By Olasunkanmi Akoni
General Manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency, LASBCA, Mrs. Abimbola Animashaun-Odunayo, in this interview, speaks on the recent collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, the intricacies surrounding it, the next line of action by the state government, among others. Excerpts:
What actually went wrong with the SCOAN collapsed building?
We need support from stakeholders and everyone. Before now, we have been trying to curtail incidence of collapse building until we had the latest one. I think the problem of Synagogue Church of All Nations, SCOAN, brought the issue to the fore again. A lot of institutions are too secretive they will not allow government officials do their job properly. They believed that if you are not a member, you cannot have access to their premises.
The site of the collapsed building at the Synagogue Church, Ikotun-Egbe, Lagos.
Perhaps, what happened in Synagogue would not have happened if they had allowed government officials do their job. What Synagogue needs to know is that the place is no more in their purview, everything now belongs to government because that’s what the law stipulates. Anytime our officials went there they were prevented.
We could not gain access. I believe we need to sensitize public institutions more, so that when an incident happens they give way to rescue team and government officials otherwise there will be issues like this in future. We will not allow this anymore because the law has given us the power to carry out our work effectively and efficiently.
We have a task force, but on that fateful Friday, church staff did not allow us to have access to the collapsed site until when Rapid Response Squad, RRS, came to our aid. People should allow us access to do our job without fear. We have had issues where we were beaten, harassed and molested in the course of doing our duties, it should stop.
They fail to realize that the function of our agency is to save lives, reduce incidence of building collapse to zero. If people are not allowing us to do our job we cannot save lives. I think we need to increase the number of our taskforce men to enhance our work.
In the Synagogue incident, was your agency not carried along in the building process and do they have necessary approval?
We are still investigating. As I said earlier, we asked them about the approval papers, but the representatives of the church said the approval papers had been burie4d in the rubble. So we are still waiting for them to present the papers.
Yet, the fact is that the building in question was initially a two-storey building before they added four raising it to six. They could not have done that without having competent people overseeing the building. If a raft foundation was done to carry out two-storey building, what did they do to fortify the strength of that foundation to carry out six-storey building.? This is the question we are asking them. Investigation is on-going; until we finish the investigation, we won’t be able to do much. We are just waiting for the result.
Lagos State Material Testing, current registered institutions, NIA and other professionals are all involved in the investigation. We will do the test to unravel the cause of the collapse. Even though, they said it was due to aircraft, we have a lot of houses that planes fly over. everyday and they are not collapsing, so why this particular one, we have to conduct a thorough investigation.
On the seeming reluctance of the state government to place immediate sanction as it is usually the case.
The state government is not reluctant. The fact is that the place is not a plot of land, it is a compound. We cannot go ahead and seal the whole place, the site is an open space. We can’t seal for now, because the law says when such an incident happens, the first thing to do is to evacuate victims into safety after which we have to cordon off the place and take charge. But unfortunately that land has other plans.
And also because of the aircraft theory, we have to investigate. Aviation experts are involved. We have to sort things out before taking action. The Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law, 2010 is there. We need to follow the law. So we are leaving everything till investigation is concluded which I believe will come very soon. But, I can assure you appropriate action will be taken.
Similar challenges in the course of duty.
We have several nasty cases. There are places where our staff were beaten up and prevented from doing their work sometimes by people using guns. We have cases of barracks where buildings are in distressed and dilapidated state. When we go for inspection, they harass us and chase us away with guns. I think the Federal Governments and the governor need to do something about them fast before they start falling down one after the other
Because as long as a building is within Lagos State, the governor has the power, under the 2014 Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law, to challenge and enforce the law.
Particularly, the Federal Government should do something now about the distressed buildings in police barracks, most especially the ones in Ikeja, Iponri, Ojuelegba, Obalende areas, all those barracks are not in good condition. There is need for immediate intervention to prevent avoidable loss of lives.
Like the ones in Iponri and Ikeja, we have compiled our reports and sent to the authorities and I am sure the state is working in collaboration with the FG because we will not allow any loss of life because of negligence and stubbornness.
We will not wait for the magnitude of destruction of lives and property like that of SCOAN to happen in Lagos before something is done.
We plan to reduce the incidence of building collapse in this state to zero tolerance. Incidence of building collapse will stop in the country if Nigerians imbibe the culture of adhering to building laws, rules and regulations.
We implore Lagosians to help us to help them, to save lives because if you say it doesn’t concern you, you may have relatives, family members friends in the collapsed building. We don’t want anyone to lose his or her life and that’s why we are around. After the SCOAN incident, people have been coming forward to tell us of other noticed distressed buildings.
How building standard is measured in the state.
Soil test must be determined. The soil on the Island is not the same as the one on the Mainland. Depending on the soil investigation, we can determine the kind of foundation required. The foundation will always determine the type of building whether bungalow, duplex, high-rise, among others. LASBCA always gets involved in any building from the soil investigation; when you have this, we give you one or two options.
It is now left to you to make a choice. And when we approve what the person intends to do, we follow-up right from the foundation to the level of construction so that we can do the stage inspection and certification to ensure that the developer is building right, that is, to make sure the building is up to the standard specification and building code and according to the law after which he can proceed to the necessary things: the wall, the blocks and materials are of good quality. At end of the day, we look at drainage, plumbing, electricity, fire safety and then the roofing.