeholders in the Nigerian economy through the CACOVID alliance, which led to the provision of over N25 billion in relief materials to affected households, and the set-up of 39 isolation centres across the country. These measures helped to expand and strengthen the capacity of our healthcare institutions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to the CBN Governor, the banking sector regulator also initiated the Healthcare Sector Research and Development Intervention Grant Scheme, which was to aid research on solutions that could address diseases such as COVID-19, and other communicable/non-communicable diseases.
He said so far, five major healthcare-related research projects were being financed under the initiative.
Speaking further on the call to increase access to health insurance, Emefiele said: “One key aspect which we would have to address is improving access to healthcare for all Nigerians. A key factor that has impeded access to healthcare for Nigerians is the prevailing cost of healthcare services.
“According to a study by World Health Organisation (WHO), only four percent of Nigerians have access to health insurance. Besides food, healthcare expenses are a significant component of average Nigeria’s personal expenditure.
“Out of pocket expenses on healthcare amount to close to 76 percent of total healthcare expenditure. At such levels of health spending, individuals particularly those in rural communities may be denied access to healthcare services.
“Expanding the insurance net to capture the pool of Nigerians not covered by existing health insurance schemes, could help to reduce the high out of pocket expenses on healthcare services by Nigerians. It will also help to increase the pool of funds that could be invested in building our healthcare infrastructure and in improving the existing welfare package of our healthcare workers.”
“The private sector has a significant role to play in this regard given the decline in government revenues as occasioned by the drop in commodity prices. Leveraging innovative solutions that can provide insurance services at relatively cheap prices could significantly help to improve access to healthcare for a large proportion of Nigerians particularly those in our rural communities.”
According to Emefiele, the CBN remains committed to working with all stakeholders in improving access to finance and credit that would support the development of viable healthcare infrastructure in our country.
On his part, Sanwo-Olu said: “What are the lessons that we have learned with the Covid-19? Looking at all the things that Covid-19 has cost us, how are we preparing ourselves?
“The truth be told the structure of our governance system needs to change particularly the cost of governance. We need to speak up and ask ourselves are we ready to change.”
“When it gets to the election it is the same set of people that will come up and people don’t come out to vote and we end up having 20 percent out of 100 percent that will elect those that will govern. So, the change has to be about all of us. That is how the real change that will help us will come,” he added.
Emefiele Says CBN Will Resist All Attempts to Continue Maize Importation
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has vowed to resist all attempts to continue the importation of maize into the country.
Godwin Emefiele, the governor, CBN, in a statement titled ‘Emefiele woos youths to embrace agriculture’, said: “the CBN would resist attempts by those who seek to continually import maize into the country.”
Emefiele, who spoke in Katsina during the unveiling of the first maize pyramid and inauguration of the 2021 maize wet season farming under the CBN-Maize Association of Nigeria Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, said maize farmers in the country had what it takes to meet the maize demand gap of over 4.5 million metric tonnes in the country.
“With over 50,000 bags of maize available on this ground, and others aggregated across the country, maize farmers are sending a resounding message that we can grow enough maize to meet the country’s demand,” Emefiele said.
He explained that the maize unveiled at the ceremony would be sold to reputable feed processors.
He added that this would in turn impact positively on current poultry feed prices, as over 60 per cent of maize produced in the country were used for producing poultry feed.
Nigeria’s Spending Structure Unsustainable, Budget Head Says
Nigeria’s current trend of spending more money on running the government than on building new infrastructure is unsustainable, the country’s top budget oversight official said.
Low revenue collection and high recurrent costs have resulted in actual capital expenditure below two trillion naira ($4.88 billion) a year for a decade, Ben Akabueze, director-general of the Budget Office, said Tuesday in a virtual presentation.
“Hence, the investments required to bridge the infrastructure gap are way beyond the means available to the government,” Akabueze said. Recurrent spending, allocated towards salaries and running costs, has accounted for more than 75% of the public budget every year since 2011, he said.
Africa’s largest economy requires at least $3 trillion of spending over the next 30 years to close its infrastructure gap, Moody’s Investors Service said in November. The country’s tax revenue as a proportion of gross domestic product is one of the lowest globally, according to the International Monetary Fund.
“Huge recurrent expenditure has constrained the provision of good roads, steady power supply, health care services, quality education and quality shelter,” Akabueze said.
Nigeria should amend its constitution to create six regions to replace the existing 36 states, which each have their own governments, Akabueze said. The country also needs to reduce the number of cabinet ministers to a maximum of 24 from more than 40 and cut federal ministries to fewer than 20 from the current 27, he said.
“No country can develop where a large part of its earnings is spent on administrative structures rather than on capital investment,” Akabueze said.
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