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Lekki building collapse

By Samuel Omojoye

AS at the last count, death toll in the recent building collapse incident involving a five-storey building un­der construction in Lekki, Lagos, was 34 while 13 people were rescued after rescue efforts had reached ground zero. The episode of the collapsed five-storey building of 12 blocks of flats at Lekki represents yet another case of needless loss of precious human lives in our clime. It is simply a case of one building collapse too many. Despite Nigeria being a country where es­sential and accurate statistics are hard to come by, one cannot but notice the countless untimely but avoidable deaths and bodily injuries that have plagued our soci­ety over the years.
Of late, the trend of building collapse in Nigeria and particularly in Lagos is becoming quite alarm­ing. Sometime last year, a failed building belonging to a famous church in Lagos collapsed, leading to the death of many people. It has now become part of our daily routine to hear sad tales of collapsed buildings with the attendant loss of lives and properties, injuries, structural and collateral damages to other properties as well as public infrastructure. Though cases of building collapse are not peculiar to Nigeria, as it happens all over the world, but the trend here is becoming quite worrisome and a source of concern to all stakeholders.
Over the years, the familiar pattern, especially with regards to building collapse in Lagos smacks of im­punity, impiety and sheer arrogance. What we have in Lagos is the usual Nigerian style of circumventing the laws. It is no longer news that Nigeria is a place where illegality thrives, people build structures with­out approved plan, building permit and other neces­sary authorisations, while estates spring up without approved layout plan. It is estimated that more than 60% of structures across the country falls within these categories.
Worse still and, perhaps, rather bothersome is that whenever the appropriate authorities attempt to ensure strict compliance with the rules by either sealing up an illegal building , those concerned often disregard such move by simply continuing with the process as if noth­ing happened. In some cases, they could even resort to awkward actions such as beating up regulatory of­ficials. The latest building collapse episode at Lekki, Lagos, is a classical example of how acts of brazen impunity by a few unscrupulous individuals could ac­tually cause havoc..
In an official statement released by the Lagos State Government after the ugly incident, it was revealed that promoters of the collapsed building were served contravention notice for exceeding the approved floors and thereafter the building was sealed by officials of the Lagos State Building Control Agency. It equally added that in a shameless act of impertinence and ut­most impunity, the proprietors of the building, Messrs Lekki Worldwide Estate Limited, the promoters of Le­kki Gardens, illegally unsealed the property and con­tinued building beyond the approved floors until the ill-fated event.
The Lagos State government’s claim that the pro­moters of the building disregarded official directives to stay action on the project, having been found to have contravened building regulations, was corroborated by the staff of the organization who alleged that there was never a time that they stopped working on the building. They simply carried on as if the orders coming from the regulatory agency were meant for the marines. It is the kind of impunity on display by the promoters of the Lekki collapsed building that has turned our coun­try into a jungle where anything goes. The sad reality of our country is that impunity has become part and parcel of us.
Going forward, the appropriate authorities respon­sible for building approval and allied matters must ensure that the rules are strictly adhered to at every stage of the process. It has, for instance, been alleged that some of the materials used for the collapsed build­ing, especially iron rods and blocks ,were substandard. This, of course, amply illustrates the complicity theory of regulatory officials who ought to have subject­ed such materials to necessary integrity tests. Experts have, indeed, revealed that in Lagos, many developers build without appropriate monitoring from necessary quarters. This should not be allowed to continue.
Any society that is built on the sort of impunity that we experience in our clime will continue to bear the brunt. The sad thing now is that impunity is on display in almost every segment of our society. Pay a visit to government hospitals, where government spends a for­tune to put in the right equipment and ensure the well being of medical workers, you will be amazed at the at­titude of the workers there.
On the roads, the situation is not different. Everybody drives as if there are no rules governing traffic. Opera­tors of the informal sector are not exempted from this culture of madness! If you have ever given your car to a mechanic to fix or you have had cause to deal with plumbers, electricians, carpenters etc you will appreci­ate the resourcefulness of the average Nigerian in cut­ting corners!
There is no point in passing the buck. We should stop the blame game. If we are to fulfil our potentials as a na­tion, we have to collectively change our orientation. We have to change our value system. To begin with, those who willingly circumvent the laws of the land should be brought to book. What it takes for evil to gain a strong­hold in any society is for evil to continually go unpun­ished. It is in the light of this that one welcomes the news that the promoters of the failed Lekki building and their collaborators are already being prosecuted.
They should be made to pay the ultimate penalty as stipulated by the law. They should face the music for their careless conduct. This time around, the case must not be swept under the carpet. This is the only way we can move forward as a people. We cannot continue to lose human lives in such unnecessary circumstances. Human life is too precious to be wasted through the sloppy conduct of a few irreverent people. Enough is enough!
.Omojoye writes from Lagos

This post was syndicated from The Sun News. Click here to read the full text on the original website.

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