Home Opinion Lagos Building Collapse: Prowess Engineering Limited Should Be Arrested, Questioned and...

Lagos Building Collapse: Prowess Engineering Limited Should Be Arrested, Questioned and Prosecuted if Need Be

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Our Stand (47) —

Construction of a 21 floor building that collapsed recently at Gerard Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, and is still recording number of deaths on the increase, is not new to the country especially, Lagos state. In a nation that is well known with its citizens preferring quantity than quality, if our mindsets are not improved, it is very and highly possible that we may not have seen the end of this type of preventable disaster.

This is the same  structure that was called off earlier in June, having failed to meet structural integrity test, earlier said the Lagos State Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat. Though, it hasn’t been specified why or what problems led to suspension of work at the site initially.

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It was even reported that workers were allowed recently to get back to work on the construction site before its collapse. Here’s a lapse, it is only the Lagos State Governor that can approve a return to work for workers.

With unknown number of persons still missing, authorities, volunteers and rescue workers were seen, as families and relatives stayed nearby, expecting positive news concerning their loved ones, and at the same time, querying the slow response of rescue workers and the snail pace of it – lots still need to be improved in this country.

However, the Head of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), Gbolahan Oki, told the press that the developer had used inferior materials during construction. “The materials he used, the reinforcement, are so terrible”, he said.

With yet unknown number of persons still trapped under the debris, it is not very clear if rescue efforts are to be praised or taunted to do more. It is possible that in the coming weeks, some of the truth of what had led to such a gigantic structure becoming a giant pile of debris will emerge.

Authorities in Lagos had said it has set up an independent panel composed of professionals in the engineering sector and architects, groups to carry out investigations into the disaster which has renewed scrutiny on a spate of building collapses in the country in recent years.

They pledged that there will be no cover-up in search of what truly led to this catastrophe and added that anyone found liable would face prosecution.

However, the question the society needs to ask which is very common, is, why are buildings recurrently collapsing in Lagos State? Are there no standards or procedures to be strictly applied, adhered and monitored?

Twenty-one years ago, a 22-storey building collapsed in Lagos State, but no casualty was recorded.. That was the Bank of Industry (BoI) building constructed in 1972 that had been brought down through controlled demolition. Yet, today, several decades after, a 21-storey building under construction collapsed, causing several fatalities.

The reason many old buildings in Lagos still remain strong– and some of them were even raised as far back as the colonial times, while the ones of today are falling like random packs of cards. It means that the government control agency and the built industry have stopped doing their work .

This is to tell how far the country has degraded from maintaining high standards through quality to being satisfied in just numbers (quantity). Speculations have it that the collapsed structure was originally meant to be a 15 floor building, however, how it transcended to 21 is baffling.

How do authorities curtail these horrendous happenings that keep reoccurring almost every year? Suspending the General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency, Gbolahan Oki, is not enough. Are the authorities ready to confront the rot in Lagos urban planning or will the usual remain the same?

The collapsed building was one of three that were put up by Fourscore Homes, a Lagos-based real estate company and hours after the structure collapsed, a letter dated February 2020, by a consulting firm that initially worked on the building construction, Prowess Engineering Limited, sent to Fourscore Heights Limited, surfaced in a bid to distance itself from the debacle.

However, the letter did not carry with it, a signed acknowledgement copy and did not say what transpired between the two companies. Calls were put through their mobile numbers found online for comments but, both were out of service.

Also, if they claimed to have written this letter, was the Lagos State Building Control Agency copied and acknowledged? If not, Prowess Engineering Limited should be arrested, questioned and prosecuted if need be.

We shouldn’t be deceived by the letter and one thing should be deducted in the wake of this building collapse, as to the negligence of those involved. Who are those that approved the construction of the towers and were there monitoring teams tasked with evaluation as construction works were going on? Also, the letter stated as guaranteeing integrity test on the first two floors, why was it so?

For the suspended Oki to have acknowledged that the owner of the collapsed building went beyond what had been approved, he and his agency cannot justifiably claim to have been blindsided by what was happening at the site. They acted blindly or possibly, they chose to intentionally turn a blind eye.

The Structural Engineer must be brought for questioning on why the building must be allowed to get past it limits. Many truths need to be revealed, no matter who may be involved.

This is a lesson for those who defy expertise, especially in our society where many needlessly end up as victims of negative consequences for what was never their fault.  

Our society is filled with many who are disillusioned with their formal education, regularly complaining that they wasted their time in school learning abstract topics than practicals to meet up with life demands.

This is part of the things that are ruining our society today, many feel they can just cut corners and do whatever they chose, without adhering to standards or due processes.

Incidentally, it was almost seven years that there was a  building collapse at The Synagogue Church Of All Nations happened which claimed 116 lives. We never learn in this country and even if we do, we quickly forget the negative consequences of our negligence in the past.

Even though investigations indicted church and the engineers for negligence and were asked to be prosecuted, not much came out of it. Not only did those involved get away with it, but some persons helped to make many believe that the collapse was an attack on the church.

We hope report on investigations by the panel set by the Lagos authorities on the latest Ikoyi building collapse won’t be swept under the carpet, else, we have many on ground that will still engage in negligent activities, with the belief that they will always get away with it.

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