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Sanwo-Olu must be bold, firm in taking decisions to prevent more building collapse in Lagos – Jeje

Bosun Jeje, a lawyer, is former Commissioner for Housing in Lagos. In an interactive session with some members of the media in Lagos at the weekend, Jeje proffered solutions to the menace of building collapse in the state and set agenda for the Governor-Elect of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu. PATRICK OKOHUE reports.

*What is your take in the recent building collapse in Lagos State?

Well, the building collapse of recent in Lagos State is a sad thing, more so when people lost their lives in it.

As a commissioner for Housing, we were very concerned about the structures we had in Lagos State. And the government had been always on top of anything like that.

But after the collapse in Itafaji, I really appreciate the role of Lagos State Government for being proactive in the steps taken. Many of those houses need to be removed really.

When you look at the structures in Lagos Island, having worked there in my banking days, I could remember that many of the buildings were packed up.

But it is a crowded place. But if you want to remove a house, you must also provide alternatives.

And when I listened to Lagos State Government asking those to be removed to move to a resettlement at Imota and Badagry, I could see that the government is really prepared to take the bull by the horns.

Yes, the houses are there and the structures are very defective, they have to be moved and government is really prepared to take a political will to do it.

But they have decided to wield the political will. I really commend the Lagos Government for that.

What other tasks are before the government to tackle the menace?

The follow up step is looking at the approvals for construction and strict monitoring of constructions in the state.

It goes beyond the approval, you see many of the developers taking the approvals and going ahead to have sub-standard materials in the construction of those approvals they have.

So, we need to have effective monitoring of those approvals after they have gotten them so that we don’t have issues of collapse buildings again.

So far, it is good, what the government has done in the recent collapse. I must commend the government for the steps taken.

What really causes structures to collapse in any part of the world?

Mostly it is the use of sub-standard materials. People are ready to make profit at any cost. So, you see people that where they should use ten bags of cement, they are ready to use five.

They are ready to compromise at any level so that they can have the construction going on.

But it is now the duty of the monitoring team to ensure that right materials are used.

And then we have to appeal to the citizens again to ensure that they use the right materials so that we don’t have repeat of the sad incident.

And while we blame developers, we have a duty too to encourage the government also to have the political will to take decisions on whatever it has said.

It is about the political will that led to some of the building still standing. But once you decide and you are ready to take the bull by the horns, you would not have the buildings still standing up.

Once they are marked for demolition, you go ahead and demolish them. And if you need to rehabilitate some people, then you have to make provision for that.

Are developers liable for prosecution?

There is nothing wrong in prosecuting anybody found culpable in the matter. Once a building has gone down, and it is discovered that sub-standard materials used are the root cause of the collapse, there is nothing wrong in prosecuting the developer.

What advice do you then have for the government over this dangerous trend?

The approval aspect is going to be looked into. We have to ensure that every building has an approval. Outside the approval, there must be the monitoring aspect.

We must monitor structures that are being constructed. We must look at it and ensure that right materials are used. These are the measures that will stop the collapse of building.

Once you don’t monitor them, developers are ready to compromise at any level.

But when they know that the monitoring agents would soon be around, or that they could come around at any time, they would try as much as possible to ensure that they comply with the building instructions.

Those are just the aspects we have to reinforce. If we don’t do that, the menace would continue.

How do you see the in-coming governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu vis a vis his ability in handling issue of building collapse?

I am happy that the in-coming governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu visited the collapsed building site in Lagos and has talked about regeneration of buildings in Lagos Island.

I am happy about that. That shows the direction the governor-elect would go.

Lagos Island actually needs a lot of regeneration. So, since the Governor-elect has even said it, it is heart-warming.

He has been in the system for long and he knows what we have been discussing in the administration of government in Lagos State.

So, since he has said he would do that, I would encourage him to go ahead and do it so that we would not continue to have issues of collapsed building any more in Lagos State.

Do you have any agenda for Sanwo-Olu?

Well, I handled housing when I was in Lagos Government and I know it is the heart beat for a Mega City. So, I will re-encourage him to focus more on housing.

We did a lot when I was in Lagos State Government when I was Commissioner for Housing.

And I want him to focus more on housing. Since he has also been in government, I know he has a lot of agenda himself. So, I will just encourage him to go ahead