There have been lots of talk since the collapse of the 21-storey building in Ikoyi, Lagos, a few weeks back. A lot of experts have spoken and many of them proffer solutions to the incessant building collapses in Lagos, and many also reprimanded Lagos State Government for their lackadaisical attitude over the years.
The rate at which some of the structures, some under construction, have been collapsing has become a great source of concern. Year in, year out, building collapses is now a recurring phenomenon in Lagos, resulting in loss of lives and billions of naira in investments.
Many of these experts have made it known that the high cost of building materials is one of the major reasons why buildings are collapsing in Lagos, while some are of opinion that, developers do like to cut corners in the process of approval and others.
In the wake of all this, City People spoke with the Chairman of Real Estate Developers Association of Nigeria (REDAN), Lagos Chapter, Dr Bamidele Onalaja, who also doubles as the Group Managing Director of RevolutionPlus Property. He gave a distinctive point as to why many developers can’t wait for government to approve their project before they move to site.
Another property player also gave reasons why the Lagos State Government should emulate the process of building approval in the Nigerian Federal Capital City, Abuja. Alhaji Bashir Jimoh also addressed the issue of sizes of irons which are available in the market and which government needs to quickly address.
Below are their responses as to why buildings in Lagos often collapse. Dr. Onalaja says; “In Lagos, as a developer before you can develop anything, you must first get the land and there are different lands with different processes in Lagos. Then, you will get an expert to help you in the process; starting with the architect. Because there’s a lot of things that will be done on architectural design. From there, you get to structural design. The main person that put flex and bone into construction is a structural engineer. When things go wrong, the person to point at is a structural engineer.
Now in Lagos, for example, if you say people don’t bypass approval that won’t be true. So many people in Lagos who build aren’t members of REDAN. We at REDAN work closely with the government to make sure all our approvals are done and vetted.
But the major problem we face daily is that the approval process is long. Take for example, I’m a developer. I have borrowed money from the bank for a certain project but without approval, I can’t build and you know interest is counting on that money, so in that process, people (developer) would be forced to site to start the project and that’s one of the major reasons of building collapse in Lagos”.
The other player who spoke about this issue is Alhaji Bashir Jimoh. He was of opinion that, the professionals, engineers make their own money from the ‘margin’. “Let me give you an example. If I call on an engineer that I want to do the decking of my house and they tell me I would need 16MM 100 pieces, planks. He would do the rough estimate of the materials that would be used and he would now charge you 5 per cent for his own job. This is a lie! The proposed 16MM won’t be used. He would use 12MM and he would cut down on all the materials. It happens when we want to repair our cars. They would deliberately tell you the high cost of material and they won’t buy the same. I have stopped giving my car to a roadside mechanic to repair because how can you tell me to give you anything I have after you repair my car? What would you give your wife and children at home? That means you have bought inferior materials. This point is from the part of professionals.
The second point is from the government. You don’t have any right to cover up your project during construction. In Abuja, you have to get another approval before you can do your lintel. The irons used for the lintel would have to be approved by the government but it’s not so in Lagos. Somebody from the building control would be sent down to snap it and check properly before they can approve it. If you want to build an ordinary duplex in Abuja, the materials to be used have to be checked by the government before you proceed with construction. They would do a video and take it down to their office. But the reverse is the case here in Lagos. Did you see the iron people use to do concrete or decking in Lagos? Some are even using bamboo for decking! Can you imagine? We keep the record of those items used because we sell them and if you want to know what and what type of materials we used, we would show you.
The third point is also the government. The Standard Organisation of Nigeria, what role do they play in all this? How do they measure the kind of iron imported to Nigeria? Chinese, Lebanese, Indians are the ones manufacturing all the irons we have been using. Most times, what they call 12MM is not up to it when you measure it on the strength of the material. Some people would order for 12MM and they would deliver 10MM. It’s a series of connivance. It’s not just about developers”.