Two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa and Monday Ubani, have said the failure of relevant agencies to enforce construction laws is contributing to the frequency of building collapse in Lagos State.
Another SAN, Babatunde Ogala, warned that it was not every incidence of building collapse that constituted negligence or a criminal offence.
Their observation came in the wake of the collapse of a three-storey building located at No. 32 Ibadan Street, Ebute Meta, on Sunday night.
At least 10 corpses were pulled out from the rubble, while 24 tenants suffered varying degrees of injury.
Speaking with Saturday PUNCH in separate interviews, Adegboruwa and Ubani attributed the recent collapse and a similar disaster on November 1, 2021, where 44 Nigerians died in the collapse of a 21-storey building in Ikoyi, to the failure of the state to enforce relevant laws.
Adegboruwa said urban and regional planning laws and the statutes establishing the Lagos State Building Control Agency were sufficient to address the recurring problems in the building industry.
He expressed worry that the state policymakers lacked the willpower to caution building regulation violators.
“The only challenge here is the willpower to enforce them. Otherwise, I will say land grabbers and developers are bigger than the state These people have their hands in politics; they have their people in power and enforcement of the law against them is a mirage,” he stated.
Although Adegboruwa asserted that the Babajide Sanwo-Olu administration was doing its best as evidenced in the manner he wielded the big stick and instituted a probe after the Ikoyi building collapse, he nevertheless expressed disappointment that nothing significant came out of the probe.
Aside from calling for periodic stakeholders’ forums of architects, surveyors, engineers, real estate players and relevant officials, the senior advocate also charged the Standards Organisation of Nigeria to investigate where crooked developers were sourcing substandard iron rods and building materials from.
Ubani, a former Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, said that the state was failing in its responsibilities.
According to him, it is not unusual to hear officials vow every time a building comes down that they won’t allow it to happen again.
He stated, “But nothing will be done. In the case of the building that collapsed in Ebute Meta, I understand that the structure was not strong enough and notices were served. Why were those notices not enforced? That is why the residents remained there until it collapsed.
“I heard there were other buildings beside it that were also marked for demolition. As usual, we know the agencies will wait again until lives are lost before they rush down to make other empty promises.
“It is the issue of not enforcing our laws that is causing the problem. That is just the truth. The will is not there.”
The National Welfare Secretary of the NBA, Kunle Edun, also said Sanwo-Olu could do better by reactivating the building codes and town planning laws regulating the construction and management of buildings from the planning to completion stage, fatal accident act as well as the law of negligence.
He said, “Any of these laws can be invoked to prosecute persons involved in the wrong construction and mismanagement of buildings. A developer who builds a structure without adhering to strict quantity and quality standards just to save cost will be criminally liable in the event of building collapse, injuries or fatalities.
“Similarly, families of the victims have the locus standi to sue the owners of the buildings for compensation as a result of injuries sustained.”
The former NBA national publicity secretary, however, said that the state had refused to show leadership by making an example of those violating the building codes.
A Lagos-based lawyer, Babatunde Ogala, however, told our correspondent that it would be unfair to call for an immediate prosecution of developers whenever any building collapses in the state.
He asserted that most of the affected structures were not always linked to defects or negligence as people would want the world to believe.
He said, “It is not in all cases that building collapse constitutes negligence or criminal offence. It is just like saying all fire disasters are arson. Unless the crash is in contravention of the law, it is not necessarily an offence.
“I believe these issues should be considered on a case by case basis. The same also applies to fire disasters. We should note that it is not every fire that engulfs a house that constitutes arson or negligence.”
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