Building construction and building collapse in the Lagos state of Nigeria

By Priya Chetty on January 31, 2020

Lagos, located in the South West of Nigeria, is one of the most densely populated cities of Nigeria. It is also called the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria and is often in news for the widely happening building collapse. It is also the most economically vital state in Nigeria contributing substantially to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Additionally, Lagos is the most populous city in sub-Saharan Africa. To accommodate its massive population, the city witnesses much more construction activities than any other parts of the country. The city offered an abode to around 21 million people in 2016 pointing to the immense growth in the population which stood at merely 1.4 million in 1970 (World Population Review, 2017).

The rapid urbanization, strengthening economy and rising population in Lagos; all these factors are contributing to the accentuating housing demand in the city. But, unfortunately, the city of Lagos has a chronic deficit of land for building construction. This is one of the reasons that the rent for commercial real estate in Lagos is the fifth highest in the world (Adamu, Lowe, & Manase, 2015). The city’s population is anticipated to double by 2050 indicating further pressure on the housing needs (World Population Review, 2017).

Reported cases of building collapse in Nigeria

The burden to enhance building construction has, on one hand, provided surge to the construction industry in Nigeria making it the nation’s second-largest employer (ITE Group PLC, 2015). But on the other hand, it puts a burden on the industry. This acts as a major reason for the contractors to hasten the building construction process leading to massive building collapses in the country. In a period of three decades, between December 1978 and April 2008, the city of Lagos has witnessed as many as 112 incidents of building collapse. The following figure depicts the reported cases of building collapses between 1974 and 2010. As it is evident from the figure, Lagos observes the maximum incidences of building collapses with around 51.6% of the reported cases to have happened in the city (Windapo & Rotimi, 2012).

Reported cases of building collapse between 1974 and 2010
Figure 1: Reported cases of building collapse between 1974 and 2010 (Windapo & Rotimi, 2012)

There are recurrent incidences of building collapses in Lagos due to which Famoroti (2005) had called Lagos as the “world’s junk-yard” of collapsed buildings (Kuta & Nyaanga, 2014). Despite having a large number of millionaires in the city, it is disappointing that around 66% of the populace is compelled to dwell in the slums. The infrastructural condition of Lagos is awful. Ironically, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria is also the “mega-city of slums” (World Population Review, 2017).

Empirical evidence on “world’s junkyard” of building collapses

Oloyede, Omoogun, & Akinjare, (2010) in their study about the building collapse in Nigeria had mentioned about the alarming rates of building collapses in Lagos. Adenuga, (2012) conducted an empirical study to investigate the role of professionals in the building collapses of Lagos and its consequences on the client, construction industry experts and the nation as one. The study identified owner-constructor syndrome as one of the key reasons. Elaborating on this, Adenuga, (2012) proclaimed that property owners in many cases purchase the construction material themselves to cut costs but since they usually have little idea about what material should ideally be used, it leads to sub-standard construction. The research also identified:

  • design errors,
  • inappropriate supervision,
  • operational deficiencies and,
  • lack of skilled professionals,
  • corruption, and site development errors as the major reasons behind building collapse in Lagos.

Oseghale, Ikpo, & Ayaji, (2015) in their research on the causes and effects of building collapses in Lagos found the same causes identified by Adenuga, (2012) and also shed light on the ineffective role of government and legal agencies in Nigeria to ensure strict adherence to the construction designs and related regulations. The research highlighted that neither the contractors and clients are much aware of these mechanisms nor the government plays an effective role in improving the scenario.

BBC News, (2016) however brought into focus the dampness of the Lagos soil which requires even stronger building foundations. The presence of poor soil stratum in many areas of Nigeria including Lagos intricate the building construction. BBC News, (2016) asserts that such construction sites need special attention but the developers in an endeavour to cut costs do not lay focus on strengthening the foundations and it leads to building collapse.

Whatever the reasons, the consequences of such building collapses are dreadful. The devastation is wide-ranging involving not only the loss of money and material but lives as well. Olajumoke et al, (2009) cited in Oseghale et al., (2015) show concern on the alarming rates of building collapse in Lagos. It also states that the future generation will face the repercussions as it affects the individual as well as the nation’s socio-economic well-being.

Challenges within the construction industry of Nigeria

The Nigerian construction industry is largely modelled on the British system, which has over the time inculcated principles from French, Italian, German and American styles of construction. The sector at present faces a number of challenges, mainly arising due to internal incompetency, such as:

  • lack of job security in construction sector,
  • absence of accurate data,
  • lack of management skills and,
  • lack of skilled labourers.

As there are no restrictions on the entry in the construction industry, the unskilled people enter the sector, and continue to learn as they work, leading to inconsistencies. Also, the gap in communication in equipment usage and management is accentuated with the lack of trust between the contractors. The industry also suffers from lack of competition, and know how on the repair of equipment and machinery, as these are imported from foreign countries. The industry experts exhibit weak research tendencies, and collaborating with each other to find better solutions to problems. The lack of funds is one of the biggest issues confronting the Nigerian construction industry since the time of independence. Furthermore, this is accompanied by frequent government changes and military movements, which often delays the construction projects (Iheme et al, 2005).


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  • BBC News. (2016). Five reasons why buildings collapse.
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