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Lagos moves against building collapse

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Lagos moves against building collapse

Lagos State government has embarked on demolition of 40 distressed buildings in the metropolis to stem incident of building collapse. DAYO AYEYEMI reports

 

In a bid to stem incessant cases of building collapse, Lagos State Government, through its agency on building control, has commenced demolition of identified distressed buildings in the metropolis. Out of 40 distressed buildings slated for demolition across the state in the first phase, New Telegraph gathered that 34 of them are located on Lagos Island. Due to the peculiarity of Lagos Island Central Business District, where the incidents of building collapse are prevalent, the government’s bulldozers were moved into the enclave last Monday and five major structures, out of 13 billed for demolition on the first day, were pulled down. The demolished buildings are 152, Adeniji Adele street; 3, Ajanaku street; 54, Arolaya street; 7, Bamgbose street; and a building opposite Ebute Ero Police post on the island.

It would be recalled that the state government had in 2006 identified 114 distressed buildings on the island and the owners were asked to remove them. Also, between 2007 and 2O13, it was established by the Abimbola Ajayi-led Tribunal of Inquiry on Collapsed Buildings that 130 incidents occurred in the metropolis, resulting to loss of lives and properties worth several billions of naira. In order to put an end to the ugly incident, General Manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency (LABSCA), Mr Lekan Shodehinde, an engineer, said the agency had the approval of Governor Akinwumi Ambode to remove the 40 identified dilapidated/distressed buildings in the first phase of the exercise. The buildings being demolished ranged from two-storey to four-storey buildings as the occupants had already relocated.

Shodeinde said the buildings had been distressed overtime and that the government had served owners of the structures notices. Justifying the state government’s move, the LASBCA boss stated that it would no longer wait for owners of distressed buildings to remove them on their own as experience had shown that such owners do not always remove the structures. The general manager stated that if after the test had been carried out and the property was found to be unsafe, it would be demolished.

Experts’ view

When contacted, building industry practitioners described the exercise as a right step in the right direction, which is long-overdue to save the nation embarrassment and huge loss of lives and properties. According to a former Chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Mr. Bashir Asimiyu, “The exercise is coming at a time most people are giving up on issues of building collapse.” He described distressed buildings as death traps, saying that incident of collapse building had become a setback for the building industry in the country. He noted that one of the best things the state government could do is to bail citizens out of the shame associated with failed structures. A former lecturer, Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, Mr Suraj Borkini, a builder, corroborated Asimiyu, applauding the state government for the bold step taken to stem building collapse in the state.

Signs of distressed buildings

Shedding light on how to identify distressed buildings, Borkini listed many factors ranging from expiration of the life-span of the building to inadequate maintenance, impact of water and cracks. The lecturer explained that distressed buildings could be known through dilapidated nature of the house, structural defects, abuse of the building, impact of excess weight, soil instability, foundation failure and rain among others. In any building where these physical defects manifest, he stated that people would not need to carry out integrity test before the structure gives way.

“Physically, one can see some of the signs, such as roof going out of stability, impact of nature and wrong foundation among others,” he said. Beyond demolition, Borkini said it was very important to find out when the identified distressed buildings were constructed and what can be done to restore them. “The exercise may not reduce the number of building collapse, what about new buildings that are collapsing,” he said. Asimiyu narrated his experience when he was living in Oke Arin Street, Lagos Island, saying: “The stair case was wrongly designed, walls were falling, foundation was shaking and there were cracks all over.

” According to experts at www.rocksoildearth.com, when there are cracks in walls and ceilings of a building, doors and windows not closin properly, these are signs that the building is moving. The experts pointed out that many factors could cause a building to become distressed, adding that a detailed geotechnical investigation would be needed to determine the contributing factors and develop a plan to stop the damage. “Causes of building movement can include foundations not designed for the site conditions or not constructed to the standard; excessive drying or wetting of the soil profile causing the soil to shrink or swell under your foundations,” they said.

Remedies

In order to rid the country of distressed buildings, Borkini urged the government and home builders to stop giving house construction contracts to just anybody, who does not know what to do irrespective of whether he is a professional or not. He added: “There is need to guarantee sources of adequate supply of materials and stop people from cutting corners. There is need to solve the problem of inadequate consortium, where one person wants to do everything. There is also the need to check design for errors and eliminate such.” Asimiyu supported the approach of whistle-blowing, saying that there was need for citizens to monitor what is going on within their neighbourhoods. A former President of NIOB, Mr. Chucks Omeife, stated that until the building control agency and town planning regulatory authorities made engagement of builders for all building projects mandatory, structure would continue to collapse.

Last line

The demolition of distressed building should be carried out holistically to rid the nation of precarious buildings that are waiting to collapse.

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