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Unending trials of collapsed building culprits

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For about four years now, two major cases bordering on building collapse in Lagos have been in court without a foreseeable end to punish the culprits. DAYO AYEYEMI reports

 

There has been a spike in the number of building collapse in the country with over 20 cases recorded in the last 15 years.
Of more concern is the lack of punishment for those responsible for the collapses until the public outcry that greeted the collapsed guest house of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) in 2014, where over 100 people including foreigners lost their lives.

This was followed by another four-storey building belonging to Lekki Worldwide Estate Limited, the developers of Lekki Gardens, in 2016 in Lagos. More than 30 people died in the collapse.
Before these two incidents, owners and developers of building collapse have been walking freely as if they were above the law.

The best the nation could do as to checkmate them was to set up and inquiry like the Abimbola Ajayi-led Lagos State Tribunal of Enquiry on Building Collapse in 2012 to unravel causes of structural failures in the state.
The tribunal noted that Lagos State had recorded 135 cases of building collapse in the last seven years.
It also identified gross indiscipline and corruption by all stakeholders as major causes of building collapse.

These, it said, rendered the relevant state laws ineffective.
Other factors responsible for building collapse range from quackery to poor workmanship, use of substandard materials, lack of supervision, poor foundation and structural defect among others.
However, it is interesting to know that four years after the collapse of SCOAN’s guest house building and two years after the Lekki Gardens’ incident, members of the public, especially professionals in the building environment, are worried over the unending court trials of the alleged culprits.

Trials
It would be recalled that the Lagos State Government filed 111 counts against the Registered Trustees of the Synagogue Church of All Nations and four others after a Coroner’s inquest indicted the church and the contractors of the building.

Charged alongside the Trustees of SCOAN are Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company; Jandy Trust Limited; and two engineers, who built the collapsed structure.
Also, the Lagos State government had, in 2016, arrested and arraigned the Managing Director of Lekki Gardens Estate Limited, Richard Nyong, before the Lagos Division of the State High Court over alleged complicity in the events leading to the collapse of a building in Lekki area of the state on March 10, 2016.

Arraigned alongside Nyong before Justice Sybil Nwaka were Lekki Gardens’ Executive Director, Sola Olumofe; the firm’s contractor, Odofin Taiwo; Omolabake Mortunde; Omotilewa Joseph; Lekki Gardens; Get Rich Investment Limited and HC Insight Solution Limited.

The defendants were charged with six-count charges for failure to obtain building approval for the collapsed building and involuntary manslaughter, offences contrary to and punishable under Section 75 (1) of the Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law of Lagos State 2010, and Section 229 of Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015 respectively.

As at the time of filing this report, New Telegraph gathered that the two matters have been going through hearings and adjournments in the last four years. Up till now, the cases are still pending in courts.
Expressing concern, first Vice President, Nigeria Institute of Building (NIOB) and former President of Building Collapse and Prevention Guild (BCPG), Mr. Kunle Awobodu, noted that the trials were still on-going but expressed worry over the slow procedures of the courts.
Besides, he raised another issue about what has happened to the sites of collapse buildings, pointing out that by the law in Lagos State, government ought to have taken possession.
He said: “Many buildings that collapsed, the Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning Law 2010 says that such land should be confiscated by government. How are we sure that this is being followed? We need to verify if this section of the law is working.”

Government’s reaction
Responding to questions on justices for the high profile cases during the ministerial briefing of the state’s Ministry of Justice last week, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Adeniji Kazeem, said that government would ensure justice in the cases against the founder of Synagogue Church of All Nations, Prophet T.B Joshua and other high profile cases.

On the slow pace of justice over Synagogue building collapse, Kazeem added: “The wheels of justice moves slowly, especially when it is a high profile case. As you know, that case has been on for a couple of years. Only recently, the prosecution closed its case. And usually when the prosecutor closes it case, the defence counsel is expected to open his.

“Rather than do this, the defense counsel filed a no case submission, claiming that the state government has made no case against the clergy. They lost that no case submission. So they have been instructed to open their defense so that the matter can move forward. And I believe that very soon, the case will come to conclusion. “

Stakeholders’ stand
Extremely disturbed by frequent cases of built collapse in Nigeria, building environment professionals have tasked themselves on self-regulation and the need to commence the use of National Building Code (NBC), which stipulates minimum conditions for all stages of building project delivery.
The latest resolution among professionals, comprising engineers, builders, architects, real estate developers, town planners and surveyors, was coming following a storey building that caved in at No 9, Abeje Street, Morikaz Road in Agege Local Government Area of Lagos State penultimate Sunday.
Suggesting the way forward on the platform of Housing Development Group, the Executive Director, Construction Finance, National Assembly Staff Housing , Dr Beni Goka, said that peer reporting, self regulating, whistle blowing, creation of building inspectorate division would go a long way to halt cases of building collapse in the country.
A board member of the Chicago Association of Realtors, United States of America (USA), Mr. Abdulfatai EFTY, noted that Nigeria’s built environment professionals would need to regulate themselves in order to stop the activities of quacks and collapse of building in the sector.

Last line
As people await outcome of the trials, timely intervention of the real estate developers, builders, engineers and other stakeholders would be required to stop building collapse in Nigeria.

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TCIP Customs explains cargo clearance delays at port

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The Tin Can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service has said the recent in cargo clearance being witnessed by importers and Customs Brokers at the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports in Lagos is because the NCS Internet Server was down thus impeding cargo documents processing.

This was disclosed by the Tin Can Island Customs Public Relations Officer, CSP Tony Ejesieme during a chat with the Sunday Telegraph on Wednesday at the port city of Apapa.

Ejesieme noted that the internet network breakdown as experienced by the Service could cause delay at anytime and was not the fault of the NCS but that of a bad weather.

The PRO, who admitted that there was delay in cargo release, said the command had not captured any importers for cargo release but was optimistic that the network would surge back and cargo clearance processing would commence immediately.

“We have not been able to work since morning as no importers have been captured. This is another delay; issuing debit note has become a problem. But the network will certainly come back and we will commence work immediately,’’ said he.

According to him, the major reasons for delay were non-compliance with import guidelines, wrong classification and declaration by importers, and lack of working scanners.

He, however, absolved the Service of any complicity and maintained that the NCS works based on procedure. ‘’Whatever we are doing is based on procedure and in accordance with the import laws. It is true that there is delay; if there are issues of infraction, there will be delay,’’ he said.

Ejesieme also caused by lack of scanners, saying that all scanners in all the ports in Lagos have broken down completely except only one in Apapa which could not handle all cargo in the port and that is why many cargos are routed to physical examination.

‘’Scanners are not working; only one is working in Apapa, no one in Tin Can. The issue of scanners has to be settled and we have engaged government on it.’’

Advising importers and customs agents to adhere to the import guidelines, he said that the security of nation as the nation approaches the general elections in 2019 would not be compromised as the Service is working with other government agencies to protect the territorial boundaries of the nation.

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UBA Foundation reading through regions in Africa

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As part of its mission to improve the lives of communities in which the United Bank for Africa operates, UBA Foundation said it has continued to encourage African youths to adopt the culture of reading through its ‘Read Africa’ initiative.

Read Africa aims to rekindle the reading culture amongst young Africans. Designed and introduced in 2011 by the UBA Foundation, the initiative has donated hundreds of thousands of books to African schools since its inception.

This past week, The Foundation took its initiative to the francophone city of Libreville to the students of the George MABIGNATH high school in Gabon.

The launch of Read Africa in Gabon saw in attendance, the author of the selected book Sidonie, written by famous Gabonese writer Chantal Magalie MBAZOO.

It was a colorful ceremony that witnessed the CEO of the Foundation, Bola Atta reading to and interacting with the students in high energy in the presence of their Principal, Mrs. Boudounghou Biboutou Isabelle and other staff members.

Bola Atta summarized the Foundation’s initiative saying, “At the UBA Foundation, we are committed to improving the lives of the youths on the continent and one of the ways we can achieve this is to help you read more. I am here to talk to you a little about the importance of reading and how it can radically change your life. Reading encourages you to dream, it expands your knowledge, your vocabulary. It is a path to achieving your ambitions”.

 

Chioma Mang, the CEO of UBA Gabon also reiterated the mission of UBA and emphasized the bank’s commitment to the Gabonese community. “ I love children and I am happy to be here with you all today. I’d like to encourage you to read very well so that you can reach great heights in your life like me. UBA is going to be there for you all the way. You can count on us”, she said.

 

The Read Africa initiative then moved on to Zambia to the Horizon Secondary School in Lusaka where the Director in the ministry of higher education in charge of Vocation, Education and Training, Mr. Alex Simumba, thanked UBA and the Foundation for the good work that is being done across Africa. He said, “To UBA Foundation, we thank you for your support to the institution today. We welcome this and many more collaboration in the field of literacy and other higher education programmes. We also further encourage other private sector organisations to take a keen interest in such programmes because the youths who are receiving these literary materials will be benefitting greatly from them,” he said.

 

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Shell has disbursed N1.88bn to GMoU clusters in Delta State

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The General Manager, External Relations, SPDC, Mr. Igo Weli has said that Shell Petroleum Development Company, (SPDC) is still active in Delta State noting that the oil giant has executed a lot of projects in the state.

According to him, the oil giant has disbursed a total sum of N1.88 billion to Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU) in clusters.

Igo Weli, who disclosed this when he spoke with newsmen in Warri on Thursday, revealed that the GMoU funding covers the three clusters currently active in Delta State since the inception of the concept in 2006, adding that Cluster Development Boards (CDBs) like their counterparts in other parts of the Niger Delta, are implementing health and educational projects among others.

During the media presentation of the 2018 Shell Nigeria Briefing Notes to Journalists, he also disclosed that Shell has established a Professorial Chair at the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun (FUPRE,) as it continues to operate in the state and contribute to its development.

Weli explained that the Professorial Chair in Light Weight Automobile Engine Development was activated at FUPRE in December last year and is the latest of six established by SPDC JV, noting that the Chair at Effurun is expected to contribute to the growth of local content in Nigeria’s automobile industry.

He added that in a bid to boost employment especially among youths, more than 700 young men and women have benefited from Shell’s LiveWIRE initiative between 2003 and 2017.

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