There are 7 professionals in the Building Environmental sector which include Builders, Town Planners, Engineers, Surveyors, Architects and others. They are trained for different stages in the construction sector but unfortunately, some of them dominate others veering into areas they do not have sufficient training not minding the complexities involved in the building production.
The recent collapse of a 7-storey hotel building in Owerri, the lmo State capital with a Pent-House which killed 15 people has once more exposed the infighting among professionals in the sector and poor regulation.
According to pre-contract agreement, the architectural consultant was approached by the client and owner of the building, who resides in France, to design a 6-floor hotel complex on the land he acquired at the Musa Yar-Adua Drive in Owerri metropolis.
On acceptance of the sketch design by the client, he engaged the services of qualified structural and M & E engineers for the production of working drawings and approval documents for the approval process. Architects were also not involved in the approval process as the client interacted directly with the OCDA (Owerri Capital Development Authority)”, he added.
He said the architects involved in the project consequently pulled out of the deal, as the client insisted on adding two floors to the structure.
Arguing their innocence further, he said that informed their pulling out of the project in good time was to protect their professional integrity.
The man in the eye of the storm and the owner of the collapsed 7 storey’s hotel structure under construction, with a pent-house, Chinedu Victor Anujuru called for the institution of a judicial panel of enquiry to determine the remote and immediate cause of the collapse.
Anujuru, who is based in Paris, France, in his statement said the Owerri Capital Development Authority had on the April 17th, 2019, approved 7-storeys and a penthouse contrary to insinuations that the approving authority had only approved six storeys.
Anujuru, who spoke through his counsel, former Imo State Attorney-General Soronnadi Njoku, called for the setting up of a panel of enquiry to unearth the real cause of the collapse of the hotel project. He maintained that a hasty decision should not be taken by the Imo State Government, making reference to the purported revocation of the Certificate of Occupancy, which would amount to penalising the owner of the building who has invested about ₦4.8 billion as his own contribution towards job creation and economic growth in his home state.
According to him, “Our client is very worried that some utterances by some people, including the purported interim report by the Nigerian Institute of Architects, appear to be highly prejudicial to a fair, impartial and objective determination of the very important question: Why did the building collapse?”
“Our client, being the owner of the collapsed building, is a principal participant in this unfortunate development and it is wrong, unfair and unjust to arrive at conclusions, pass judgment and or take decisions without hearing from him.”
It is important to note that he objects strongly to certain utterances and actions of some individuals who appear to cash in on this misfortune for their own selfish ends.
Nnadi said: “We call on the Imo State Government to immediately set up a judicial panel of enquiry because it will have the powers to subpoena and compel the attendance of witnesses, order the production of documents, issue warrants and summons but, above all, create the enabling environment for all the persons involved, including our client, to be given a fair hearing before the Government can then take well-informed decisions on the issues.”
The former Attorney-General maintained that the collapse of the building should not be swept under the rug to guard against such occurrences in the future.
The Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodimma while visiting the site assured that the contractor and construction firm would be brought to book after proper investigation was conducted.
He said: “This is a very sad event. It is a very serious violation and also to hear that the requisite approvals were not adhered to is yet carelessness,” he added.
The construction sector has always been fraught with arguments and unhealthy competitions on which profession is the leader in the sector.
While architects believe they are the leaders as they argue that the clients met them first and that their competencies are high and encompassing, builders and others say the competencies in the 7 professional groupings are varied and unique and urge every professional calling to stay in their core competencies.
Observes also say the unhealthy competition among the professionals has led to challenges leading to building failures. They insist that when you stray into areas you are not trained to do you automatically become a quack no matter the qualification you show-case.
The Owerri building collapse is a clarion call to all Ministries charged with Physical Planning and Urban Development in Nigeria to extend their strict assessment and vetting of building projects beyond building plan approval. This might not be the first building to collapse in Owerri, but the rate of buildings collapsing are becoming one too many.
Building collapse has become a recurring decimal because people without the requisite ability to carry out a task ignore the inherent risk for the tempting, anticipated monetary gains, thereby endangering lives and property. The delicate process of transforming the architectural, structural and services designs and drawings to satisfactory building products require expertise that professional builders possess.
Ministries and agencies responsible for physical planning and urban development should devote greater attention to the practical stages of building, which is the actual building construction. Companies or those who plan to handle construction of a building should be thoroughly investigated to ensure that round pegs are inserted in round holes. The sensitive building production processes should be managed by the Professional Builder, who by his training and integrity will not compromise on standards or competence.
Using Lagos as a case study to curb the incessant collapse of buildings, building control agencies across the nation are urged to ensure that a registered Builder that could be held accountable for quality production on-site. The fear of losing one’s license if found derelict by their regulatory body, Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON) and the accompanying loss of reputation would make the Builder to be very cautious and fit for the building process.
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