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Building collapse issue has only been addressed through lip service – Omeife

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Omeife

Builder Chucks Omeife is a fellow and past president of the Nigerian Institute of Building and currently President, Chartered Project Management Institute of Nigeria. In this interview with Associate Editor, Dada Jackson, he bares his mind on a number of topical issues such as the National Building Code and Land Use Act and unhealthy competition among professionals in the built environment. Excerpts:

What is your take on the incessant collapse of buildings nationwide?

There has not been a concerted and deliberate effort on the part of government to abate the problem of building collapse across the country. The issue of building collapse has only been addressed through lip service. I say this with very serious sense of responsibility because building delivery is a multi-faceted process with multi-professional input.

What is the specific role of the professional in the construction process? I ask because of the infiltration of quacks in the built environment.

Every professional involved in building delivery process must be tasked and their role is limited to their core competencies. Every professional in the built environment must be allowed to practise what they were trained for and anyone going beyond their known statutory role and practice should be seriously sanctioned to act as a deterrent for others who are practising quackery.

What is stalling the enforcement of the building regulation by states while awaiting the passage of the National Building Code?

The government must deliberately enforce the new building regulation like the one in Lagos Sate and put punitive measures in place in the event of contravention. The issue of the site signboard has become critical and should be implemented by displaying names of professionals involved in such project for easy identification and possible sanctions in the case of any problem. In most signboards seen displayed on building sites across Lagos, for example, the builder who is responsible for the day-to-day management of construction process and supervision of craftsmen and artisans is missing. The question to ask here is: who is managing the construction process in such sites? This obviously is a reflection of the risk quacks take upon themselves knowing full well that what they are doing is illegal and such is an accident waiting to happen. This is why l said averting building collapse is not a sky rocket science; it is as simple as being put forward above. Incidentally, like l said, these are not very difficult regulations to implement but the lack of will power has been the issue. Lots of building construction are going on in every corner in Lagos State; the names on the signboards show that something is definitely wrong and can be easily addressed if there is seriousness and will power to right the wrongs. Unfortunately, we all cry and feel sorry whenever a building collapses while the solution is here with us.

What in your opinion is responsible for the delay in the passage of the National Building Code by the National Assembly?

The issue of the National Building Code has become politicised, which is most unfortunate. I do not understand why there is no enabling law to back it up or what the National Assembly is benefitting from non-passage of the enabling law. This is a document purely put together for public interest and to conserve our national assets and prevent wastefulness of resources each time there is a collapse. Fortunately, the code has recently been reviewed in line with its provisions; that is to be reviewed every five years. As it stands today since the last National Assembly did not complete the process of putting in a place an enabling law, this new Assembly must start all over again. I am however hoping that The minister of works and housing can use his good offices to package the code as an executive bill through the Presidency. This way, the process will be given accelerated hearing and the process to enact an enabling law can be shortened and eventually put in place.

There is this clamour by builders that a resident builder should always be at construction sites. Do you subscribe to this position?

Having a resident builder on building construction sites is one of the major steps to prevent building collapse. A construction site like a factory needs a production manager who in this case for construction site is a builder. The training and course content of builders are detailed and programmed to ensure quality production of buildings within reasonable cost and on agreed time. Irrespective of the quality of design prepared for a building, this does not guarantee its structural stability and durability and confidence except if such buildings construction process is duly managed by a builder. These are the provisions of different extant laws and building regulations which unfortunately are not being implemented and enforced. Like l said earlier, it is one sure way of putting a stop to this problem of incessant collapse of buildings. I mean if we start from there, we can deal with other issues if the problem is not abated but surely collapses will definitely reduce to a large extent. Let’s put a round peg in a round hole. This is very fundamental.

What is your take on the provision of mass housing by the Federal Government?

The discourse on social housing/mass housing has been on for a long time due to the deficit in the national housing stock. The main reason why this discussion has remained relevant is attributed to rising cost of building materials and the issue of affordability. The main purpose of undertaking mass housing is to churn out high volume of houses at a very moderate and affordable cost. In my opinion the major challenge in housing provision is the cost of land and attendant infrastructure that should be put in place. The provision of mass housing by developers who have to buy the land and provide infrastructure cannot make those houses affordable in any way. In other clime as a means of encouragement and regulating the cost of the houses, government contributes land and put in place necessary infrastructure to go along with the development. This enables cost of the houses to be controlled and made affordable by the people. A lot of technology has also been touted as being the best to deliver mass and affordable housing. However whatever technology that is used, the role of government in terms of land provision and infrastructure development is key to housing affordability.

What is your stand on the Land Use Act? Should it be amended or abrogated entirely?

The problem of the Land Use Act has been on the front burner whenever we discuss housing development and financing. The current practice where governors who are supposed to hold land in trust for the people becomes the major determinant when land transaction is put on the table is very sad and discouraging. The overriding power of the governors on land matters is a big minus for housing development, funding and land conversion as an asset. This has discouraged funding in housing and infrastructural development. The major factor negating against its review is the governors’ refusal to let go of this discretionary power and authority on land transactions generally.

Are you satisfied with the collaboration that exists among building professionals and the various bodies?

The built environment and the professional practices of stakeholders are undergoing serious evolution. Different minor professions and specializations are springing up on a daily basis and to remain relevant, one needs to up one’s game in the industry. It is most outdated or thinking in the past for a profession claiming to be the head. Delivery of housing is a team work and those who are current on developments in the industry, their professional body and practices know and understand the direction of things in the industry. While we are all professionals in the sector, our work complements each other; hence, a spirit of team work is more effective than anyone trying to be a boss. Yes, one can be a boss on one’s input. It has been seen that in circumstances where one profession tends to lord it over others, such project is enmeshed in conflict which can affect the project quality delivery in all respect.

My observation about this is that those who hold tenaciously to being the head are not current with their professional or regulatory bodies. They do not keep to their professional code of ethics or conduct; hence, they behave in an improper way annexing other professions’ roles. This is quackery at professional level. Once a professional goes beyond limit of their training by crossing practice boundaries, such a person is a quack and should be treated as such. Our roles and work are interwoven and complementary but there is a clear cut professional boundaries which should be respected and enforced.

The current situation where the sector is seen as an all comers’ affair is a result of some people or professions that want to be jack of all trades and hence encourage others who are not professionals to take up the work of others for pecuniary benefits. This behaviour and attitude has to stop to engender required collaboration and cooperation that can move the industry forward professionally and for national development.

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LASG stakeholders review Osborne Foreshore Residential Scheme 11 approval order

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By Dada Jackson

It was a case of disagreeing to agree as Lagos State Government and stakeholders of Osborne Foreshore Residential Scheme II eventually came to terms on the review of the approval order of the porch estate after much deliberations in which they agreed to allow the process to continue.

Speaking at the Stakeholders’ Meeting/ Presentation on the Review of the Approval Order for Osborne Foreshore Residential Scheme II at the Adeyemi Bero Auditorium, Secretariat, Alausa, the  Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr Idris Salako, said that residents of Osborne Foreshore II, conceived as a low-density residential scheme, had clamoured for the  review by approaching the Ministry to decrease the permissible height among other changes to the previous approval order.

He said, “Consequently, several discussions were held with their Representatives, which culminated in the meeting with Mr. Governor and ultimately the ongoing review.”

Salako noted that the crave for the review of the extant approval order was not unconnected with the observed disparities in the Approval Order of Osborne Foreshore II and that of Banana Island, Ikoyi Southeast and Ikoyi Southwest, despite being of similar status and character.

He pointed out that the need for the review of the Operational Development Plan could not be overemphasized as it would afford timely bridging of identified gaps and inadequacies such as omissions or commissions, in order to make the Plan more comprehensive and effective.

His words: “In essence, Plan Review is a conscious intervention to make an operational Developmental Plan more effective for the Plan Area to be more functional as best possible”.

The Commissioner emphasised that the Ministry was statutorily empowered to prepare Development Plans for different areas as well as provide Approval Orders that were more specific on the intended use, density and operation of the identifiable segments of an area.

He said, “In like manner, the ministry is also statutorily charged to review the existing Development Plans which have been adjudged to be outdated or no longer relevant to achieving the stated goals. Indeed, this is one of the powers of the Hon. Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development as stated in Section 5(1) (a & c) and Section 6 (1) of the Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law 2019 (as amended), which allows for the review/amendment of Development Plans every five (5) years.”

Salako reiterated that the ministry as a government formation was charged with the mandate for sustainability of the physical environment, while the power of development control was vested in the state government and not in any other entity such as the residents association.

“It is therefore noteworthy that the Operative Development Plans are sacrosanct and that the use of any space within the plan area can only be altered through due process of an official review,  contrary to which a change in use becomes illegal. There are provisions in the law for sanctioning of erring development/developers,” he said.

Stating that the government had the obligation to ensure that every part of the state was committed to appropriate use, in order to achieve common social good, economic viability and environmental sustainability, Salako said that the Operative Development Plans had been prepared with due cognizance of the socioeconomic dynamics and the Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law 2019 as amended.

Residents of the estate include the Chairman of the Board of Trustee of the Residents Association, Sir Steve Omojafor, and a seasoned public relations practitioner, Mr Kola Ayanwale, expressed confidence in the ability of the state government to come up with a plan that would be fair to all sides, while urging developers and investors in the estate to balance economics with the environment.

The Chairperson, Osborne Foreshore Residents Association, Chinwe Ezenwa, enjoined the government to consider leaving the estate as low- density to forestall slumming, while others who were mainly developers expressed preference for increasing hieght and density of the estate.

Other notable figures at the meeting include the Chairman, House Committee on Physical Planning and Urban Development, Hon. Nureni Akinsanya, Member of Lagos House of Assembly representing the area, Hon. Gbolahan Yishau, Former Deputy Governor of Kogi State,   Arc. Yomi Awoniyi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Abiola Kosegbe, and Deputy Director, Urban and Regional Planning, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, Mrs Catherine Ozonde.

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Lagos moves against illegal building conversion in govt schemes

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By Dada Jackson

The Lagos State Government has restated its commitment to restoring government residential schemes in the state to their original plans as it communicates its intention to commence a week-long monitoring and enforcement in Lekki Peninsula Scheme 1 and Magodo Residential Scheme I and II.

It says it will focus on those who have indiscriminately converted their buildings from residential to commercial.

The Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr Idris Salako, who dropped the hint in his office at Alausa, stated that government schemes ought to remain residential with provision for services as planned but the schemes had been bastardised by indiscriminate conversion of buildings from residential to commercial by some of the residents.

He added that if the pervasive lawlessness in these estates was allowed to go on, the future would spell doom for the carefully designed upper-income residential schemes.

Salako noted that well-meaning residents had inundated the state government with complaints and sought  a redress of the untoward situation.

The commissioner recalled that the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development had engaged and dialogue with residents of the estates severally with a view to righting the wrongs.

“It is noteworthy that engagements with Magodo Phases I and II Residents Association produced the Revised Magodo Scheme I and II which has since become effective”, he said.

He emphasised that indiscriminate conversion of government schemes from residential  to commercial would not be tolerated in Lagos State and urged those liable of any unlawful conversion to brace for the ministry’s enforcement activities.

“Our monitoring and enforcement team will be visiting all other government schemes for similar action in due course. I hereby urge that every part of the state should take a cue from this by desisting from undue conversion of properties without approval of the appropriate authorities,” he said.

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LASG denies violation of planning laws in Osborne Foreshore/Magodo estate

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By Dada Jackson

The Lagos State Government has denied a social media allegation that it is condoning the violation of physical planning laws by some developers in both the Osborne Foreshore Phase II and Peace Valley Estate, Magodo.

The Lagos State Government’s position is contained in a statement issued by the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr Idris Salako, in Alausa.

One Mr Yacoob Abiodun, who claimed to be an urban planner/planning advocate, had taken to the social media alleging that residents of Osborne Foreshore Phase II and Peace Valley Zone, Magodo, were unhappy with the activities of some developers “whose developments on the two estates violate the extant Operative Development Plans and the Approval Order for the localities.”

While expressing his displeasure at the twist of facts by the writer, the Physical Planning Commissioner said that it was important to correct the misinformation to disabuse the minds of Lagosians.

Salako said contrary to the insinuations, the residents of Osborne Foreshore Phase II had  influenced the increase in height of the area from the original 4/5 to 10  floors, while Phase I still remained 4/5 floors.

He explained that the review of the Approval Order for Osborne Foreshore was precipitated by the continuous agitation of the residents as original allottees had brought about increase in the height and density of the estate.

He added that the government only came in to ensure a proper review for the benefit of all concerned.

Dismissing the allegation of noninvolvement of residents in the review, he stated that the ongoing review process was borne out of several consultations and engagements with the resident associations in line with the extant regulations guiding development planning in the state.

The commissioner added that the review could not have been more inclusive, having met with residents of the estate for more than 10 times, the outcome of which was the ministry’s encouragement of the residents association to engage a consultant, Messrs MOA Planners to prepare a revised plan along with the review sent by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.

The revised plan would still be subjected to stakeholders’ engagement before final approval, he stated.

“It is therefore disheartening that despite repeated dialogue, the latest of which was held with the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, three weeks ago, the best that the Osborne-Foreshore Residents Association Phase II (OSFRA) could do was to resort to the social media to intimidate and embarrass the Lagos State Government,” Salako said.

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