167 buildings collapsed in Lagos from 2000-21, study finds

Some 6,000 households have been displaced and $3.2 trillion worth of property has been lost in 167 building collapses in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos between 2000 and 2021, according to an analysis published last week by the US-based Brookings Institution.

Around 78% of the collapsed buildings were residential, while some 13% were commercial and 9% were institutional, according to the study’s author, Olasunkanmi Habeeb Okunola, a visiting scientist at the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security.

The analysis follows the collapse in November 2021 of a 21-storey luxury apartment building under construction in the Ikoyi district of Lagos, in which 45 people died.

Causes include the neglect of professional expertise, the use of substandard building materials, the hiring of unqualified builders, the departure from approved permits, and illegal building conversions.

“Notably,” Okunola writes, “there are neither federal nor state regulations in Nigeria that mandate that individuals or building developers consult certified professionals for building construction.”

He said a number of laws passed since the 1990s to ensure building integrity have not been enforced by varying tiers of government in Nigeria, which he attributes to a lack of resources for effective monitoring and corruption among government officials.

To stem the tide of collapses, the government should ensure relevant agencies have enough qualified professionals, and make public the identities of owners, architects, quantity surveyors, engineers and project managers, Okunola said.

All permits and documents relating safety testing of soil, materials and structures should be published as well, he added.

While the study concerns only Lagos, there is evidence that the problem is widespread in Nigeria. In 2019 alone there were 43 building collapse incidents in the country, according to the Building Collapse Prevention Guild, an advocacy group of built environment professionals.

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