“It is not the destination where you end up but the mishaps and memories you create along the way” – Penelope Riley
By Substance Nature
In the last ten years, there have been no fewer than 20 building collapses in the country, each with casualties and scars that are too obvious to be easily forgotten. Yet, they kept happening and spreading to all nooks and crannies of the country. Uyo may be the most recent, but certainly not the last except decisive steps were taken for the needed changes.
The question that is usually asked after each occurrence has always been why? At the bottom of all the claims by the parties and threats of deterrents by government are corruption and endemic poor attitude to quality that are the bane in contemporary Nigeria. Although self-defense and justifications prevail, compromising of standards usually operates best or worst on a chain, like a conveyor belt. But the recent collapse of the Reigners Church building, along Uyo Village Road, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State had sparked up not only reactions but the choking dust of the history of same incidents in the recent past. Retrospect here recollects a sad past in a sadder present, with recorded instances of building collapses in the country….
- BANK OF INDUSTRY COLLPASE, LAGOS, MARCH 2006: The event this day was very shocking and heart-rending. The top nine floors of a 21 storey building belonging to the Bank of Industry on Broad Street, Lagos Island, came crashing. In the end, 2 people ended their sojourn on earth and 23 others were injured. The collapse was a double tragedy because just a few days earlier, two other floors in the same building had been gutted by fire. Later findings attributed the collapse to weak foundation; although a few others associated it with the heavy downpour on that day. However, that the building was meant for demolition is indicative of the issues that originally must have been raised long before it was built for habitation.
- THE “TITANIC” IN EBUTE META, LAGOS, (JULY 8, 2006): “Titanic”, a name given to a popular four-storey building in Lagos collapsed on March 8, 2006, leaving at its bloody trails 28 human corpses. It was a block of 36 flats that accommodated about 180 people. Though severed were rescued, some went with silently and terminally with the hot rubbles. By this time, Bola Tinubu was the Governor of Lagos State, who only promised to deal with the culprits. But the purported findings and nature of punishment are still a matter of guesswork till today. By the time of the collapse, the building reportedly was about three years.
- BUILDING COLLAPSE IN AGBAMA, UMUAHIA, MAY 2010: This building collapse brought Umuahia on national headlines that week. It was a building under construction along Agbama Road, leaving 7 seven dead and others severely injured. It was even worse because the incident occurred in the night and therefore received limited help.
- UNCOMPLETED BUIDLING COLLAPSE IN ABUJA (AUGUST 2010): The event this day involved an uncompleted four-storey building at No. 2, Ikoli Street, Off Gimbiya in Garki area of Abuja. In the collapsed building were 30 people, 23 of whom died while others sustained various degrees of incapacitating injuries.
- ABONDONED CHRUCH BUILDING COLLAPSE IN KADUNA, DECEMBER 2011: This incident involved an abandoned church building that collapsed in December 2011 in Angwan Dosa, Kaduna State. it was ironic that the collapse took place while about 25 workers hired to demolish it were on the job. The building was said to have been abandoned when contractors were forced out of site as a result of the 2011 post-election violence that broke out about the time. The sad consequence was that 5 lost their lives, 4 at the spot and the fifth one at s hospital he was rushed to.
- EBUTE META, JULY 2013: It appeared Ebute Meta has become synonymous with or notorious for collapsed buildings. The high concentration of buildings and the resulting desperation in the area may not be far from the reason. The collapsed three-storey building that day was said to have already been marked for demolition a year earlier, yet people never minded. Then came the disheartening tragedy in the early hours of the morning: 10 people trapped; 7 died, including a pregnant woman, a one-year-old baby, and a couple.
- BUILDING COLLAPSE IN HADEJA, KADUNA, JULY 11, 2013: On this day, the heart of Kaduna metropolis was shaken when an old three-storey building at No. 12 Hadeja collapsed, just hours after a similar incident had occurred on Oloto Street in far away Lagos. The casualties saw a middle-aged woman lost three of her six children, aged between nine and fourteen, who were in the building – unfortunately the only to die in the incident. The collapsed building was about 100 years old at the time of the incident.
- SCHOOL BUILDING COLLAPSE IN JOS, (SEPTEMBER 2013): It was a busy sunny Sunday. Many had returned from church and were out for the usual evening outings and recreation. But suddenly, somewhere within, tragedy struck. That evening, Abu Naima primary and Secondary School, a two-storey building in Bukuru, Jos South Local Government Area came to the floor. The crisis caught up with 30 pupils who were below 10 years of age. The primary cause of the collapse was said to be structural inadequacies that saw the former bungalow upgraded to a storey building without a reinforcement of the foundation.
- SYNAGOGUE CHURCH BUILDING COLLAPSE (SEPTEMBER 12, 2014): Considering the casualties, according to analysts, this has been adjudged one of the worst building collapses in Nigeria. It took place at a place called Ikokun in Lagos State, where the perpetually controversial Pastor Temitope Joshua, alias T.B. Joshua locates his Synagogue Church of All Nations. On that day, a crowded six-storey building collapsed, with about 300 people falling victims. The tentative death toll at the end of findings was put at 116, in addition to the about 100 critically injured, most of whom were South Africans. What later ensued was a game of blames and justifications: While building experts blamed the contractors for flouting certain principles, the contractors in turn censored the Church authority for allowing more crowd than was recommended for the building. But there was the story allegedly authored by T.B. Joshua himself of “a strange aircraft” that bombed into the building and caused the mishap. Subsequently, the Lagos State Government filed a-111 count charge against the Church, Headrock Construction and Engineering Company, Jandy Trust Limited, Engineers Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun.
- LEKKI BUILDING COLLAPSE (MARCH 2016): The Lekki building Collapse occurred on March 8, 2016 by 3am, following a windstorm. It was a five-storey building under construction at Lekki Gardens Horizon, Phase 1. Majority of the victims were workers on site, and those confirmed dead were 34, besides others who were badly wounded. The worst hit and most pitiable perhaps was a family of three – husband, wife and a 6-month old baby who all gave up. But it was case of eventuality because the story added that the woman and her baby had gone to the site only to collect money from her husband when the disaster struck. In the circle of blame were Messrs Lekki Worldwide Estate Limited. It was said that the tragedy could have been averted if the occupants had heeded to government’s earlier warning that nobody should inhabit the building.
- REIGNERS CHURCH BUILDING COLLAPSE, UYO, (10TH DECEMBER, 2016): Too fresh on the mind to be forgotten. Saturday, 19th December, 2016. The difference perhaps lies in the dignitaries involved in this incident, like no other. Although he was safe, it cannot be hidden that the Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, with a good number of his cabinet members, was an eye-witness of the event. in fact, his presence and charisma that changed eased so many things. Although the exact figures are still a matter of dispute, official reports put it at 23 and 27, with several injured and in critical conditions. But the speculative contends that the casualties may be upwards of 200 hundred. However, one identical thread of truth remains that the building was still undergoing construction, and with the job unduly rushed in preparation of the Bishopric Ordination of Apostle Akan Weeks, the founder of the church.
Retrospectively, building collapse in Nigeria has a long history of condonable acts of negligence on the part of builders and final occupants. Whereas builders are commonly found guilty of compromise of best standards, shoddiness and desperation to meet up deadlines or envisaged profits, occupants also have a part to play in saving life especially when and where there were danger signs and warnings of the imminent have been sounded.
The earliest reference to recorded building collapse in Nigeria dates back to the 70’s when 27 people lost their lives in October 1974 when a house under construction in Ibadan collapsed; in August 1977 another 27 were killed in Barnawa Housing Estate, Kaduna; 50 died in Port Harcourt in June 199o in a three storey building collapse, etc.
However, what might still be a debatable subject of discourse is whether or not a house owner can persuade – and convince – a professional builder or contractor to cheat principles on superior logic of economics of resources.