There is need to overhaul the nation’s building and construction regulations

The Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON) recently drew attention to the absence of any coherent framework for the implementation of the National Building Code in Nigeria. This is despite that the code has been in existence since 2006. Other major challenges identified by ARCON include the complexities in the building code, lack of capacity building among the relevant stakeholders, lack of technical training of building code users and assistance, and lack of legislation for enforcement and compliance. In addition, inadequate awareness and government attitude militate against the development of the national building code. It is important for the National Assembly to work with the relevant agencies to fill this gap.

The building code is designed to establish minimum requirements to safeguard public health, safety and general welfare in the process of predesign, design, construction and post-construction stages of the life cycle of buildings and structures. The code and regulations also exist to prevent cases of fire and other hazards attributed to the built environment. The 2006 code in the country was particularly enacted to, among others, address incessant collapse of buildings, fire incidents in buildings and other disasters; dearth of referenced design materials for professionals; use of non-professional and use of untested products and materials. Other areas it addressed include inadequate planning of our towns, cities and other built environment abuses; lack of adequate regulations and sanctions for non-compliance; inadequate database to aid sustainable building process, etc.

The code provides that all state governments and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) should domesticate the document. But how many of the states have the full document in operation? The architects’ council reasoned that the absence of an enabling legislation for the building code document has largely contributed to its ineffectiveness in the area of regulating procedures and processes in the nation’s real estate industry. This is also responsible for the poor attitude of most professionals that are yet to accept it as a document to guide their work, let alone the public who are always apprehensive of new ideas.

However, the situation is not irredeemable, as most of these challenges could be minimised through proactive actions, training, raising awareness and provision of resourceful technical support to the code users. It is also important to enact legislation on the enforcement and compliance, simplifying the code requirements and domestication by state governments. Enlightenment among the professionals through the regulatory and professional bodies will go a long way in providing solutions to the challenge of building code for modern infrastructural development in Nigeria. Besides, professionals in the built environment should appreciate the efforts made to have a code which is a guide to providing services in terms of best practices. There should be training and retraining of all professionals in the built environment. It is also important for all members of the public who participate in provision of services with respect to buildings and infrastructure and, above all, the owners and users, to be in tune with the code.

On the whole, there is an urgent need for a complete overhaul of the nation’s building and construction regulations. There should be adequate sanction for both erring contractors and landlords. A policy should be put in place whereby any professional connected with a collapsed building should forfeit his licence and face the full weight of the law. The land upon which the collapsed building was erected should be forfeited to government and landlord jailed without option of fine. Buildings marked for demolition by town planning authorities, should be demolished without delay. Unless drastic steps are taken and building codes implemented to the letter, the nation will continue to have these avoidable serial disasters.