Our natural disaster

In 2004, Mother Nature triggered its worst with a tsunami that had devastating consequences in many Asian countries, killing more than 227,000 people in 14 countries. The plight of the people and countries affected has prompted a global humanitarian response and donations of more than $ 14 billion.

In 2010, Haiti witnessed a devastating earthquake that saw more than 250,000 homes and 30,000 commercial buildings collapse while the death toll is estimated between 100,000 and 160,000. In August of this year , another earthquake occurred in the country. It is said to be the deadliest earthquake and deadliest natural disaster of 2021.

Aside from the occasional natural disasters such as drought, bushfires, and landslides, you could agree that Mother Nature has been kind enough to Nigeria. However, while tsunamis and earthquakes often occur miles from our shores and seem foreign to Nigeria, some Nigerians seem to court disasters in the form of man-made disasters.

As many Nigerians ushered in the new November with pleading prayers, gratitude and favors from their Creator, the nation resonated with the shocking news and screaming headlines of a building collapse. A 21-story building, under construction, collapsed on Gerrard Road in Ikoyi, Lagos State.

Those who live around the site of the collapse will surely never forget this incident in a hurry. Distraught families and friends of people trapped in the rubble were seen waiting for days outside the scene of the incident as rescue operations continued. Some expressed their anger and frustration at their inability to know the fate of their loved ones. When the smoke finally cleared, around 46 people are believed to have died while, luckily, 15 people were rescued.

The ‘before and after’ images of the building that flooded social media in the aftermath of the collapse reveal the extent of the damage and leave much to be desired. Due to the lack of records, the exact number of people on the site on that day is unknown. Thus, the rescuers could not determine the number of people under the rubble. From the footage we saw on television and on social media from the site of the incident, it was as if an earthquake had destroyed the building. But, alas, this was not the case.

While we sympathize with the victims of the building collapse, it must be said that the incident could have been avoided. This is also not the first time that this kind of incident has occurred. In fact, since 2005 at least 152 buildings have collapsed in Lagos State alone. One such incident that particularly angered many people took place in 2014, when dozens of people died in a church collapse.

As if the Ikoyi incident weren’t saddening enough, another two-story apartment building under construction in Badagry, also in Lagos state, collapsed just two weeks after Ikoyi collapsed, killing four people. As usual, there has been outcry and condemnation from various sides across the country. But the question that begs for answers is “why the frequent collapses of buildings and why Lagos in particular”?

A worker who was one of the Ikoyi Building collapse survivors recounted how “building engineers” identified a cracked pillar on the building’s first floor. The engineers then asked the workers to break the pillar so that they could attach another pillar to it as they were confident that nothing would happen to the pillar if they installed another.

However, their calculations were wrong and something happened. According to the workers’ count, the cracked pillar and attempts to replace it led to the building collapsing. Another plausible reason for the building’s collapse is the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers claim that the 21-story building was originally designed to have six floors.

They went further, stating that there were clear indications of several design changes on the project and that the engineering and management of those changes appeared to have been seriously inadequate. The collapsed building was originally designed for just six floors, then 12 floors, before expanding to 15 floors.

Along with these reasons, the poor quality of workmanship and materials and a lack of official control have often led to the collapse of many buildings in the country. In a recently released report by the Department of Civil Engineering at Kwara State University, cases of building collapses, which occurred during the 10-year period covering the period 2009-2019, were linked to a fault. structural.

The report showed that the building collapse rate was predominant in the South West, which recorded 34 out of 56 cases, resulting in the deaths of 132 people during the period under review. The report adds that most of the collapsed buildings were constructed with poor quality building materials.

He also revealed that incompetent craftsmen rather than professionals were engaged in the projects concerned while the existing building codes, intended to guide builders, were rendered ineffective due to the lack of political will to enforce them by the authorities in the area. town planning.

These have always been the suspicions of the relentless building collapse we are witnessing across the country, especially in Lagos State.

It is high time that the town planning authorities who are supposed to supervise construction projects do so effectively and ensure that builders comply with all safety instructions. Real estate developers must also forgo resorting to short cut methods while trying to cut costs which most of the time lead to a total loss.

Those with experience in erecting structures advise making soil testing, environmental impact analysis, and structural analysis mandatory for potential builders. This analysis must then be submitted with the construction plans to the planning authorities before the authorization to embark on the project. In addition, constant monitoring and supervision to ensure that the developer does not deviate from the original plan is vital to prevent such a collapse.

In addition, regulatory authorities such as the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) should ensure that only certified building materials are allowed into the Nigerian market. Substandard or counterfeit materials are akin to counterfeit or expired drugs and we all know their effects on our health. The same scenario is playing out in the structural engineering industry where many buildings across the country cannot stand the test of time due to the use of inferior materials.

It is a fact that the failure of a project like a building begins with poor preparation. Involving the right staff at the right time would help with proper planning and ensure the sustainability of the project. Until the correct reason is given as to who designs, approves designs, builds, supervises and gives final approval on construction, building collapse would be a problem and would continue to occur.

An independent panel has been set up by the Lagos State government to investigate the causes of the Ikoyi collapse and prevent similar incidents in the future. We just hope this is not one of the cases where the government wants to be seen as doing something. Nigerians pray that this is not the last time they hear of the Ikoyi collapse. People should be held accountable for the incident and face the long arm of the law. And those who invest in real estate in Nigeria have many lessons to learn.

Natural disasters are cataclysmic events of atmospheric, geological and hydrological origin that cause damage and disturbance to many countries around the world. And while Nigeria has been relatively free from any major adverse events resulting from Earth’s natural process, may our incompetence not continue to result in disasters that seem to come naturally to us.