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Little ado about National Building Code

Published by Guardian on Fri, 13 Sep 2013

IN the face of preponderantly planless towns and cities, incessant collapse of buildings, built environment abuses and other disasters, Nigeria not only needs a national building Code or an enabling law, it needs the will for faithful implementation of such. It is no surprise, therefore, that the National Council on Housing and Urban Development compiled from essentially foreign codes the 480-page National Building Code of 2006 in order to 'set minimum standards on building pre-design, designs, construction and post-construction stages with a view to ensuring quality, safety and proficiency in the building industry.' The Code was slated for review triennially expressly to 'encourage professionals in the building industry to produce the most appropriate Code suited to our environment for subsequent use and application.' However, little or nothing has changed ever since, thereby deflating the grave concerns about 'the hazardous trends in the building construction industry' that gave birth to the Code. Even the apolitical National Building Code Bill has continued to languish in the National Assembly. Given the routinely tardy treatment of Bills by the legislature, it will be pure speculation to ascribe the non-passage of the Bill into law to the tentative nature of the 2006 Code. Nonetheless, quite contrary to the expressed frustrations by the ministry sponsoring the Code, the absence of the relevant enabling Act may well be largely responsible for the non-adoption of the Code by the states for implementation as had been the intention. There is no evidence that the expected review of the Code in 2009 and 2012 took place. But the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development (LHUD) at long last bestirred itself recently by summoning to a meeting, professionals and stakeholders in built environment, to revalidate the Code's provisions where appropriate as well as consider fresh memoranda on resolving associated problems with particular regard to building collapse. A notable proposal by the Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB) is to include a Builder's document in the Code as a pre-condition for granting approval for building production and management of building works. However, it is doubtful even to a layman whether that document alone will bridge the gap between the Design and Construction stages of building works. The proposed document introduces additional costs into building projects whereas the desire to keep costs under control forms the basis of using the Code to check what the immediate past Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Ama Pepple described as 'the preponderance of quacks in the built environment ' (who help perpetrate) sharp practices such as the use of inferior building materials, inadequate supervision, change of building design on site after approval, inadequate use of building materials for construction and failing to abide by planning rules and regulations.' Yet, these veritable stakeholders were most probably not represented at the recent revalidation meeting. Therefore, there is need for the professional groups to eschew elitism and aloofness, bring the non-professionals under their umbrella and assume the responsibility for ensuring that all bonafide participants in building works including do-it-yourself enthusiasts abide by the National Building Code. No doubt, to effectively enforce and implement the provisions of the Code requires an enabling law. Therefore, the ministry should proceed at deliberate speed and collate a revised National Building Code with firm provisions for urgent submission to the National Assembly for quick enactment into law.
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