Architect Gbolahan Owoduni Oki, General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), in this interview with DADA JACKSON, bares his mind on a number of issues ranging from the breaking of it’s seals, stage certification, certificate of fitness for habitation amongst others. Excerpts:
ow has it been since your assumption of office as the General Manager of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA)?
Thank you very much. Well, it has been interesting so far but, not without its attendant challenges.
I would say a major challenge, is that developers or those who build houses failing to do the right thing in terms of building procedure. 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 step 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.
So, 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, and 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, so, 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 in a street and one of them is looking like.. ( he demonstrates) 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, 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 in an advanced stage of distress. We evacuated the children and promised to come the following day to remove the structure. We had even toked the building. 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?
Thank you very much for this question. 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 to 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 horn.
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 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 advise 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 apparatus are in place, fourthly; LASBCA for effective and efficient monitoring, fifthly; LASEPA and LAWMA.
Any developer, who adheres to these guidelines, would 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.