Of Preventable Building Collapses: Call to Action
March 13, 2019, was a Black Letter Day for many pupils and parents in Ita-Faaji, Tinubu, area of Lagos, Nigeria. A three-storey building on 63, Massey street, collapsed, taking with it residents of the building and pupils who schooled in the building. A father lost three of his children in the collapse and is praying for the survival of the last child in the hospital.
Preliminary investigations by regulatory agencies revealed that the building had earlier been marked for demolition. This collapse comes barely nine months after another building on the same street caved in. Barely a week after the first, another building collapsed in Lagos Island. In the middle of these two was another building collapse in Ibadan, Nigeria which occurred last week.
A lot of questions have been left unanswered. How did a school get approval to operate on the second floor of a building? How come a school was situate in a building that residents could barely move around comfortably? With the rate of building collapse occurring in Nigeria, there is a need for urgent reforms in the housing sector.
Goal 9 and 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) are geared towards Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; and Sustainable Cities and Communities. There is a need for Governments to be proactive in the enforcement of town planning laws in their States. Regulatory agencies should perform their duties with the utmost dignity and efficiency. Sites and building materials should be inspected before building permits, and licences are granted. Some areas are just not fit for some types of structures.
Not all areas are habitable and fit for human habitation. Private organisations and citizens also have a role to play in this issue. We should not keep quiet when we see dilapidated structures around us; we should call on the appropriate government agency to inspect the building and take necessary actions. Greed has been a killer of man from time immemorial. We should not let greed get the better part of us. We should say ‘No to murder’ either intended or not, through collusion with developers and regulatory agencies to put poor structures up as buildings and letting same to fellow human beings to live.
Stakeholders need to work together to execute projects geared at making housing affordable for the common man. Most incidents of building collapse in Lagos have been in the habitat of the average citizen and not the elite. With affordable housing schemes in place, people would not risk their lives due to economic hardships to dwell in or send their children to schools situate in decapitated structures.
In the aftermath of the Massey building collapse, about 20 persons have been confirmed dead. Rescued victims are undergoing free treatment at different government hospitals in Lagos. However, hospitals are experiencing a shortage of blood. We are encouraged to donate blood to the victims in need. This would not only help save the life of victims but would also assist in replenishing our blood production, making us healthier people. Donating blood is doing good and doing good makes us happy, and happy people are healthier people. Even, the Lagos State government has begun the demolition of buildings earlier inspected and marked unfit for habitation.
Some of the rescued victims died as a result of suffocation before they could get to the hospital. Whenever an accident like this occurs, there is a need to inform the appropriate government agencies to come to the rescue. First responders should avoid panicking and create spaces for rescued people to gain access to fresh air. Persons who are not helping in the rescue mission should avoid shouting and obstructing the work of the rescue mission.
Call to Action
• Ensure environmental impact assessment is done before constructing a building.
• Get the appropriate permits from the right regulatory agencies, do not patronize touts.
• Do not collude with building developers to put up ill-fitting structures for inhabitation.
• Report any ill-fitting structure in your area to the right regulatory agency and follow-up on the report.
• Repair damages to buildings as soon as they arise. Endeavour to conduct a status check on your residence as often as possible.
• When crises occur, immediately notify emergency services. Allow first responders to carry out the rescue mission effectively.
• Give rescue workers breathing spaces and stay far away from the accident scene if you are not helping with the rescue mission.
• If you are in a position to donate blood or other relief items, do so with immediate urgency.