IN Lagos State, buildings have been collapsing like a pack of cards over the past year.
The frequency of collapse over the last year became a permanent feature, so much so that hardly a month went by without a building collapsing, with deaths recorded in most tragedies.
The latest collapse happened on Sunday, September 4, 2022, when a seven-storey building at Sandfield, Lekki, crashed, killing six persons. The next day, the state Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, a doctor, Idris Salako, under whose watch many buildings had collapsed, resigned. No reason was given for his resignation, which the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, promptly accepted.
Sanwo-Olu on Wednesday, September 7, 2022, deployed the former Commissioner for Special Duties, Engineer Tayo Bamgbose-Martin, to the Physical Planning ministry to replace Salako.
Timeline of building collapse in Lagos under Salako’s watch
Residents of the state were jolted on November 1, 2021, when a 21-storey building under construction in Ikoyi came down, killing 40 persons, including the owner and developer, Olufemi Osibona, popularly known as Femi Fourscore; and a friend of his who was on his way to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport to travel out of the country but Osibona had persuaded to stop over at the building site.
Also victims were Osibona’s personal assistant, construction workers and a food vendor.
The building was part of three towers that Osibona’s company, Fourscore Homes, was building on the vast Ikoyi site. Some of the units were priced as high as $1.2 million each.
Hours after the building crashed, a letter surfaced online stating that the consultant to the Fourscore Homes project, Prowess Engineering Limited, had withdrawn its structural consultancy job, citing the structure as unsafe and vulnerable to collapse.
A video also went viral showing how officials of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LSBCA) sealed the building at a point after they marked it structurally defective. But, somehow, the contractors restarted work on the project, increasing the floors till it collapsed.
The Foreshore tragedy signposted what would seem a lack of will by government officials in taking firm action on structurally defective buildings in the state, as subsequent instances would show.
Reported cases tracked by The ICIR revealed that at least eight major buildings had collapsed in Lagos this year alone, while 24 persons died from the incidents.
In February 2022, a three-storey building collapsed at No. 16, Akanbi Crescent, Sabo, in the Yaba area of Lagos, trapping five persons. Four persons died in that incident.
The state government blamed the developer for resuming construction on the site without authorisation after it had been sealed on two occasions.
There was talk after a review meeting on the incident that the government would prosecute Gboyega Bello, the building developer.
Yaba building collapse. Credit: Joseph Olaoluwa_ The ICIR
In May, a three-storey building collapsed in Ebute-Meta; 10 bodies were recovered from the rubble. The Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA), Oluwafemi Oke-Osanyintolu, stated that the building had once been sealed by state government officials.
Oke-Osanyintolu said, “There are things that you need to understand. This is a distressed building; this is a building that has been sealed up by government officials; this is a building that early warning had been given on concerning its status. Inasmuch as we sympathise with those that lost their beloved ones, we need to state it clearly that we will not tolerate this kind of man-made disaster.”
On May 7, 2022, a two-storey building collapsed on Chris Igadi Street, in the Ago Palace Way area of the state. No casualty was recorded in this episode, as occupants of the building had fled from it two hours before it caved in.
On May 11, 2022, the state government stopped approval for structures above three floors in Ebute-Meta east and west axis of the state.
On May 20, 2022, two persons died, while another two were rescued from a two-storey building on Lagos Island. The LASBCA, considering the next building to the collapsed structure also defective, moved to bring it down, but the residents prevailed, forcing the agency’s General Manager to push the demolition date from May 22, 2022 to May 26, 2022, giving residents ample time to vacate the building.
However, the building was not demolished. An investigation by the ICIR revealed that the building, located off Freeman Street, was still erect as at Tuesday May 31, 2022.
Residents on the lane told The ICIR that the owner of the building had gone into meetings with the LASBCA and the Lagos State Government over the agency’s decision to demolish it.
On June 18, 2022, another unoccupied storey building located at Ilogbo-Eremi, in Olorunda Local Council Development Area of the state, also collapsed. No casualties were recorded in the incident.
On July 1, 2022, a three-storey building under construction collapsed in the Mushin area of Lagos. Luckily, nobody was in the building when it dropped at 6:30 pm.
On August 22, 2022, two children died, while three adults were injured from the impact of a water tank that crashed on a one-bedroom apartment at Adeleye Street, Ladilak, in the Bariga area of Lagos State.
Giving a background of what occurred, the residents told The ICIR that workers renovating a house had constructed a structure holding three water tanks on top of a septic tank. But the tanks fell over the fence when the bricklayers were not around, with one of them crashing into the one-bedroom apartment, killing the children.
The September 4, 2022 tragedy involving the seven-storey building would be the last building collapse that happened while Salako was Commissioner of the Physical Planning ministry.
A letter on Monday, September 5, 2022 signed by the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, announcing Sanwo-Olu’s acceptance of Salako’s resignation, stated, “This is a prelude to the restructuring of the ministry and its agencies. Governor Sanwo-Olu thanks the commissioner for his services to the state and wishes him success in his future endeavours.
“The Governor warns all players in the sector to respect the law or face the consequences of any indiscretion, no matter who the perpetrators are.”
A reliable source in the Governor’s office confided in The ICIR that Sanwo-Olu decided to give Salako a soft landing by asking him to resign rather than sack him outright.
Calls and text messages to the spokesperson, Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mukaila Sanusi, to speak on the development were unanswered.
Generally, Nigeria has recorded 461 incidents of building collapse in the last 47 years (October 1974 to July 2021), according to the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB).
The president of the NIOB, Kunle Awobodu, who reeled out these facts at the 51st Builders’ Annual Conference in Lagos on August 24, 2021, said Lagos topped other states with 295 incidents, amounting to 65 per cent of the cases in Nigeria. Lagos Island alone accounted for 67 (23 per cent) of the incident in the state.
A structural engineer, Babatunde Somoye, hinged, in a chat with The ICIR, the collapse of buildings on substandard materials, wrong foundations and use of quacks.
Somoye said, “Buildings collapse for various reasons, such as wrong foundation due to lack of soil test, use of quacks (non-professionals), use of substandard materials, and illegally adding to the number of floors. These are some of the typical reasons in Nigeria. You will notice that it’s mostly buildings with higher floors, from three floors upward, that mostly collapse.”
He said that although some building owners consult professional architects and engineers, the greed of contractors would make them not use the recommended standard for materials.
“There are so many substandard materials in the market and many people don’t want to spend the amount of money it requires to use original materials,” he added.
Similarly, a fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Dr Emmanuel Adeyemo, blamed untrained professionals for building collapse.
Adeyemo said, “We can improve on the built environment in Nigeria when clients and government ensure that the right people trained to do the job are allowed to do it, and not quacks. The quacks are the cause of the collapse, and we have to get to the root of it.
“Until we begin to follow due process, right from the owner of the building to the contractor, to the government, we may not have an end to this. So, let us obey the rules.”
Adeyemo advised governments and contractors to do the right thing by engaging qualified engineers.