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THE NIGERIAN DEVELOPMENT FIASCO – MEETING THE 21ST CENTURY BUILDING SAFETY

THE NIGERIAN DEVELOPMENT FIASCO – MEETING THE 21ST CENTURY BUILDING SAFETY

BY OLUSEGUN PHILIPS-ALONGE
Olusegun Philips

Let me start by expressing my heartfelt sympathy to the people affected by the recent earth tremor in Kaduna and beyond.  According to Walter Scott “accident will happen in the best-regulated families.” the last Kaduna tremor is an accident of nature that we cannot prevent.


Besides food and clothing needs, construction of shelter is the oldest of any human trades. The first buildings were simple tents to reduce the dangers of exposure to nature and predatory animals. The application of best practices from multiple subjects allows modern buildings to provide multidimensional safety response to natural and manmade risks.

Building codes improve the ability to produce sound designs and fail-safe construction of structures that will remain functional after the occurrence of a risk event. The Nigerian building codes lack the material safety and enforcement mandates to protect the public from the dangers of building failure. The building code administration agencies do not have the will to enforce the limited requirements.

The Kaduna earth tremor is a reminder that we need to protect against seismic risks in our building design and construction. The geological fault that produced the Kaduna tremor is capable of delivering another 6.4 or higher temblor like the 1939 earthquake. Unlike 1939, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in today’s Nigeria would cause the entire nation great human and economic loss.

As we empathize with the victims of the recent Kaduna tremor, we need to start addressing the cultural and systemic problems in our building code and practice. The year 2006 Nigerian building code is significantly behind the requirements of the international building code (IBC) standards. We can adopt the provisions of the IBC and re-form code administration to improve building response and human survival during natural and manmade disasters.

I expect the advocates of the 2006 Building code to resist my suggestions. The 2006 Building code speak for itself; it lacks adequate actionable protections. We cannot continue to build unbraced brick and mortar structures over shallow strip foundation and expect divine miracles to avoid seismic disaster.

Nigeria needs a determined effort to tackle the many systemic issues troubling the nation. Most of these problems are often too small to make a blip on the federal radar. As Nigeria approaches the 200 million population mark, it is appropriate to move government closer to the people at the community, not the local government level. This way, the people can solve the issues that affect their safety and well-being effectively without waiting for the federal or state governments.

Nigeria needs a leader who can unite us and restructure the governance system to allow the nation function according to the brilliance of its population. We need a leader that will ensure Nigeria is an efficient combination of her ethnic nationalities, not the one that asks the people to forego their heritage. Yes, it is possible. We can still meet and exceed the 21st-century public safety requirements, only if we start doing the right things now.