This article is part of our #FirstWord series to provide context on trending news
There are more than 1,000 buildings in Lagos Island that are unfit for human habitation and due for demolition, according to Kunle Awobodu. Awobodu is the National President of the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG), an independent body aimed at promoting standard construction practices across the country.
On Thursday, 14th March, Awobodu said that bad workmanship and poor quality building materials are responsible for weak houses in Lagos Island, particularly those in the Idumota, Adeniji Adele axis. According to him, the distressed buildings had been brought to the notice of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) for demolition.
His statement came up as a result of the collapse of a three-storey building that was housing a school at Massey Street, Lagos Island on Wednesday, 13th March. The collapse killed 20 people and injured at least 40 (most of them children). The building was one of those marked for demolition, and the school operating from inside it was confirmed to have been operating illegally by the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode.
“There are over 1,000 distressed other buildings of this nature in Lagos, which, if nothing is done to demolish them, they will still collapse, resulting in more calamities in the state. The collapsed building had been marked for demolition about three times, but the building regulatory agency has not demolished it.”
“Let the state government look for preventive measures, rather than spending money for evacuation, investigation and remediation after the calamities and damages have occurred.” - Kunle Awobodu.
Are regulators to blame for weak buildings?
Building professionals, including members of the seven environmental professional bodies in the country, have blamed agencies like the Ministry of Physical planning and LASBCA for the rampant case of inhabitable houses on the Island. The agencies in charge of double checking that buildings are up to standard often miss obvious evidence of cheating and non-compliance with the regulations.
For example, the standard distance of a building from the road or street recognised by the law is 3 metres on the sides and 6 metres in front. In Lagos Island, many buildings are dangerously close to the main road that they require no measurement. Yet they are allowed to thrive without consequences for the homeowners and contractors.
Meanwhile, the General Manager of LASBCA, Lekan Shodeinde, in response to the recent collapse of the three storey building at Massey Street has said that more than 150 defective houses have been marked for demolition. According to him, the owners of some of these buildings have been served multiple notices dating as far back as 2013.
“What we are trying to do is to remove occupants from all these structures that have been marked so that no life is lost in Lagos.
“For now on Lagos Island alone, we have a clear court case approval of over 80 cases and 80 structures that are ready for removal and we will do it in phases systematically so that life will be comfortable for Lagosians.”
The team has started demolishing unfit structures to prevent them from collapsing and killing people.