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Published On: Wed, Jul 24th, 2019

Limits of engineering failure

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In the last one week, Nigeria has recorded two major incidents of building collapse. Both are deadly. The first occurred on July 15 at Delimi in Jos North local government area of Plateau state. National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) gave the fatality figures as 14 dead, including the owner of the 3-storeyed building and his pregnant wife, and 4 injured. The second was an uncompleted building meant for a hotel at Abraka in Ethiope East council area. It came down on July 20. Several people were feared dead.
Speaking about the Jos incident, Nurudeen Musa, leader of the Search and Rescue Operations team of NEMA at its North-Central office, said the collapsed house belonged to one Rufai Kabiru. The Plateau Police Command while confirming the incident Monday night, had announced that three persons lost their lives in the incident, seven severely injured, while seven others were rescued unhurt. However, Musa told journalists that the death toll increased at the end of the the rescue operation conducted by a joint team from NEMA, State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), the International Red Cross and security agencies. “As at this (Tuesday) afternoon, we recorded 14 deaths and four persons severely injured in the collapsed building’’, he said.
The Abraka incident happened after a downpour on a Saturday morning. Four workers who had arrived early for the day’s job were feared dead.
We deplore the frequency of these avoidable accidents. We recall that school on the second floor of a building in Lagos collapsed very early this year, killing several pupils. Also in Lagos, on 12 September 2014, a guesthouse located within the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) premises around the Ikotun-Egbe area collapsed completely to the ground. NEMA and other emergency services were criticized for withholding information about the accident and much remained unclear about the number of deaths and their nationalities. Figures released showed that 84 South Africans, one Zimbabwean and 30 others were killed.
Three government agencies (Nigeria Building and Road Research Institute (NBBRI), Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG)) examined the site found several structural “inadequacies”. There was also failure to provide movement joints that could have absorbed any movement due to creep, contraction, expansion and differential settlement.
The Lagos state governor then, Babatunde Fashola, promised a thorough investigation and the trial of whoever was whoever played a role in the accident. Timothy B. Joshua, owner of The Synagogue, failed to appear at a November 2015 hearing. His lawyers filed multiple applications to stay the proceedings. Five years on, the case still has not gone trial.
Something ought to be done fast to stop this frequency of buildings collapsing. Often these are structures owned by private persons who use inferior materials and employ non-professionals to build the hoses. This is all to cut costs, but they put the lives of innocent souls in big danger. We urge COREN and other agencies of government whose responsibility it is to ensure building safety to be up and doing. Prosecution of those whose buildings have collapsed, killing their occupants, would go a long way to ensure people use only building plans approved by government.

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