Building Collapse as a Mirror of the Collapsing Value System in Nigeria | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Agenda, Opinion

Building Collapse as a Mirror of the Collapsing Value System in Nigeria

Posted: May 29, 2015 at 4:36 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Prof. Zanzan Akaka Uji, a Professor of Architecture at the University of Jos insists that the evils of greed, corruption, indiscipline and lawlessness must be frontally tackled to mitigate the spate of building collapse ravaging the country.


It is well-known all over the world, that the value systems of a people compromising of their beliefs, customs, laws, institutions of society and traditional practices as well as functions of such institutions , play a formidable role in the way at the society operates, and what such stagnation owes  its advent.

For us in Nigeria, it has become a major source of concern that our value systems appear to be tottering on the brink of imminent collapse due to national leadership crises and systematic failure. And since value systems appear to impinge on, contribute to, or are mirrored, or reflected in our collective  sense of (hopes of ) nationhood, the retrogressive bent associated with the self-inflicted human disasters such as the internecine wars, incessant communal clashes, inter-ethnic disputes, all of which often result into killing of human beings, and burning of houses, farmlands and property, terrorism, brigandage, sponsored assassinations, armed robbery attacks and political violence, as well as other incidences as mundane as building collapse (which is hardly an issue in more advanced  societies) appear to sound an inevitable dirge of an imminent collapse of the entire societal fabric, if no serious efforts are made towards sealing the fault lines that signal the emergence  of the signs  of such impending  ‘value collapse’.

The signals that characterize the impending failure of value systems under consideration in this discourse are numerous, but the most glaring ones (already touched upon briefly in section4.4) may be encapsulated in the character of our interactions and experiences in our daily lives, are listed hereunder.

(a)  corruption/cheating/mischief;

(b)  greed/penchant for cutting corners;

(c)  lawlessness/indiscipline/acts of impunity /refusal or failure or neglect to follow professional advice and instructions or to take corrections /impatience or lack of the drive to pursue finesse/foolish pride,

(d) Negligence /carelessness/abdication of responsibility and penchant for reliance on divine intervention;

(e) Incompetence /quackery/tendency to copy outside values including building types, styles, techniques without the necessary questions or modifications;

(f) Tendency to blame everybody and everything else (except the self) including the “devil” for every personal failures;

(g)  Frustration /resignation in the face of avoidable or imposed hardship (caused by external phenomena or ruling authorities) (Navran, 2010; Oke, 2011Windapo & Rotimi, 2012).

Greed/Penchant for Cutting Corners 

One of the most commonest causes of building collapse emanates from the consequences of the action of some developers who, being suddenly gripped with the desire  to have more rooms on their properties to rent out and make more money, unilaterally add more floors to existing storey buildings without recourse to professional advice. Oghuma (1987) is reportedly to have cited the case of a 20-year old three-storey building in Lagos which was supposed to accommodate only nine people initially. The owner, on his own, added two other floors, without seeking expert advice and the building buckled on its foundation, because of the excessive weight at the top.

It is such attitude that drives a land developer to fill up his small (15m x 30m) (50’x 100’) plot of land all the way to the boundary lines with a building with as many rooms –just enough to take a two-feet wide bed-but rooms all the same – as far as the owner is only after the amount of money he will make, and not the comfort of his tenants. This often leaves no open spaces for recreation, or ventilation, or lighting. The result is congestion, poor access, poor orientation, poor ventilation with adverse consequences on the comfort and health of the inhabitants. The adjoining streets thus inevitably serve the purpose of children’s play areas, adult gathering, and waste dump sites – creating an overall slum—like effect of the entire neighbourhood.

Such inordinate greed and disposition towards monetary gains is also what makes the transporter to perpetually overload his commuter vehicle, not minding the risk and discomfort to which his passengers are subjected, nor the danger posed to the strength and serviceability of his vehicle.

That same attitude manifests itself in so many other dealings and interactions of our ordinary people among themselves. For example: you may leave your car with your mechanic, giving him the required amount of money to buy the necessary spare parts (and trusting him) to carry out the required repairs. He then uses the money govern him and buys good parts alright, but  appropriates the parts to himself, or diverts them to another person (supposedly closer to him) while replacing the parts  with substandard ones for your car.             At another level of interaction, even the market woman passes off substandard  commodities to the unsuspecting and trusting buyer by displaying and advertising, say, the attractive samples of yam tubers, oranges, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, etc. in open view usually  at the top of the holding container, with the smaller or substandard ones at the bottom of the container. The unwary buyer, enticed by, and attracted to,  the good samples displayed within view believes these are actually true ‘representative’ of the rest, only for him to discover, to his chagrin and dismay, after paying and collecting his goods, that, nearly all the others (except  the advertised samples) are bad, substandard, or in some other way, far below expectations. In this game, not even children are left out.

Lawlessness/Indiscipline/Acts of Impunity   There is a disturbing general propensity among the average Nigrian for deviance and compulsive behavior, disorder, brashness, loud, garrulous, riotous and disorderly conduct, even in public places. This is exhibited by both the rich and the poor alike, most manifestly prevalent through habits like loud yelling retorts (even among friends) even in ordinary conversation at public places, resorting to brawls and fist-cuffs at the slightest provocation, lynch-mob reaction against suspected thieves or robbers, or even those sometimes falsely fingered for acts of witchcraft (like the alleged ‘stealing of someone’s manhood’!)

Other acts of deviance include: excretion of body waste (defaecation, urination, spitting out of spittle or gut phlegm) by the roadside in full view of passerby, littering of surroundings with self-generated   waste, rubbish, garbage, and animal droppings,  deliberate flouting of traffic rules (especially by commercial drivers and commercial motorcyclist), jumping of  queues (where queues are formed at all)  at public, institutional, commercial, communal  or civic functions (in a manner that often suggest disdain for everybody else except the self). This indiscipline penchant for impunity is even more glaring   on our roads as well as the manner in which we treat or relate to our physical/natural environment – these actually deserve special and closer attention here. We shall start with behavior on the roads, followed by that within the environment.


The building construction process demands careful supervision, monitoring and valuation to ensure that the requirements and specifications for quality assurance are strictly adhered to. However, the typical Nigerian factor of corruption has, quite often, interfered with this process and sometimes rendered the objectives of achieving the desired quality level unattainable. For instance, demands made on contractors by unscrupulous supervisors, or approving officials, for payment of briber money before the officials can undertake to certify or value their work for payment, may compel the contractors  to look for ways of ‘cutting corners’ (in order to cut their losses) by resorting to the use of substandard  materials and labour, and even  the technology  of construction, thus preparing the ground for failure and future possible potential collapse of the building thereby. This is a reflection of the general corruption that pervades the entire societal fabric for which so many efforts have been, and are being made to curb, without much success.  A few more examples will underscore the point being made.



Had this work been a product of scientific –empirical inquiry, perhaps a multiple regression procedure  might have been employed, wherein, each of the factors considered to cause building collapse would have been regressed against building collapse to establish the extent of contribution of each factor  to the malaise. Or the usual remedial measures would have been regressed against building collapse, in order to establish the level and extent to which each measure contributed to the rectification of the phenomenon. It is a call for concerted thinking ‘outside box’ where all else has failed in resolving the problem  of building  collapse through the already known means of rectification. Naturally, there was no better way to turn to, than the people’s value systems which supposedly underlie all human behavior. It is thus the collapse of these value systems that naturally seems to sound the death knell of many aspects of our social existence the most pre-eminent of which is the seemingly unending collapse of buildings – the third arm (or leg) of our basic needs in life.