Features Write-Ups


Rasak Musbau

In accordance with the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, one of the fundamental objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy is the security and welfare of the people. This explains why governments enact laws and imposes regulatory control to protect their citizenry on all spheres of human endeavors. One of such is the building codes and regulations for the purpose of protecting the health, safety and general welfare of the building users.

In Nigeria and the United State of America, the regulatory law on building is called Building Code. To some countries such as the United Kingdom, it is called Building Regulations/Building Bye Laws.

In spite of the existence of the code, most houses and other structures in Nigeria are built without the State permit and in contravention of the building code. Sites are developed contrary to approval granted and without site board, indicating the mandatory information required e.g. client, type of structure and building professionals involved in the development as required by law.  In many streets across the country, houses are built without set-back from the road and provision for parking of cars thereby creating nuisance and distress to residents as well as other road users. Non-adhering to building code is also the major cause of flooding and building failure/collapse in most instances.

Given previous building collapse trend in Lagos State over the years, the government is now more ever determined that people sought approval before erecting building structures in the State. Rightly, Lagos State has a statutory agency and instrument which set out the minimum requirements for the design, construction and maintenance of buildings. The building control code or law has always been with us but it is the failure to decisively enforce and comply with it that has been responsible for varied building failure and collapse in the State.

As part of commitment of the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode administration to improve both the quality of government services and citizen welfare, infrastructural facility will no longer be allowed to be carried out arbitrarily. Going by the plan of the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LSBCA), the state government will no longer allow the construction of any property without permit.

However, it is imperative for all to understand that the role of government, professionals and the general public in building production are complimentary. Government enact laws and impose regulatory control on buildings so as to ensure that they are located, designed, constructed and maintained, in such a way that is conducive to good health, safety and welfare of the citizens of a country. While on the other hand, professionals make sure that the implementation of such laws achieves the desired objectives or result, by making sure that they follow, strictly, the relevant provision of the code in their professional practice, draw attention to any deficiency in the appropriate laws, with a view to making suggestions for essential improvement. In their own interest, good citizens comply with state regulation.

The Ambode Administration has used every given opportunity to explain and demonstrate that the greatest resource Lagos State has is its people. With this in mind, the administration’s plan of going all out to implement building code needs the cooperation of everyone especially when it is considered that despite the State development plan of emerging as a smart city about 90 per cent of people in the State have no building permits and have not built right. This is obviously a minus for the State’s ambition.

It goes without saying that government has put on ground measures to make obtaining of building permit seamless for both owners of old structures and persons seeking to build a new one. Lagos State government now accepts family receipt as condition to erect structures across the State. Recently, the State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Planning, Mr. Ritimi Ogunleye stated that between March 1 and August 31, 2018, government would not charge any penalty for those who had erected their structures on their land without a building permit, as government purposely created that six months grace period for landowners to obtain their building permit. He said approval had been made easy as anyone who went through the process would get his or her building approval within 28 days.

The approval process of 28 days is now standard but there is also a fast-track system for those that wish to get it faster. But 28 days may not be 28 days with LASBCA sometimes pending on the developer especially when the drawing is not cleared for not adhering to rules. For clarity purpose, LASBCA does not give permit, LASPPPA does but everything, including tax compliance must be completed and up to date.

As a matter of importance, the first thing after the intention to engage in physical development is to get information on the land, whether your dream can fit into the land and whether the use you are proposing is actually allowable in the area of interest; these are questions people must answer. There are government agencies that provide the answer.

Then you do the drawing and submit to LASBCA for vetting, after it is vetted, it is sent to the Lagos State Physical Planning Authority, where the approval process will be concluded. At this stage, it is not advisable for people to start construction. It is when final approval, which is called development permit is given that developer will be required to approach LASBCA again because the agency will have to work with the developer all through. At this point, prospective owner is expected to introduce to LASBCA qualified professionals and contractors with their practicing licenses. It doesn’t mean that any architect can work on any building for instance. LASBCA also ensure that residential buildings are not erected in commercial areas and vice versa, even when there is mixed use, the agency ensure it is balanced. So part of the enquiries about land use is the modal city and master plans that guide land use.

A good reference on the aforesaid is the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 in the UK which clearly states the duty holders on construction project and places legal obligations on them to ensure that construction is carried out safely.

All that the Ambode’s government in Lagos State is committed to is to make sure the building project is safe to build, use and maintain and offer good value. Insistence on building permit for old and prospective owner of building is to emphasise the importance of safety in construction and bring to an end unnecessary fatalities from building collapse.

Musbau is of Features Unit, Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.

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