Architect Gbolahan Owoduni Oki is the General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA). In this exclusive interview with Dada Jackson, he bares his mind on a number of issues ranging from the breaking of the agency’s seal, stage certification to certificate of fitness for habitation, among others
How has it been since your assumption of office as the General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency?
Well, it has been interesting so far but not without its attendant challenges. I would say a major challenge is about developers or those who build houses failing to do the right thing in terms of building procedures. There are ups and downs in whatever one is doing but what matters is for one to be focused and not be distracted from one’s objective. Once the people are ready to get building permit, the issue of monitoring would be a lot easier. Another challenge is that most people do not recognise the functions of our agency. I believe more awareness needs to be stepped up in this direction. Let me also point out a challenge that is very worrisome and that is the unnecessary and unwarranted assault on our officials by some people when our officials come calling. We are poised to put an end to this ugly development once and for all.
What is your vision for the agency before the expiration of your tenure?
My vision for LASBCA is to refine it and also for Lagosians to see our officials as their friends instead of the erroneous perception of being their enemies. I intend to put the agency in the forefront in the area of humanity and the environment.
Recently, the agency demolished about 15 distressed buildings in the state. What would you say was responsible for this action?
Let me correct an impression, the agency did not demolish those buildings but only removed them. So, the appropriate word to use is removal and not demolition. Having said that, it is pertinent to point out that some of those buildings were old and dilapidated. Some of them had been identified as distressed as far back as three to four years with all necessary notices served; even letters were written to owners of those buildings. Once a building is not habitable, there is no need for such building to remain standing, it has to be removed. It may interest you to know, that owners of these distressed buildings, when they have been served notices resort to painting them and doing what I call “patching work”. Let me make this clear to the public that we just don’t remove a building just for the sake of doing so; but we remove a building once the distress state is about 70 per cent. In that case, it is considered as very ‘inhabitable’ and it should be removed.
Are there any political undertones or influence in identifying buildings to be removed?
No, no. There is nothing political about the removal of distressed buildings in the state. What we are talking about here involves lives. Politics should not be brought into it at all. I just told you; we look at the level of weakness which is that once it is 70 per cent, it is no longer fit for habitation and should be removed. If you have about 25 buildings on a street and one of them is looking like ‘won lo n soko’ (structurally detective), do we leave such building or allow it to stand. We have to do the needful by removing such building so as not to pose danger to others. In a nutshell, there is nothing political about the removal of distressed buildings in the state. We are guided by the core mandate establishing the agency and would not veer from the mandate given to us by Mr. Governor, Babajide Olushola Sanwo-Olu.
When you talk about the removal of distressed buildings in Lagos State it is done with due diligence and so it is devoid of any political undertones. Let me give you an example, barely three weeks after my assumption of office as GM of LASBCA, we went to a school (with a population of about 150 children), using the ground and first floor. The building was at an advanced stage of distress. We evacuated the children and promised to come the following day to remove the structure. Do you know that I couldn’t sleep the night before the day earmarked for the removal due to the very bad state of the building? Could you believe that when we got there the following day, lo and behold, the children were in the classrooms? I was shell shocked. It took us about two hours to evacuate the children before we finally removed the building.
What do you mean by stage certification?
Stage certification is one of our basic duties. We have a department that is called Inspection and Quality Control which is responsible for the monitoring (in minutest details) every stage of the construction process to ensure strict compliance. This can also be juxtaposed with the certificate of fitness for habitation which if a developer passes this test can go ahead and let the property or rent such houses to people for habitation without any fear of the building collapsing.
Let us come to the issue of the breaking of your seals. How do you put a stop to this development?
Breaking of our seals before now was rampant due to what I regard as weakness in enforcement. But since I assumed office, we have put in place measures to stem this tide. I can tell you unequivocally that it has reduced drastically because we have taken the bull by the horns.
What form of incentives have you put in place to keep your field officers from being compromised by some developers to look the other way in the course of monitoring buildings on sites?
Let me say here emphatically that our officials cannot be compromised because they go out as a team (comprising between four and six people). So, if you’re able to compromise one person, would you find it easy to compromise six people at a go? Having said that, it is important to stress here that Mr.Governor has been generous to LASBCA in meeting our needs. Moreover, most of our field officers are on Level 9 and above, so they are not hungry people. In a nutshell, they carry out their assignments diligently.
What is your advice to Lagosians on building development?
My advice to Lagosians on building development in the state is that people building should do the needful by approaching the appropriate agencies. Firstly, obtain planning permit, Secondly; go for material testing in order to ensure quality assurance, Thirdly, go to safety commission for safety assessment and that all safety apparatuses are in place, Fourthly, LASBCA for effective and efficient monitoring; fifthly; LASEPA and LAWMA. Any developer who adheres to these guidelines will build and have a rest of mind. Finally, when you want to build, please engage the services of professionals; do not cut corners and endeavour to use quality building materials so as to avoid the incidence of building collapse.
NiMet predicts cloudiness, thunderstorm across Nigeria
The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) has predicted cloudiness and thunderstorm from Sunday to Tuesday across the country.
NiMet`s weather outlook released on Saturday in Abuja predicted sunny skies with patches of clouds over the northern region with few thunderstorms over Taraba in the morning hours.
According to it, there are prospects of isolated thunderstorms over parts of Taraba, Adamawa and Kaduna later in the day.
“Partly cloudy skies are anticipated over the North central region with prospects of thunderstorms over part of Benue during the morning hours.
“There are chances of thunderstorms over parts of Kwara, Kogi, Plateau and the Federal Capital Territory in the afternoon to evening period.
“Isolated thunderstorms are expected over some southern states like Ondo, Edo, Imo, Enugu, Ogun, Osun, Delta, Cross River, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Lagos in the morning hours,“ it said.
The agency forecast thunderstorms over parts of Imo, Ondo, Osun and the coastal belt of the country later in the day.
NiMet envisages partly cloudy to sunny skies on Monday over the Northern region throughout the day with prospects of a few thunderstorms over parts of Taraba and Adamawa states in the afternoon and evening hours.
It anticipates cloudy skies with intervals of sunshine over the North central region in the morning hours.
“Further into the day, thunderstorms are anticipated over parts of Niger, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kwara, Benue and the Federal Capital Territory.
“The inland and the coastal cities of the South should be cloudy with prospects of thunderstorms over Bayelsa, Cross River, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states in the morning hours.
“Later in the day, there are prospects of isolated thunderstorms over parts of Ondo, Edo, Enugu, Ogun and the coastal belt of the country,“ it said.
NiMet predicts partly cloudy to sunny skies over the Northern region throughout the forecast period on Tuesday.
It further predicted partly cloudy skies over the North central region in the morning hours with isolated thunderstorms over parts of Benue, Kogi and Kwara states in the afternoon and evening hours.
“The inland and the coastal cities of the South should be predominantly cloudy during the morning hours.
“Later in the day, there are chances of thunderstorms over parts of Ondo, Imo, Edo and the coastal cities,“ it said.
WHO reports global shortfall in mental health investment
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) new Mental Health Atlas paints a disappointing picture of a worldwide failure to provide people with the mental health services they need.
In a statement made available on Saturday, it said it happened at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic was highlighting a growing need for mental health support.
“World misses most 2020 mental health targets; extension of WHO Mental Health Action Plan to 2030 provides new opportunity for progress reading time, four minutes (1003 words).
“The latest edition of the atlas, which includes data from 171 countries, provides a clear indication that the increased attention given to mental health in recent years has yet to result in a scale-up of quality mental services that is aligned with needs,” the global health agency said.
According to WHO, the Atlas is a compilation of data provided by countries around the world on mental health policies, issued every three years.
Others are legislation, financing, human resources, availability and utilisation of services and data collection systems.
According to the global health body, it is also the mechanism for monitoring progress towards meeting the targets in WHO’s Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan.
“It is extremely concerning that, despite the evident and increasing need for mental health services, which has become even more acute during the COVID-19 pandemic, good intentions are not being met with investment.
“We must heed and act on this wake-up call and dramatically accelerate the scale-up of investment in mental health, because there is no health without mental health,” it quoted Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO, as saying.
The statement said that none of the targets for effective leadership and governance for mental health, provision of mental health services in community-based settings, mental health promotion and prevention, and strengthening of information systems, were close to being achieved.
It said that in 2020, just 51 per cent of WHO’s 194 member states reported that their mental health policy or plan was in line with international and regional human rights instruments, way short of the 80 per cent target.
It said that only 52 per cent of countries met the target relating to mental health promotion and prevention programmes, also well below the 80 per cent target.
WHO noted that the only 2020 target met was a reduction in the rate of suicide by 10 per cent, but even then, only 35 countries said they had a stand-alone prevention strategy, policy or plan.
It said that steady progress was evident, however, in the adoption of mental health policies, plans and laws, as well as in improvements in capacity to report on a set of core mental health indicators.
It said that, however, the percentage of government health budgets spent on mental health has scarcely changed during the last years, still hovering around two per cent.
Vigilante Group Kills Imam, 10 Others In Sokoto
Gunmen suspected to be members of the outlawed Yan Sakai, a vigilance group in Sokoto State, have killed 11 persons, including an Imam, at Mamande village in Gwadabawa local government of Sokoto State.
Our reporter gathered that the victims died on the spot while four persons who sustained gunshot injuries were taken to a hospital by the local government council for treatment.
The Imam who was identified as Malam Aliyu was said to be leading prayers in one of the daily prayer Mosques in Salame.
The incident happened at about 3:30pm on Thursday.
The victims were said to have come from different Fulani settlements around the area to purchase food and other items at the weekly Mamande market.
The Yan Sakai were said to have stormed the market from Goronyo Local Government Area, attacking the victims whom they accused of aiding banditry.
A relative of the Imam, Abdullahi Riskuwa, said his brother was killed unjustifiably because he never had any criminal record.
“He is sound in religion knowledge and had been leading prayers in one of our mosques in Salame town.”
“His only sin was that he belonged to the Fulani tribe.”
According to Riskuwa, Imam Aliyu only went to the market to buy goods when he was killed.
Among those killed at the market, he said, were children and the Yan Sakai went away with their animals.
He called on the government to investigate the matter with a view to bringing the perpetrators to book.
The state chairman of Miyeti Allah Cattle Breeders Association, could not be reached for comment as his telephone line was not reachable when our correspondent attempted to speak with him.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of Gwadabawa local government, Aminu Aya, confirmed the attack, saying the Yan Sakai were not from Gwadabawa.
According to him, the deceased were deposited at the Morgue of Specialist Hospital, Sokoto, and some of their relatives went there to recover their corpses.
He however, said that, normalcy was restored in the area.
When contacted, the Public Relation Officer of Sokoto Police Command, ASP Sanusi Abubakar, said he had not briefed about the development but promised to get the details and call back.
However, he had not done so as at the time of filling this report.
Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal had prohibited the activities of Yan Sakai in the state.
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