The Synagogue Tragedy: Posers for Lagos Government

Moses Idowu – Lagos State Constituency.



The collapse of a six-storey building under construction owned by the Synagogue Church of All Nations on Friday, September 12, 2014 in which many people died brings to the fore the need to probe government itself and examine the role of agencies of government in building collapse.

I am aware of several buildings that have collapsed in the life of this present administration even with all the threats. Yet I am not aware that anyone has ever been tried, jailed, brought to book or, as our government officials are fond of saying, “face the music.” Again it is surprising that these collapses and failures are happening in a state with several agencies all purporting to be promoting good construction practice, regulatory standards, professional ethics and safety.

Some of these are Lagos State Materials Testing Laboratory, Lagos State Building Control Agency, Physical Planning and Development Authority, ministry of works, ministry of environment, local government, which also has Engineering Department, among others. Isn’t it surprising that Lagos is experiencing these failures right under the nose of these agencies and departments? How efficient then are these agencies and how competent really are their officials on their job? I ask these questions deliberately because a building rarely collapses without warnings and if the staff of some of these agencies have been doing their monitoring properly they should have seen some of these signs of distress and prevented the worst by doing “the needful” to prevent loss of lives.

The state governor, Babatunde Fashola, is no doubt doing his best to prevent the ugly incidence in Lagos State. However, his efforts are being betrayed by the incompetence of many officials especially the subordinate officials who have the responsibilities to go round and use their authority to enforce professional standards rather than collecting bribes.

The failure of the Synagogue building – a structure in which many citizens and foreigners were trapped and many have died – shows that something is seriously wrong with our policy enforcement. As I have always stated, failure reveals the incompetence of functionaries because engineering principles when judiciously followed cannot fail.

Whichever way you look at it, government agencies and officials have questions to answer. Government can no longer hold other people responsible for the incompetence of its officials and the dereliction of duties of their agents. The church too has many questions to answer.

It is a pity that some of the staff of these agencies of government in many states of the federation, Lagos State inclusive, are incompetent. Even when they do visit sites, many of them don’t know what to look for and the right questions to ask. Some of them cannot read engineering drawings and cannot even vet engineering designs and documents because they are just beyond them. And many engineers in local governments across the nation, Lagos State inclusive, whose purview it is to first oversee and check building constructions going on within their catchment area are not registered. With all these coupled with our culture of impunity and the corruption of government officials, is it any wonder that buildings continue to collapse?

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