The recent collapse of proposed 21-storey building under construction in Lagos on 1st November, 2021 which caused the death of 42 persons once again freshened the wounds of building collapse aching the relevant professional bodies in Nigeria. The building collapse in Nigeria now have a long history that have continued to stretch. What is worrisome is not that buildings happen to collapse because mistake of man can lead to collapse of building. It has happened in developed countries but when something happens very frequently, it appears that there is neglect in that aspect. Such seems the case of building collapse in Nigeria.
Among the identified causes of building collapse in Nigeria, human factor plays significant role. Human factor plays in the form of corruption, greed and quackery. Corruption have been a big thorn in infrastructural development in Nigeria. There is often the situation where the client collects big share of the project money leaving a paltry sum for the contractor to use and work. In order to manage the money and also make suitable profit, the contractor could be pushed to cut corners and use substandard materials in the work against his will and this if it does not lead to imminent collapse of the infrastructure will significantly reduce its service life. It is on record that this kind of scenario is obtainable in government projects. It usually comes as rumour but the reality is manifest it its fruits especially in road construction.
Greed plays a role were the client (often private individual) desires to save much from the work or the contractor desires to make much gain from the work that designs and standards are compromised and thus make the structure vulnerable. The client can contribute to this often by hiring quacks who promise to do the work with a ridiculous smaller service fee against the suitable professional service fee. The use of sub-standard materials is often the ploy of contractors. In a research carried out by Mansur and Kouider in 2017 on causes of building failure and collapse in Nigeria, 90.9% of respondents who are professionals in the field agree that use of sub-standard materials contribute most to building collapse and among these materials, reinforcement stands out at 41.9%.
Quackery is where someone not qualified for the job by training takes up the job at a lower professional service fee. Due to shortage and unfavourable skew in the Nigerian job market, quackery is very rampant. Graduates and non-graduates alike go into jobs they are not qualified by training to do because it pays better. Quackery in the building and construction industry in Nigeria have rendered most expert in this field either jobless or with fewer jobs than expected and have pushed many to ‘professional quackery’ because of drastic shortage of jobs. This has led to gross underpricing of some services to the savings of the client and detriment of professionals in infrastructural development especially buildings. Artisans like Masons or people from other professions who have worked closely with Architects or Engineers or Builders take up jobs at ridiculous prices and clients accepts these because they want to save more from their project without considering the risk involved in such. A common parlance is, ‘he built for this person, he can also build mine’.
What are the bodies regulating professional practices in infrastructural development in Nigeria like Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON), Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), Nigeria Institute of Building (NIOB) etc doing about these? It is appalling to note that these non-professionals get approvals for such works from professionals because they professionals are more interested in the money, they would get than the decay in the system. It is the duty of these professionals to rise and save the face of infrastructural development in this country. If we allow the situation to continue, we should be ready to count the following demerits:
- The professionals loses the right of place and are remunerated very poorly.
- The structures constructed does not live out their service life thus bringing loss in economy.
- The lives of those living in or using such structures are at risk from earthquake, strong wind and erosion
- The scarce natural resources are wasted without any measure to reuse it sustainably.
- And many more reasons.
There are lots of disadvantages of quackery in infrastructural development in our society and the regulating bodies should rise today to save the face of the professionals in infrastructural development. Bribery and corruption are what fuels this menace because the laws exist but the laws are compromised in the face of money thereby, illegally, enriching very few who are priviledged and leaving others in penury. We should fight this war with compassion and professionalism. Compassion for those whose lives are at risk and fellow professionals because it is part of our own ethics.
Thanks for reading!