BUILDING COLLAPSE IN NIGERIA- AN INDICTMENT


This is a follow up to an earlier post in 2019


Preamble

The recent building collapse in Lagos quickly brings to mind the other collapse on Victoria Island and also Ibadan. It is indeed painful that the country has not been able to stem the tide of such sorrowful events that could so easily be avoided, especially when it was noted that the building was already marked for demolition over 2 years ago.


It is even more worrisome to learn that the statutory body who had marked this building had remained comatose until the avoidable accident occurred. Were they awaiting approval to do the needful or have connived with others to delay the inevitable? The resources and energy that was put into the commencement and designation of same buildings for demolition, after the evaluation process to reach such decisions has just been wasted, with the cost of lives included.


As a major stakeholder in the Nigerian Construction industry, we are aware of the issues at stake in cases of building collapse and have been involved in advocacy for the prevention of these accidents in the industry through support of and dissemination of information aimed at proactively avoiding the causes of building collapse and mitigation of the risks inherent in building construction.


The Laws

In some climes, there is a Decennial liability clause in Building contracts. Decennial liability is a strict liability applied to construction projects whereby the contractor and/or the design consultant will be held liable (in the absence of any evidence of breach of contract or negligence), to compensate an owner or employer in the event of defective works in built structures. The liability typically lasts for ten years after project completion. It is important to note that timeline of this clause begins or comes into effect when all things are assumed to have been done according to plan and building handed over.


However, the case is different in most of the building collapse in Nigeria, majority of investigations, where or when conducted, have premised the cause of collapse on either breach of contract ( use of substandard materials), negligence ( supervisory and statutory oversight); or both, which directly indicts the persons and parties involved in the construction work. Unfortunately, most buildings that have collapsed may not have any formal contract upon which to commence a claim.

Furthermore, there is a need to enforce the National Building Code in the country and encourage adoption and domestication of such in each State of the Federation, this will provide a template for the assurance of standards in the development of buildings within the established parameters.

The stakeholders in any collapsed building must be brought before the court by the government, these cases should not only be treated as a civil matter but also as a criminal matter, of course, the persons involved remain innocent until proven guilty. It is our opinion that the lack of enforcement of extant laws by the government or its agencies has also contributed significantly to the spate of collapsed buildings in the country since the major causes of failure in buildings are through the use of substandard materials or non adherence to design parameters which could be checked by the statutory bodies empowered to do so.




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