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.
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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