By Joseph Olaoluwa, TODAY NEWS AFRICA
I may not be a building expert but I know the importance of a good foundation. I may not know the specific instruments or materials needed and the varying quantities that should be mixed to obtain the desired result, but I know that without any rock solid foundation, no building can stand the test of time. The importance of a good foundation cannot be ignored in erecting structures; that is why foundations are usually the first thing to be constructed. In the final analysis, the base- foundation determines the superstructure that will in future be erected. Therefore, if there is no foundation, there is nothing to even start to build with.
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What is worrisome these past few weeks are the avalanche of bad news renting our ears. First was Ethiopian Airline ET302 that killed 157 passengers on board and the loss of an erudite Professor that was well respected home and abroad. Next is the consecutive tale of building collapse that took place in the space of two weeks, fingering Lagos and Ibadan respectively. In Ita Faaji in Lagos State, a three storey building claimed no fewer than 20 lives including that of school children and adults; four days later, another three storey building in Molete, Ibadan collapsed trapping several people in the process.
On the surface, the issue of building collapse in these two main cities is laughable. Going by a lot of factors. If we are to seemingly evaluate the expertise of labour in the educated west compared to the neglected north, we might shrug our shoulders and say, “this shouldn’t happen,” due to the professionalism always allocated to builders that come from that region and the cost of living and building materials there. However, it has happened and gloating over it will not solve any problems. Many building professionals in their various articles on building collapse and in evaluating the matter at hand have stated that several property developers have wilfully ignored the building code. Others have cited several instances that could cause a building to collapse like: wrong materials, greed on the part of developers which is passed down to contractors and then down to labourers to build substandard structures. This even boils down to the quality of building materials in the market and the decision by labourers to reduce the quantity of gravel as against cement, water, sand and stone. In one article, blames were even apportioned to the type of water available to labourers. As quoted in the article on Vanguard, the expert said our water in Nigeria is not clean. He also buttressed his point by saying when we make use of unclean water to mix cement, we should not expect to get the same strength with clean water.
A cursory look at the recent data of building collapse in Nigeria will stir you in your seat. There were 33 building collapses in Lagos State and 22 in Abuja in 2012; 17 buildings collapsed in Lagos and 20 in Abuja in 2013, 13 buildings collapsed in Lagos and two in Abuja in 2014. A report by the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, showed that over fifty-four cases of collapsed buildings were recorded in 2017 across the country. This is as reported by the Punch Newspaper. Going by these stats, one can begin to imagine how many lives would have been lost in building crashes before the fire services or rescue services would have rescued the people involved; knowing the kind of country Nigeria is and the disregard for human lives until a public outcry is made to the public.
More so, better imagined is the worry of Sherifat Mosere, who lives behind the collapsed building at 15, Oke Street, Ita Faaji, and lamented that the incident had rendered her 99-year-old grandmother bedridden. “It also fell on our 99-year-old grandmother, Iya Surulere, who is currently at the General Hospital, receiving treatment,” was her response to The Guardian.
Yekini Ayoola said his five-year-old grandson, Fawaz, was still trapped in the building, while the father of another survivor, Tony Ikueze, said his eight-year-old Chiamaka had gone to the school on her own. Even though luckily by divine providence, their children were part of the lucky survivors.
I think it is high time we revisited the wilfully ignored building code with licenses issued to certified developers. Once again, we must turn back to education in producing certified and qualified builders not expert technical drawing students and surveyors who haven’t got the requisite experience to build in Nigeria. I think we as a Nation should be past the era of substandard products and builders by now. I had once joked how the Nigeria Standard nine-floor building in Jos would have been by now if it was built by Nigerians. All our long standing structures in Nigeria today were built by Europeans, not us. This fact is quite shameful to all Nigerian Architects, Surveyors and would-be-builders. As a challenge, I urge for a status quo and reorientation towards standard buildings that would not earmarked for demolition years after.
As a nation, it is sad that we are in this mess. However, what would be disastrous is if nothing is done to forestall a reoccurrence after all these promises by the Governor-elect and stakeholders has been brought to fore.
If the foundations be destroyed, what then shall the righteous do?