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Infrastructure collapse… human capacity building issue

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ALL over the country, there are instances of collapse of public infrastructures. Contractors which secure public contracts to construct highways, roads, bridges, streets, culverts, secretariats and sundry types of public buildings, stadium, podium, etc. allegedly cut corners to short-change governments so as to make extra-ordinary profits.

Also in private sector, quacks are known to win contracts to construct roads, culverts and private buildings which in some instances develop cracks and in worst case scenario, collapse entirely.

This ugly phenomenon is worrisome to federal and state governments which have been  known to set up commission of enquiries to ascertain the cause of infrastructure collapse. The conclusion has more often than not been for governments to place more emphasis on human capacity building. Civil servants in the ministries are expected to be undergoing regular in-service trainings at home and abroad to keep abreast of modern measures in infrastructural conceptualization and development. Workshops, seminars and colloquium are recommended to re-train public servants to be able to monitor contractors to execute public infrastructures and projects according to specifications to minimize tragedy and killing of people. In other words, human capacity building   cannot be overemphasized in the effective delivery of infrastructural facilities in Nigeria.

Due to lack of good governance which places premium on strict observation of laws, rules and regulations in both public and private sectors in the provision of infrastructural facilities, sorry situations have cropped up whereby infrastructures like roads, buildings, culverts and bridges have either collapsed or failed to live out their life span due to lack of adherence to rules and laws guiding the construction, in addition to strict supervision.

Cognizance of this creeping debilitating cankerworm in the provision of public infrastructures, past and present governors of Anambra state: Senator Dr. Chris Ngige, Peter Obi, and Chief Dr. Willie Obiano, (Agbokuedike) deemed it expedient to set aside certain working days to go round construction sites of public infrastructures namely: roads, culverts, bridges and buildings to ascertain that the execution is in tandem with the specifications.

Poor quality work has occasioned collapse of buildings with loss of lives of construction workers and those directly and indirectly responsible have never been brought to book so as to serve as deterrent.

Governor Obiano has demonstrated strictness in the supervision of public projects and has sanctioned contractors who showed laxity in the execution. Going by the seriousness attached to strict supervision of both public and private infrastructures, the special adviser to the Governor on Housing, Mr. Simeon Okafor, a retired director in the Ministry of Housing, deemed it expedient to organize a workshop which brainstormed on the issues that led to collapse of infrastructures with emphasis on building. The importance of strict supervision of both public and private is underscored by the definition of building as “a roofed and walled structures built for permanent use for man’s living, working and storage. Buildings are structures which serve as shelters for man, his properties and activities”.

Delivering a paper on the colloquium, Iwuchukwu Umeano Okafor, a doctorate degree holder in architecture and a Director of Public Building in the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing Field Headquarters, Anambra State, remarked that building collapse in Nigeria has been a source of concern to government.

Dr. Okafor in his masterpiece delivery spelt out the primary and proximate causes of building collapse and proffered probable remedies to avert the recurring unacceptable tragedies in the country. He said that building collapse was a situation where buildings which were under construction or  occupied collapsed due to actions or inactions of man or due to natural events like earthquake, storm, flooding, tsunsami or wild fire. He said: “Building collapse is a common phenomenon all over the world but more rampart and devastating in developing countries like Nigeria. The rate at which buildings collapse in Nigeria has reached a worrisome level in view of its alarming loses in terms of lives and properties”. Dr. Okafor who supervised the construction and completion of work at the residence of late Right Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe-  Zik’s Masouleum and sundry structures at Onitsha and commended by Governor Obiano for job well done, stressed the imperative of factoring the services of the architects, structural and civil engineers, builders, town planners, quantity surveyors, valuers, land developers and land surveyors to avert building collapse, saying that each of the categories of stakeholders and/or professionals share a peculiar blame in any incidence of building collapse depending on the causes.

“There are various causes of building collapse and each case requires expert judgment to decide the cause of the collapse. The rate of building collapse is a reflection of the level of organization, the performance of the building control activities and degree of sophistication of the construction professionals in a country”, he said.

On the solution to stem the tide of building collapse, Okafor suggested that National Assembly should expedite action on the passage of the National Building Code of 2006 into an Act which has been unnecessarily delayed.

“The need for the government and all other stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the problem of building collapse in Nigeria is now a task that must be done, because statistical analyses revealed a strong positive relationship of 0.883 between collapse and lives lost”.

He postulated solutions such as quick passage of National Building Code Bill which has been submitted to the National Assembly since 2006, which will go a long way in reducing the frequency of building collapse in Nigeria. None provision of this code and its non-adherence lead to more high frequency of building collapse.

Composition Of Members Of Physical Development Board Or Units: Members of the Physical Development Control Board must be composed of experienced licensed Professionals as

the land surveyor, architect, structural/civil engineer, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, town planner, builder, quantity surveyor, lawyer and estate valuer.

Others are compulsory visit by consultants to soil/material test laboratory band solicitation for government to construct more soil/material test in all local government areas;  submission of drawings to building control board or units for issuance of permit to develop and building completion certified certificate.

In his paper, a senior lecturer in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Dr. Celestine Akolisa Ezeagu said that efforts must be geared to forestall building collapse by identifying the factors contributing to the ugly phenomenon. He suggested that all buildings, public and private should be certified by registered structural engineers and builders in addition to conduct of soil tests to identify areas that are not suitable for certain types of buildings.

In his paper, a town planner, Mr. Joachin Okwuchukwu Ulasi lamented that the rising incidence of building collapse has become a source of concern for both government and stakeholders in the country. “Building is a collective effort and building collapse is a collective fault”.  Ulasi condemned what he called “professional quacks” whereby certain professionals in the building industry undertake to do other professional jobs claiming that they know how to do it, which in turn could lead to building collapse. He appealed to Anambra State Government to increase the composition of the Anambra State Physical Planning Board [ANSPPB] to enable them monitor building projects to reduce the incidence of building collapse.

In his remarks, the Commissioner for Housing, represented by a director, Mr. Edison Obianyor, promised to leverage government’s efforts to stem the unacceptable incidence of building collapse and commended Mr. SO Okafor for his doggedness to organize the human capacity building to see that such ugly incidences are reduced to the barest minimum.

In its message, the Nigerian Institute of Structural Engineers advised that there should be avoidable measures to prevent building collapse like avoiding building on low lying, flood-prone swampy or peaty sites but added that if it becomes inevitable to build on such areas, one has to seek the advice of a structural engineer because the key professional on the safety of building is the structural engineer.

“The services of structural engineers should be sought in buildings; it is inadvisable to patronize quacks and the choice of the contractor must be devoid of sentiments. Let the structural engineer assist you in assessing the competence of the construction team. The cheapest construction bid may not necessarily be the best”, the professional body advised.

The body further advised that structural engineers should assist in assessing the competence of the construction team. “Let the structural designer of the building supervise its construction; do not rush to complete the works by not allowing the concrete to attain the required strength before building on it or striking the form. Avoid concreting at night or in the rain”, the body advised.

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