The proverbial dust is yet to settle on the 21-storey building collapse in Ikoyi, Lagos Island on November 1, 2021, which claimed 47 lives.
The public is yet to be informed of the findings of a committee set up by the Lagos State Government.Another collapse of a three-storey building under construction took place at Akanbi Crescent, Yaba, Lagos on Saturday, February 12, 2022, with six lives lost. The developers of the Yaba building reportedly displayed the same callous recalcitrance as in the Ikoyi high-rise case.
Eye witnesses told the media that a part of the building had fallen last year, yet the developer continued building while the Lagos State Building Control Agency, LASBCA, did nothing to stop work on the site.
The Lagos State Government has formed the habit of sweeping the issue under the carpet despite the large number of human casualties involved in earlier cases. The Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, building came down on September 14, 2014, killing 115 worshippers, mostly international visitors.
Till today, nothing has been done to ensure justice for the dead by bringing the full weight of the law on the owners and contractors.
It is not surprising that developers and contractors have continued to flout the building code with substandard structures which endanger the lives and property of the citizens. It is obvious that the forfeiture of the land where buildings collapse has not exacted enough caution or deterrence on developers, probably due to political or filial connections of some of the culprits with those in political authority.
The major reason for the prevalence of substandard buildings is poor supervision by government regulators.
Most of the time, inspection of buildings under construction or existing ones are done with a view to extort the developers. Unscrupulous developers who know their ways around the law bribe their way out of regulation. And when such structures come down, the developers and contractors most of the time are not prosecuted.
There is no evidence of any developer who was diligently prosecuted or convicted.
Until governments in all parts of the country summon the gumption to sanction all the culprits involved in the construction of substandard buildings, the menace will continue. People who lose loved ones must also be courageous and institute legal actions against all parties involved in the avoidable loss of lives.
When we insist on justice, the examples we set can impose deterrence. Disaster prevention, particularly the prevention of building collapse, should not be left for the government and developers alone.
Members of the community, and even the labourers whose lives are endangered, must learn to raise the alarm and never relent until the authorities do their jobs.We must take greater responsibility for our collective safety.