Home Opinion Distressed buildings: Lagos’ avoidable calamities waiting to happen

Distressed buildings: Lagos’ avoidable calamities waiting to happen

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Lagos means many things to different people; for some it is the home of the ageless lagoon and the salty Atlantic. For others it is the abode of many historical objects that piece together the nation called Nigeria, while to others, it is simply the home of traffic gauntlets and endless hustling. Yet some see it as the land of distressed buildings and endless building collapses.
Coming on the heels of the latest incidents of building collapse, which claimed no fewer than 10 lives, the Lagos State government again fanned into flames its seemingly already dying desire to rid the state of distressed properties.
Tribune Property recalls that in 2011 when a series of building collapse incidents were recorded in quick succession in different parts of the state, the state government quickly swung into action and eventually identified about 80 distressed buildings.
However, five years after, after yet another round of building collapse cases, the number of identified distressed building has snowballed into over 600, while in the last few months, over 30 of such buildings were identified at Ebute Meta area of the state alone.
Indications are rife that this number will swell even the more, because the recently constituted agencies which is saddled with the responsibility of marking out such buildings, the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) has vowed to fish out all distressed buildings in the state.
Tribune Property gathered that once a building, after several of such verification exercises, fails to meet certain requirements, it is deemed not safe for occupancy, while those currently occupying it would be expected to move out immediately.
However, Tribune Property, which recently went round parts of the state where scores of such buildings are known to exist, observed that rather than leave, many occupants still choose to continue to live there.
It was also observed that even the houses that can be deemed to have been evacuated often have shops carved out either within their premises or somewhere very close to them.
Tribune Property recalls spotting one of such buildings recently at Mosalasi area of Agege, where it was observed that despite an ominous seal of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) pasted on the building’s main gate, and which was meant to warn residents to steer clear of the building, scores of businessmen and women still went about their business transactions within the building and its environs.
One of such traders, who identified herself as Mrs Titilayo Amuda, revealed that after the seal was placed at the entrance of the property, nothing was heard from the building control agency that posted it there.
When asked why she chose to disregard warnings to steer clear of the building, Mrs Amuda said, “They (LASBCA official) were here some days ago to place the seal on the gate, but since then no one has seen them. Therefore, it is only natural for people to continue to do what they were doing before the seal was posted. In any case, I am just a trader here; I don’t live here, therefore I don’t think I should be overly bothered by the agency’s action,” she remarked.
Elsewhere, at Kadara Street in Ebute Meta, a resident, who identified himself as Denis Ogbe, admitted he was not happy with the idea of living in a house considered ‘unsafe,’ but he insisted that that was a risk he could not avoid taking because he had no money to move elsewhere.
“I am not happy living in such a house, but at the moment there is nothing I can do about it because I do not have money to move elsewhere. There is hardly anywhere you go now and landlords as well as their agents won’t be asking you to pay rent for two years. My brother, let me just continue to manage my life here until God answers me. But I know by God’s grace this house won’t fall,” he remarked.
Tribune Property’s itinerary also covered Mushin, where an elderly woman, was seen selling various homemade things close to the entrance of a building that had been marked.
Clearly not perturbed by the presence of a seal at the entrance of her house, the woman insisted that back in where she came from, there were many houses she knew when she was little and which had semblances of distress. But, according to her, many of such houses still exist today without any problem.
In the view of a seasoned town planner, who is widely reputed to be the first female professional in West Africa, Mrs Kehinde George, the government has not responded well to earlier recommendations made by various committees set up to review every case of building collapse in the state, especially given the fact that people tend to build outside the original approved plans.
“There’s the need for increased public awareness, while the government shares part of the blame because it has not implemented some of the earlier recommendations made by experts on building collapse.
“Planning authority must also be friendly and approachable, as well as making their services cheaper. If people have easy access to good information at a cheap rate, they will be encouraged to go for it,” she recently insisted.
In his own opinion, an ex-president of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Mr Bode Adediji, once argued that the solution to the cases of distressed and collapsed buildings is that the government ‘must be dedicated to put an end to this course.’
“Since we have been recording such incidents, no one has been made to face the law so as to serve as deterrent to others,” he stated.
However, the Lagos State Materials Testing Laboratory (LSMTL) has advised property owners, especially distressed and dilapidated buildings in the State, to ensure that integrity and stability tests are conducted on their building to prevent sudden collapse of such buildings and unnecessary loss of lives and properties.
The Acting General Manager LSMTL, Mr Rasheed Teslim Balogun, who stated this moments after a building at Alli Close, Mile 12, Ketu partially collapsed.
He pointed out that the Agency would conduct a non-destructive test as well as study the structural elements of the building to examine and confirm the stability and the integrity on the remaining structure.
He however advised all builders in the state to work with the Agency by conducting necessary tests before embarking on construction and ensure that standard materials are used for construction in order to avoid the recurring building collapse in some parts of Lagos.
While imploring all builders in the state to abide with standard specification for the construction of any building, Mr Balogun maintained that the integrity test on all buildings at the Lekki Gardens as directed by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, would help in revealing the true state of the houses.
The Acting General Manager however appealed to all stakeholders in the built industry to do the needful by complying with all laws guiding construction processes especially the certification of building materials by the agency, reiterating that the current administration is ready to do all within its power to end the menace of building collapse in the state.

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