Last week, three people died while about nine others were taken to hospital when an uncompleted building collapsed in the Dutse Alhaji area of Abuja.
Of course the Abuja incident is not the first; there have been countless incidents like it in times past. For instance, on May 26, 2008, an uncompleted three storey building collapsed in Iba, Lagos. Three people, a woman, her son and her daughter who had been “squatting” in the building died in the incident. About 72 hours later, another building collapsed at Eyota Estate in Ikorodu leading to the loss of six lives.
Also on June 30, 2009, a building collapsed in the Iddo Terminal of the Nigeria Railway Corporation in Lagos, killing eight people and wounding many others.
Street Journal’s findings have revealed that different factors could cause a building to collapse. In the Lagos area, one of the leading causes according to building experts is salinity. Other causes include age as well as the use of inadequate materials and the conversion of such buildings from their original purposes.
Interaction with building experts revealed that salinity can cause the concrete in buildings to become brittle, especially where such buildings are left undeveloped for some time. When salt acts on the concrete, it becomes brittle while its effect on iron rods causes corrosion and eventually rusts. Street Journal found out that areas that are close to the lagoon are at a very high risk of such as a result of the salt content of the water.
Another factor that has led to the collapse of many buildings is the use of substandard materials. In the course of erecting structures, many substandard materials are put into use thus making the resultant building itself substandard, regardless of the beauty.
Checks revealed that the Railway building that collapsed in 2009 was originally built as a warehouse about forty years before it was renovated and converted for residential purpose.
Street Journal found out that the building which was originally a warehouse underwent a remodelling of some sort and became a two storey building which was rented out as a residential building through a caretaker.
It has become normal in Nigeria to convert buildings from what they were originally intended for without obtaining the necessary approval from the government.
Interestingly, it has also been found out that most of the uncompleted buildings that have collapsed have people living in them. In the case of the Dutse Alhaji building, work had been stopped on the structure because the standard was described as being low. Scores of people however cashed in on that as the stoppage provided them with free accommodation. Nigerians’ attitude to work has also contributed greatly to the collapse of many buildings, especially the involvement of corrupt officials who would approve the erection of structures anywhere as long as the price is right.
While it is being said that there might be no solution in sight unless some necessary steps are taken, the main cause of such incidents has been traced to the non-enforcement of existing laws in the country. In most parts of Nigeria, Town Planning authorities have been seemingly untroubled by collapsed buildings. Laws are barely enforced and it is obvious that nothing is done to ensure that standards are adhered to. Buildings marked for demolition years ago are still standing in many towns and cities. \To restore sanity in the sector, monitoring teams that would be made up of experts would need to be set up while there should be a set standard for materials. Checks also need to be put in place to ensure that buildings being erected are up to the approved set standard.
Conversion of buildings for purposes other than their original purposes should be discouraged.