Friday 28th April, 2017
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Blame govt., legislators for building collapses in Nigeria-Arc. Obiechina

Blame govt., legislators for building collapses in Nigeria-Arc. Obiechina

Arc. Alex Obiechina, the Chairman of Aco-Hiteck Nig. Ltd spoke on issues bothering on the integrity of buildings in the country and heaped blames on government and legislators for continued building collapses in Nigeria. Our man ABBANOBI-EKU ONYEKA reports:
Even with consistent ad­vocacy, several buildings have continued to col­lapse in Nigeria, with at­tendant loss of lives and wastage of billions of Naira. The question that had remained unanswered revolves around the causes of these evil acts and how it can be eliminated once and for all.
Given the preponderance of building collapses, several people wonder why our ancestors who, though uncivilised and unen­lightened, built and lived in mud houses safely without fears. Some of these buildings, of course, were storey buildings and some of them could still be found in several Igbo and other communi­ties up till today. Similarly, it has never been heard that any build­ing constructed by the colonial masters collapsed, but nowadays, even with higher academic en­dowment and arguably, better technologically-trained profes­sionals in the building industry, we are witnessing regular collapse of buildings all over the country.
Worried by the dire con­sequences, our reporters ap­proached Dr Alex Obiechina to share his views on who should be blamed for these evil occur­rences. And he did not hesitate to blame the government and the legislators for the lapses.
According to this architect of repute, “Government officials award public project contracts to their friends, relations, associates, among others, without putting into consideration whether or not such people have the requisite qualifications for such contracts or not”. Of course, he lampooned the legislators, stressing that they ought to have made laws that would properly regulate building construction in Nigeria.
He insisted that contracts for residential buildings should not be toyed with due to the strength required of such premises, adding that it is becoming embarrassing and worrisome that aside shop­ping malls and public buildings, residential abode have joined in the ignoble roll call of collapsed buildings.
In spite of the fears being ex­pressed by the ordinary Nigerian on the quality of cement, rein­forcement and qualification of the so-called engineers that han­dle building construction in Ni­geria, Obiechina is optimistic that such menaces can be checked. According to him, “We had better go back to what obtained in the 70s and 80s. That time, there was nothing like building collapse be­cause the architects were always consulted at every stage of build­ing construction and these archi­tects in turn invite other profes­sionals and assessed progress of work before giving recommenda­tions on the next step to take.
“The collapsing of buildings should be blamed on the govern­ment. Today, you see Directors- General, Ministers or Board Chairmen sitting in their cossy offices, awarding contracts to their friends and relations, who have no requisite technicality or experience. In the 60s and 70s, ar­chitects were consulted and they invited professionals, assessed them and made recommenda­tions to the government based on competence. But today, all these have changed and we now reward cronism.”
Another factor that leads to building collapses, according him is, “When an architect designs a building and other professionals do their works, once there is a fault in the structural design, the building is likely to collapse, be­cause it is the structural arrange­ment that sustains the building. If the structural engineer says, use rod 16mm and 10mm is used by the contractor, it won’t carry the building and it will lead to a col­lapse.
“Another factor could be from the soil, especially if the soil test is not properly done. We have soil for a particular building and if soil analysis is not properly done, it could lead to the collapse of a building.”
He also blames the owner or the contractor in some cases. He says that in a quest to maximise profit, if the builder strictly fails to adhere to the recommended texture, quantity, grammage and nature of materials prescribed by the architects and engineers and starts cutting corners, he said such buildings are most likely to collapse.
According to him, “The fail­ure to ensure that architectural, structural and other engineers are properly involved is another factor that can lead to the collapse of a building. Due to laxity, a cli­ent may use under-gaged materi­als and cheap labor by employing quacks and it could cause collapse of a building.
“Blame can also come to the architect. In a big and complex building, every other professional pass through the architect. If the structural engineer tells the con­tractor what is to be used and the architect tells the contractor not to bother and ignore the struc­tural engineer’s instructions, such misnomer can cause the collapse of the building.
“However, in some cases, there is what we call act of nature, where one strictly obeys all these rules, a powerful hurricane comes and the building collapses. That is act of God. This one is beyond all calculations and is deemed an act of God.
Bringing in the lawmakers, Arch. Obiechina also blamed the lawmakers. He posited that they should wake up and make laws that would make it mandatory for all relevant building professionals to as a matter of law, be involved in the design, supervision and construction of all kinds of build­ings. “They should also pass a legislation that government agen­cies shall only give contract to contractors recommended by the professionals in the industry.”
In the absence of such laws, Obiechina posits that profes­sional bodies of the town plan­ners, the Nigerian Society of En­gineers, etc. should take the bull by the horn and stay in the gap.
In spite of everything, Obiechina strongly believes that Nigerians politicise virtually ev­erything, including those that ought not to be so politicised but should remain in the ambit of professionalism. “Let us go back to the rules and the expected re­sults will be achieved,” he stressed.

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