To prevent buildings in Abakaliki city from further collapse, stringent measures have been taken by the state government, UCHENNA INYA reports
It is exactly a year ago, that a 16-year-old popular hotel in Abakaliki metropolis, ‘Metroview’, collapsed. The hotel building plan was approved February, 11th, 2001 while it was built and commissioned by a former Minister of Culture and Tourism, Frank Nchita Ogbuewu May,28th, 2005
. It was one of its wings that collapsed completely and the hotel located at the front of College of Health Sciences (CHS) of Ebonyi state University (EBSU) was sealed immediately by the state government. Many people lodged in the hotel including those who came for a workshop when the incident occurred.
More than 60 persons were said to have lodged in the hotel when it collapsed. A Nigeria Society of Engineers (NSE) committee on Prevention, Investigation, Failure and Analysis commenced investigation into the disaster. Details of the committee’s findings on the collapsed building were not made public by the committee.
The then Special Assistant to Governor Dave Umahi on Capital City, Chief Ejem Okoro said “the fortunate thing that happened is that so many people lodged here, nobody was injured and they came out successfully.
“Up to 60 people lodged here and they are safely out from this place, glory be to God. We are advising people to get approval from the government when they want to build and as you are building, you take order.”
The collapse of the hotel made the government to tighten its measures to checkmate such occurrence with the reorganization of Abakaliki Capital City Development Board (ACTDB). But last week, a three-storey building on Nkaliki road in Abakaliki which, is under construction collapsed. Luyckily, no life was lost in the incident as the workers had not reported for work at the time it collapsed.
The incident occurred on Tuesday 21st July, at about 11:00pm. An eyewitness, Ijeoma Uchenna Mbam noted that her husband noticed three weeks ago that the rods used in constructing the building were pulling off and the walls were developing serious cracks.
She said her husband called their neighbours to come and see the condition of the building and thereafter called Abakaliki Capital City Development Board (ACTDB) to instill standard in the construction of the building and that in the night around 11:00pm they heard loud noise on the building and in the morning, they saw that the building has already collapsed.
On his part, a man living very close to the collapse building, Nwokora Christopher whose fence was damaged by the collapsed building, said his family escaped death by divine providence.
He noted that nobody knew that the building will collapse immediately to the extent of affecting his fence and blamed the site Engineer for using substandard materials in constructing the building.
“Actually, we didn’t know the building will collapse like this, though somebody like me has been having this feeling that the site Engineer is not using quality material to construct the building. I think the fault is from the Engineer.
“It was God who saved us because my family and I were already asleep when it collapsed. I heard a loud noise on my house and immediately came out only to see that my fence has been pulled down by the storey building that collapsed,” Nwokora said. Nwankwo Jude, another eyewitness observed that mixing of cement with sand was not properly done in the building.
Top government officials including the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Kenneth Ugbala, the Commissioner for Internal Security, Stanley Okoro Emegha, the Special Assistant to the Governor on Capital Territory, Chinyelu Udoku, and the Chairman of Abakaliki Capital Territory Development Board (ACTDB), Dr. Uche Onwe, visited the site.
Ugbala directed the immediate sealing of the site and demolition of the building. Emegha, on his part, directed that the site engineer be arrested by the police immediately. On her part, Udoku directed the ACTDB to provide the staff who gave approval for the building and all those in charge of monitoring the construction.
The ACTDB Chairman, Onwe said preliminary investigation revealed that the builders used substandard materials and the building had a lot of structural defects. He said: “The engineer attached to the building did not do any professional work. The quality of iron rods, the mixture, and the concrete are not up to standard.
“You can see we have sealed it. There is a lot of compromise, even from the foundation.” Onwe also explained that the board had launched an investigation into the incident.
According to him, all those found culpable will be arrested and prosecuted. He added: “The building is going to be demolished today and evacuated. Every building has a town planner, an engineer and a professional builder attached but in the course of construction these people compromised.
“This structure wasn’t approved during my time but we take responsibility for it because government is a continuum. We will trace the file to know if it was actually approved for three-story and if it followed the stipulated standard. We will make arrests and prosecuted them as soon as possible’, he said.
Angered by the development, Governor Umahi suspended indefinitely the members of the Abakaliki Capital City Development Board (ACTDB).
He blamed the collapse on inability of the Board to carry out proper supervision of buildings under construction in the state which, he said, led to the collapse of the uncompleted three Storey building in Nkaliki area of the state. Umahi’s directive was contained in a statement signed by Secretary to the State Government, Kenneth Ugbala.
“Following the directive of the Governor of Ebonyi State Engr. David Nweze Umahi, the members of Abakaliki Capital Territory Development Board are hereby suspended indefinitely from their offices with immediate effect”
“The indefinite suspension is as result of their failure to supervise buildings within the Capital City which led to the collapse of three (3) Storey building along Nkaliki road in Abakaliki Local Government Area,” the statement said.
The governor, according to the statement mandated the Secretary to the State Government to announce a new taskforce on building approval, construction and supervision. He said the task force shall be responsible for building approvals, construction and supervision of all sites within the capital city.
“The suspended members of Abakaliki Capital Territory Development Board are further directed to handover government property in their possession to SA to the Governor on Capital City before the close of work on Wednesday 22nd July, 2020, the statement added. To save the state from further building collapse, the Governor Dave Umahi said henceforth, all ongoing buildings in the capital city must be re-evaluated to ensure strict compliance with Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria(COREN) and Ebonyi State standards for construction.
A statement from Chief Emmanuel Uzor, his Supervising Special Assistant on Capital City, Umahi, an Engineer suspended all ongoing building construction within the Capital City pending their owners fulfillment of all necessary professional standards.
The statement reads “I have been directed by His Excellency, the Governor to inform the general public that with effect from today, 24th July, 2020, all ongoing building construction and other construction within the Abakaliki capital city must conform with the following protocols.
“Henceforth, all ongoing buildings must be re-evaluated to ensure strict compliance with COREN and Ebonyi State standard for construction. “In the light of the above therefore, all building owners and their Engineers are required to appear before Special Technical Taskforce Committee set up by the Secretary to State Government and Coordinating Commissioner, Dr. Kenneth Ugbala through the office of the Supervising SA to the Governor on Capital City,
Sir Emmanuel Uzor with evidence of building drawings approved by COREN and approval of the buildings by Abakaliki Capital Territory Development Board, ACTDB.
“All ongoing building construction within the Capital City are hereby suspended pending their owners fulfillment of all necessary professional standards. “Henceforth, it is now compulsory to use concert mixer by any contractor handling both government and private building construction as any contractor or site Engineer who violates this directive will be arrested and the site sealed by the Special Technical Taskforce Committee.
“All Block Industry operators in the State especially within the Capital City are hereby directed to turn into Stone-Dust production as any block industry who still moulds sand blocks will be sealed up with effect from today.
“Consequently, the Governor directs all Landlords within the State Capital to revalidate the addresses on their buildings in the office of the Supervising SA on Capital City temporary office at Abacha roundabout with effect from Monday, 27th July, 2020.”