building collapse
File photo: Building collapse

On June 3, 2019, a national daily quoting regulators and relevant professional bodies reported that 13 incidents of building collapse across the country between February and May 2019 had resulted in 29 fatalities while 76 sustained various injuries.

While Lagos unsurprisingly recorded the highest number of building collapse incidents and casualties, most likely due to its large population, states like Anambra, Abia and Oyo also came up on the tragic list.

Although many have lamented the spate of building collapse plaguing the country as a whole, some have gone a step further to call for measures to be put in place to curb this menace.

In that regard, building regulations, penalties for erroneous acts that could culminate in collapse, as well as other measures, come to light. However, other measures like identifying the root causes of building collapse could help a long way to check future occurrences.

Recently, a safety professional, Gbolahan Ogunmefun in a post on social media was of the opinion that other factors like flood, fire and natural disasters like earthquakes contribute to building collapses.

He said this after posting a video showing a two-storey building located in a flooded area collapsing.

“Building collapses could be as a result of natural factors such as earthquakes, flood, fire and other destructive conditions.

“Collapses are however traceable to many human factors such as faulty designs, faulty construction and use of substandard building materials, negligence, omissions, ignorance, quackery, corruption and sabotage,” Ogunmefun, who is the Chairman of the Ogun State branch of Institute of Safety Professionals of Nigeria (ISPON), said in his post.

While substandard building materials and related factors have been majorly highlighted as the causes of building collapse, the unusual factors – fire, flood, and natural disasters – necessitated this piece.

In this regard, another safety professional, Mr. Obehi Kingsley Akhibi, the Edo State Chairman of the National Industrial Safety Council of Nigeria (NISCN), told our reporter that “99.9%” of building collapses are caused by human errors.

The safety professional posited that the only way flood could majorly contribute to a building collapse was if “houses are built on waterways”, thus almost eliminating these other factors.

“What I see in this part of the world is that we have very few natural disasters. Even the flood we are talking about here, it is only if houses are built on waterways. Therefore in waterways where flood usually takes place, like the case study you dropped now; in those kinds of areas, they are flood-prone,” he asserted.

Obehi therefore advised that proper water channeling could easily address the situation described.

“So those kinds of areas (flood areas) are supposed to be channeled to drainages and places where water could find their rest,” Obehi stated.

“My own take is that disasters are very few even though it happens, but 99.9% causes are human errors.

“In the areas that are not flood-prone and the building collapses, then it is simply an engineering problem. Poor engineering efficiency usually causes most of those things, because sometimes, like in Benin, there was a building I saw along Sapele road, the design was actually meant for a two-story building but as time progressed they extended it to accommodate more rooms up there.

“Before you know, the house was already carrying a weight that the legs were not capable to carry. What you will now see is a collapse. It might not happen immediately but it could happen in a longer time. And when there is a little flood that comes to threaten the building, it will only add to the existing problem. It is not that it is the utmost cause; it will only come to add to what is on ground,” he said.

Obehi also blamed individuals for contributing to building collapse by opting for quacks and cheap building materials rather than incurring costs of hiring professionals to do such job.

“Unfortunately, in this part of the country, Edo state for instance, not too enlightened guys will take over a community and sell (land) to anybody and because of the cheap rate people just buy and start building before they now start encountering different troubles,” he stated.

It is evident from their submissions that these two safety professionals want the same thing — an end to the nightmare of building collapse. Both have very good merits and cannot both be shoved aside as even the tiniest detail ignored could lead to the biggest tragedy.

The solution is not farfetched. Like Obehi pointed out, building along water channels is a tragedy waiting to happen as occupants will most likely be evicted when flood comes.

Also, potential building owners must engage professionals on the suitability of building in any chosen location, as cheaper options only ends up leading to more expensive damages.

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