It is not uncommon to see artisans especially bricklayers, masons and carpenters parading themselves as architects, engineers or builders on construction sites across the country.
This trend is very disturbing as the consequence of such imposture is greatly evident in the way some of our buildings are been designed and built. At a time when building collapse has joined the league of serious national issues, it is not out of place to advocate for the relegation of quacks in the construction industry –the industry in Nigeria that is believed to hold the highest number of practicing quacks or pseudo-builders.
In the course of a research in July, 2014, I took a trip to the interiors of Oke-Ira town, a swampy residential area in Ogba, Lagos state and I need not put a spectacle on to see the clear difference between houses designed and built by professionals and those put up by quacks; nearly all the houses built by these pseudo-builders have very noticeable defects (either they have over settled or deflected largely) leaning backward or bending sideways by up to 10 degrees or more to the horizontal and vertical respectively and most of these buildings are less than 15 years old.
Occupiers of such buildings complain of excessive water ingress from the ground nearly all year round and several other sick building syndromes. In addition, some protest the unstable (shaky) nature of the buildings especially those with upper floors while others have been forced to either evacuate one part of the building or simply relocate to other places.
One wonders why having spent around 3 – 5 Million Naira to secure a plot of land in the area, landlords still opt to employ the services of some good-for-nothing quacks who parade themselves as engineers to carry out such important task.
Of peculiar interest was a site on Silifatu Abioye Street in the same area for which passer-bys have turn into a spectacle of some sort because even while construction was still ongoing, the one-storey building continued to settle heavily, leaning backward; perhaps qualifying as the ironic ‘leaning tower’.
On visiting the site, I inquired to know the contractor. A bricklayer (probably in his early 40s) introduced himself as the ‘Engineer’. By closer interrogation and observation, the bricklayer was already confused about the turn of events but continue to express false hope that the building will eventually become strong and stable as soon as it is occupied. I then spoke with the project owner who was also available at the time. I gathered that though he was not very pleased with the condition of his building, he was happy that the building did not collapse.
He later revealed that he plan to put it up for rent to recoup his investment. I could only imagine that the safety of the lives and properties of the innocent tenants is grossly immaterial in the eye of the landlord!
Upon further quizzing, he later admitted that although he was aware that the so-called ‘engineer’ was a common bricklayer, he engaged him in a bid to save cost and for his self-acclaimed high level of competence.
Now he is in a sorry state because by my candid professional assessment, the building will collapse in the near future if nothing is done to remedy the situation since the foundation was not properly constructed. It cannot safely sustain its own load for even half the average life span of a standard building which is pegged at 70 years not to talk of the load to be imposed on it when fully occupied.
This is one in a million regrettable outcomes that accompany the use of quacks for carrying out construction projects. It is often ‘penny wise, pounds foolish’. Just like a draughtsman is not an architect even though he can come up with drawings so also is a bricklayer or mason not a builder or an engineer even though they can lay blocks in bonds and produce concrete respectively.
Don’t be deceived into the cheap talk of these unscrupulous imposters who are always out to deceive people by saying ‘we are more experienced because we have worked with white engineers on several sites’, ‘those professionals only know theory but we have practical knowledge, we are cheaper and better’ and so on.
When the problem comes, they would be nowhere to be found and you would be left to bear it alone.
Always employ the services of professionals –although you may have to pay a little more but it is always worthwhile in the end. Do not join the band-wagon of unwise landlords whose buildings are waiting to make headline news in the media for the wrong reasons.
By Engr Osaz Enobakhare