The incessant building collapse in various part of Nigeria has triggered reactions from some stakeholders in the country. Most recent is the incident that happened in Abia State, Nigeria, where some persons lost their lives when the top floor of a one storey uncompleted building collapsed.
The horrific sight of this unfortunate incident like several others witnessed recently led to this interview with the Public Relations Officer of Nigeria Institute of Building, NIOB, Rivers State Chapter, Builder Usenobong Emmanuel Atangaedi.
He spoke with EDITH CHUKU.
What is the way out of building collapse in Nigeria?
The way out of building collapses in Nigeria is very simple, very simple in the sense that people, developers, government, corporate organizations who are doing building development should employ and engage people that are academically trained, professionally registered and statutorily licensed to practice building construction, these professionals are the builders who know how, when, everything to do concerning building construction from the beginning to the end, so, it is only when people engage these professional builders to handle their building construction work, there and then, we are going to see a drastic reduction or complete end of building collapse cases in Nigeria.
You have visited some sites where these horrible incident happened. How did you feel when you saw those bodies smashed and littered all over the ground with blood spill everywhere?
It’s horrifying, heartbreaking. We are humans, we shouldn’t kill what we cannot create, the first feeling that comes to me is that of sympathy, then dismay, anger, I get disturbed in my spirit.
When you say anger, where should that be directed to?
Anger, knowing that these incidents can be avoided, before being spiritual about this, be sure the physical was rightly handled. My concern is on human lives, because in most building collapse cases, lives are lost and these are lives of people who have relative, family, wives, they go out to fend for their family, not returning to that family after a brief goodbye is horrifying, losing their lives for what they didn’t cause, nor contributed to, yet they fall victim, so, sympathy has always been the first thing that strikes me, then you consider the investment, property that have been wasted.
March 13th this year, NIOB held her 2020 edition of “End Building Collapse, Stop Using Quacks.” What did that achieve?
Thank you very much, that campaign that we held on the 13th of March 2020 through out Nigeria has recorded some successes I must confess, because it brought to the awareness of people and the entire public the menace of building collapses, the economic effect, the bad name that it’s giving us, because the world is a global village and everybody no matter where you are, we are competing and when you are going out to the global stage, they will always refer to you that buildings are collapsing like pack of cards in your country how are you sure you will be able to compete at the international level? So that bad name will always be there, it’s a negative name that has a bad effect on us, it has been a successful story so far because people got to know that there are trained professionals that are responsible, even by act of the national assembly are empowered to handle building construction no matter how small it is, that the builders do building construction management from the beginning to the end and hand it over to the building owner, certifying that anything that is wrong, he is going to be held responsible, and if that is not done, if any building is found wanting in one way or the other, the Nigeria Institute of Building, NIOB and the Council of registered builders of Nigeria, CORBON, which is the regulatory body will sanction such persons and let me shock you, in all these building collapse cases that we are having no single builder has been fingered, they have not even been involved in any of it, as a whole, so, you see why building will keep on collapsing, and that is why we bring out this campaign that we must engage the people that are trained to do this.
Nigeria is celebrating 60years of Independence in 1st October, the Nigeria Institute of Building as a professional body have come out with a research to see that buildings that were constructed pre-colonial era of Nigeria, that are still standing till today, what would have been the cause of that, so we are expanding that study and that research, yesterday we were at Rivers State secretariat and we saw a building there that was built in 1925, that means it is 95years as we are talking now, and that building is still in use, we went over the building round to inspect it, and we saw that a high level of workmanship, craftsmanship, supervision, specification were done as required were put into place for that building to still be standing, let me shock you, the decking of that building is made of wood, and wood that is surviving 95years still counting, by 2025 the building is going to be 100years, and it will survive more than that, so the institute has gone into research to see what we were doing as at that time that we are not doing now, that we are seeing building collapsing in terms of materials, because in terms of professionalism in handling any building construction in Nigeria people have failed to engage right professionals who specializes in that area, so we are expanding it to research into materials that were used as at that time and we will see a great difference in terms of material, workmanship.
There are builders everywhere, how do you differentiate quacks from professionals?
It is simple, we don’t have builders everywhere, what we have everywhere are quacks or people who claim to be builders, yes, you know the harsh economic condition of the country is really making everybody to claim to be what he or she is not, and so, people will want to claim to be one thing or the other, some other professionals in the construction industry will equally be dissolving the roles and responsibility of another professional so as to be in business, belle kingdom, stomach infrastructure, now, how do you know who is a quack and who is a professional, it is very simple, we have seven construction professionals in the building environment in Nigeria, and all these professional have their professional association and regulatory body, so, if one want to engage a registered builder it is a simple thing to locate their office, for instance Nigeria Institute of Building is located somewhere in D/Line, Port Harcourt, and you ask for the desk person there, the chairman or any person and say I am having contact with so, so, so person and he is claiming to be a builder is he in your register, the register will be opened to confirm, who has license to practice because every year Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria, CORBON issue practice license to builders, if you did not meet the criteria you are not going to be licensed to practice, and if you practice out of license that means that you are a quack, so people should do due diligence, ask questions, what is your professional number, when did you get registered in your professional association and your regulatory body, yes, it’s worth it, if somebody gives you his registration number you can use that number to check his legitimacy, and be sure the person issuing it to you is the rightful owner, because anybody can claim anything, that is as simple as that you need to verify, be able to know that person’s track record, and with that you will know that that person is a registered builder, or a registered professional.
Who is to blame for building collapse?
We blame the society, we blame developers, we blame people who have enough resources for building construction, to buy materials needed yet they go for inferior materials, refuse to engage somebody who have been academically trained, professional registered and statutorily licensed to do this job, those who wants to manage everything in a project such as building.
Some prefer using neighbours because they feel professionals are very expensive.
(cuts in) The reverse is the case. I’m telling you, it’s not expensive. Okay tell me if you buy material worth twenty million naira and you get somebody who is collecting 150,000 to put those materials together who is not even qualified to do that and at the end of the day, twenty-million-naira material that you bought just came down like a pad of card in one day, the building collapse, it is penny wise and pound foolish, and at the end of the day it’s not only that your material that is wasting, remember from the beginning I said human lives matters most, a lot because who knows if the person that the building struck dead is going to be our saviour in Nigeria, what about to himself, his family members? Engaging professionals to do your work is not costly anyway and you gain much more from engaging a registered and qualified professional to handle your work than using a quack, builders are trained in the arts and science of building, please, it’s high time we start engaging professionals for this job.