Chucks Omeife is a member of the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB) and a registered builder with the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON). He is also Managing Director/CEO of Build Consult Ltd and Managing Partner, Integrated Project Management Consult. In this interview with DAYO AYEYEMI, he says the National Building Code (NBC) has what it takes to reduce the recurring national problem of building collapse to a bare minimum if implemented holistically. He also talks about its benefits for developers, home builders, built environment professionals and government.
What is your view on the Lagos State Government’s plan to domesticate the National Building Code?
The Lagos State Government’s decision to domesticate the National Building Code is a very welcome development, although some of us feel it should have been done before then. The reason for this is basically the fact that, given the frequency of building collapse cases and casualties there, which has been the axis of Lagos for many years. Predictably, the government should have been very proactive, if not for nothing, but to avoid the continued deaths and associated loss of life and waste in these precarious economic times. Lagos State is a distinctive state and is a pioneer in advancing strategic policies at all levels that are being copied by other states. Therefore, the wave and currency of government activities must be scaled to match the rate of uncoordinated development in the built environment due to the daily influx of Nigerians in search of greener pastures.
The fact that the government seems to be slow to tackle this shameful threat is something that can in no way be justified.
What do you mean?
The reasons for the collapse of buildings have been discussed, argued, presented in different forums, both professionally, socially and on government organized platforms, so the reasons and solutions are not a rocket science .
The major problem is the collective dishonesty of both government and professionals that the charlatans have taken advantage of to unleash the reckless randomness into the built environment. The government must read between the lines and guarantee the non-interference of professionals and politicians in the offices who do not think about what is good for the whole rather than protecting their profession and even going so far as to annex the fields of other professionals to their profession.
This has been the major problem of putting in place a comprehensive law which will have a great impact in solving this problem of building collapse which seems to be malignant.
Roles and responsibilities of professionals should be clearly defined and adequate sanctions provided for deterrence.
What needs to be done to ensure smooth domestication and implementation of the building code?
The idea of using inappropriate and generic descriptions for role designation should be avoided. The National Building Code contains everything necessary to reduce the recurring national problem of building collapse to a bare minimum if and when implemented comprehensively, sincerely and to the letter.
Professionals should be free from agreed roles and responsibilities subject to the sanctions necessary for the effectiveness of the code. The code is an essential government regulatory tool for creating order in the built environment and the project delivery process. The building code should simplify the process of identifying and locating problems in the event of a labor challenge or professional negligence.
An effective building code is a big plus for the built environment in Lagos, which will gradually distill to other states. This will ensure quality work that will put professionals on their toes, reduce government interference in the industry regulatory process, and significantly reduce the prevalence of quackery.
What are the benefits for property developers or home builders?
For developers, this will serve as a big check on their business and cutter mentality. Homebuilders will also be forced to scale up to meet code requirements, while Lagosians will be the biggest beneficiaries. This will encourage better observance of safety standards and change the narrative of building collapse in Nigeria.
Who will ensure compliance with the provisions of the code?
In the current National Building Code, there is a provision for code enforcement officers, who should be hired to monitor compliance with code requirements. Usually, this should be a multidisciplinary service environment with committed people trained accordingly in the provisions of the code and its management.
What are the specifics that the Lagos State government needs to consider when domesticating the building code?
As we all know, a building code is a set of regulations put in place by the government with the help of building professionals that governs the design, construction, maintenance and alteration of all types of buildings. in the locality. Violation of these regulations should result in sanctions, fines and/or penalties. One of the major peculiarities of Lagos State is that it has turned into a major construction site with simultaneous development of buildings and infrastructure. The challenge is therefore the shortage or unavailability of personnel to manage the different sites, with varying distances across the state. The State must necessarily collaborate with organizations or associations of professionals to ensure adequate control of the construction space. It is only in the implementation of the code by proper monitoring that the result can be appreciated. This peculiarity of Lagos State has made the issue of collapsing buildings an onerous task that has given charlatans a busy day. An initiative of collaboration and partnership at different levels with professionals from the private sector can go a long way towards solving this problem.
What is the missing link that the building code must provide?
The code is very specific on the areas of concern which are primarily design and construction. Fortunately, the issue of design and regulatory compliance has been properly addressed in the planning law through approval documentation. Incidentally, the construction process was left out as everyone’s business. It is one of the greatest tragedies in the history of building collapse in this country. The responsibility of who builds or manages the building process in Nigeria has been presented as the responsibility of every built environment professional. If not, how come there is nowhere where it is clearly and unambiguously stated that the builder, whose role is to manage the construction process on site, will be the first suspect in the event of a defect on site due to negligence or poor execution or poor quality of work leading to collapse. The use of the word ‘relevant professionals’ to describe a critical role in the management of the construction process on site is a deliberately negative connotation to allow any built environment professional to play this role. This is one of the greatest misinformation invented by those who do not want the built environment good for their selfish interest. What is difficult is to relate the professional roles to the professional designation. For all the existing regulations, that’s captured at the design stage for design professionals, but at the construction stage, what’s put there is – relevant professionals, what a double standard. The proposed building code should make it clear and specific and not descriptive of the professional managing the construction process.
Thus the construction phase would have been fully regulated as well as the design phase.
The proposed code should remove ambiguity and be simplified so that all stakeholders and citizens of the state can interpret and understand it. This is the easiest way to get everyone to adhere to the provisions of the code.
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