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Published On: Fri, Nov 1st, 2019

SON, stakeholders and the task of saving Nigeria’s building sector

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R-L: Director General, Standards Organization of Nigeria, Mr. Osita Aboloma, addressing steel manufacturers in Lagos recently

By Miriam Humbe

Building collapse incidents and the attendant loss of valuable lives and property is becoming worrisome. The number of precious lives lost, devastating injuries, economic loss, and the trauma of an equally homeless population cannot be quantified. The figures are disturbingly staggering, placing the need on relevant authorities to act, and timely too, to erase this ugly trend.

Recent incidents
With barely two months to end the 2019 year, the nation was yet again shocked by reports of double building collapse incidents in Lagos where lives and property were lost causing the nation. Lagos state government through the General Manager, LASEMA, Dr. Femi Oke-Osanyintolu has recommended full implementation of the existing law on collapsed building in the state. This was followed by another incident two weeks later in Jos, Plateau state, precisely, October 27, where scores of persons narrowly escaped death from a two-storey building collapse at Butcher Lane, Dilimi, Jos North Local Government Area. An eye witness who identified himself as Nura said the building fell at about 3 p.m. without any prompting, and that it was neither raining nor was there any vibration that could have caused the building to go down. About four months earlier, a similar incident occurred in the area when a three-storey building hosting a pharmacy shop collapsed killing the owner of the building, his wives and several others.

Experts reveal possible causes
Meanwhile, experts have attributed the use of substandard materials, sharp practices such as the activities of quacks to have been responsible for the incidences of building collapse in the country, with some of the major causes said to include bad design, fire, lack of proper supervision, faulty construction and alteration of approved drawings etc.
Although incidents of collapsed buildings, collapsed bridges or collapsed structures of various types may not be peculiar to Nigeria, the recent situation is becoming quite embarrassing and unacceptable. Nigeria’s foremost commercial capital, Lagos, with its large population, has the highest ratio of building collapse cases compared to other states in the federation. To stem the tide, experts have advocated the Nigerian Building Code implementation to overhaul the construction industry.

Alarming figures
The figures are alarming and worrisome. This places the aggregate percentage of building collapse occurrence between 1987 and 1992 and 1993 and 1998 to be the same as well as annual percentage of reported cases within the same period. The same happened between year 2000 and up to date. This implies that, between 1987 and 1992, 13.68 per cent of the total collapse occurred; the same between 1993 and 1998. But 1987 recorded the highest frequency of collapse between 1987 and 1992 with a frequency of 7 cases, about 5 per cent of the total period and 37 per cent for the class interval.
Within the period, 1991 has the lowest reported cases of 2 amounting to about 10 per cent. 1995 appears to be the model year in reported cases of collapse between 1993 and 1998 when 8 cases were recorded which amounts to 5.76 per cent of the total and over 42 per cent for the class interval. The least frequency of 1 case, about 0.72 per cent occurred in 1993. The class interval that witnessed highest number of reported cases was between 1999 and 2003 followed by 2004 and 2008.
In 2018, Director-General, Nigerian Building and Roads Research Institute (NBRRI), Prof Danladi Matawal, at the Annual National Conference and Exhibition of the Nigerian Institution of Metallurgical, Mining and Materials Engineers in Abuja released staggering figures of four building collapse incidences which occurred in the country between 2014 and 2016. The figures stated that building collapse incidents claimed 199 lives within a three year span alone.
Matawal said that research efforts by NBRRI revealed that poor supervision and the use of inferior materials in the construction of buildings was responsible for the high incidence of building collapse in the country.
In 2011, the number of building collapses that took place in Nigeria alarmingly followed the pattern of previous years with Lagos, recording the highest number of incidences involving buildings under construction and some already in existence for years.
In Abuja and across the nation, buildings collapsed at Jabi, Garki, Mpape, Mararaba and, early in 2012, at Gwarinpa Estate. Also, major building collapses were recorded in Enugu, where three buildings fell within one month, while Ibadan, Sokoto and Yenagoa also witnessed collapses. Overall, 2012 witnessed 33 collapses in Lagos alone and 22 in Abuja. NBRRI also said the worst cases were those of the Synagogue Church on September 12, 2014, where 115 people were killed and several injured, and the Lekki Garden construction on March 18, 2016, with 35 dead and several injured.
Again, between February and May, 2019, no fewer than 29 persons were reportedly killed and 76 sustained injuries from 13 building collapse incidents across the country. Experts say tons of structural failures occur yearly that are hardly reported or attract public notice because there is yet no up-to-date official statistics of building collapse.

CORBON recommends effective collaboration amongst regulators
Meanwhile, Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON) has said that effective collaboration amongst regulators, professional associations, consumer advocates, the mass media and other interested parties and stakeholders in the building and construction sector is the solution to incessant collapse of buildings and structures in Nigeria. CORBON called for closer monitoring, control and enforcement of quality of materials through the establishment of more materials testing laboratories across the country. The enormity of the situation demands that all hands be on deck.

SON provides requisite standards
As the body mandated to ensure standards in the country, the Standards Organization of Nigeria, (SON) in its efforts towards reducing or curbing building collapse in the country to the barest minimum, has ensured the provision of requisite standards for all materials used in building and construction.
SON’s Director General, Osita Aboloma said, these standards are developed by the stakeholders representing all the professional bodies in the building sector, (NIA, NITP, NIB, Nigerian Institution of Quantity Surveyors, CORBON, Nigerian Society of Engineers, Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria etc), tertiary and research institutions, public sector Institutions like NBRRI and other interested parties like steel manufacturers and importers, property developers etc.
He revealed that the Organization has in place the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP) for the certification of all locally manufactured products used in the building and construction industry as well as an offshore conformity assessment programme (SONCAP) for the certification of all imported building materials from the countries of origin.
SON officers conduct inspections of all local building materials factories routinely to ensure adherence to standards, provide prompt feedbacks on observations and ensure compliance by local manufacturers. Recalcitrant manufacturers have their sites shut down until they take recommended corrective actions and sometimes get prosecuted in cases of perceived deliberate production of life-threatening products.
The SON works with sectoral bodies in collaboration to promote self-regulation and voluntary adherence to standards. Also, there are unique identification marks on all steel products whether locally manufactured or imported for traceability. Aboloma said, “Our officers work with relevant regulatory and security institutions at the state levels through our 42 State offices to promote adherence to standards as well as enforcement where necessary.
“In addition, SON does carry out massive stakeholders’ sensitization programmes across the country through its 42 State offices on the dangers of building collapse. It also has in place a standing Task Force to monitor the steel sector as well as a special intervention squad called Surveillance, Investigation and Monitoring Unit under the Director General’s office to respond to issues of standards infractions anywhere in the country. This Unit complements the activities of the state offices where weekly market surveillance activities are carried out to monitor products in the markets.
“SON has also been in the forefront of harmonization of standards, conformity assessment procedures and signing of mutual recognition agreements of quality marks in the West Africa region and the entire continent under the auspices of the African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO). This is to promote seamless trading across borders as well as reduce the dumping of substandard materials by one country on another.
“As provided in the SON Act 14 of 2015, seizures have been made to the tune of several hundreds of millions of Naira, while life-endangering products including building materials have been destroyed as a last resort. Offenders where practicable are made to take corrective actions and fined heavily as provided by law”.

Prosecution of manufacturers of substandard building products
Over the last two and half years, SON has stepped up its standards enforcement regime through prosecution of offenders in collaboration with the office of the Attorney General of the Federation for all purveyors of substandard products including building materials.
To date, more than twenty prosecutions have been embarked upon with some convictions obtained, while many cases are still ongoing across the country to promote administration of justice and standards compliance.

More collaborative efforts
The SON Director General, in an emergency meeting with steel producers in Lagos, admonished local steel manufacturers to adhere strictly to standards specifications in order to be competitive in the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). He said the meeting was to prepare operators of the organised steel sector for the imminent implementation of the AfCFTA .
At the meeting, Executive Director, KAM Industries, Limited and spokesman for the Steel Group, Bola Awojobi, stated that the issue of collapsed buildings would be reduced drastically if all steel products meet the requirements of the applicable standards, pledging the cooperation of the sector operators with SON to ensure continual improvement in the quality of their products.
Effective collaboration amongst regulators, professional associations, consumer advocates, the mass media and other interested parties and stakeholders in the building and construction sector is the solution to incessant collapse of buildings and structures in Nigeria.
This was contained in a paper presented by Mr. Osita Aboloma Esq. at the 2018 Builders Congress organized by the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria in Abuja.
Titled “Standardising Materials, Products and Processes”, the paper enumerated the availability of national standards for virtually all materials in the building sector and urged professionals to adhere to them strictly, in the interest of the nation and its people.
The D-G said SON was in the process of retooling the National Standardization and Quality Assurance Committee for the Building and Construction Industry in conjunction with relevant stakeholders to address issues relating to standards development, review, adoption, implementation and enforcement.
He enumerated the efforts of SON in tackling the circulation of substandard products through the Mandatory Conformity Assessment Programme (MANCAP) and offshore Conformity Assessment Programme (SONCAP) for locally manufactured and imported products respectively.
Aboloma reminded the gathering that the SON Act of 2015 has empowered the organisation to seize substandard products and prosecute culprits who engage in production or sale of such products including building materials.
Keynote speaker, Mr. Femi Falana SAN, urged professionals in the building and construction industry to take optimum advantage of the Presidential Executive Order 5 on planning and execution of projects to expose and prosecute quacks in the system.
Mr. Falana offered his legal team to the CORBON in collaboration with other stakeholders to come up with an all-encompassing legislation to regulate practice in the building environment.
Industry watchers believe that constant awareness campaigns on the dangers of quackery and non-adherence to standards will save the nation’s building sector and valuable lives and property.

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