Nigeria happened to Fourscore company

As an Ex-May like the founder and CEO of Fourscore Heights Limited, Femi Osibona, one can attest to the high ethical drills put into pupils of Mayflower Junior School, the primary school, and Mayflower School, the secondary school, founded by Dr Tai Solarin, a man of muscular ethical standards.

Dr. Solarin was the Chairman of the Public Complaints Commission of Oyo, Ogun and Ondo states simultaneously. At a later time, he was Chairman of People’s Bank, formed by the regime of military President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida to cater to the loan needs of poor underbanked Nigerians.

He resigned from the Public Complaints Commission after some police officers intercepted him for driving without his driver’s licence. Also, he resigned from People’s Bank when its operations and finance became compromised.

Proof that Osibona benefited from the Mayflower ethical mill is demonstrated by his ability to conform with the building standards of the United Kingdom, United States and South Africa where he built several properties.

When he returned to Nigeria, where anything goes, he conformed to the “no-standard” standard of the Nigerian work ethic. It is not impossible that the officials of all the agencies with statutory responsibility to approve, monitor and enforce the rules of building construction in Lagos State, goaded and encouraged him to breach building standards.

Belated lamentations of Gbolahan Oki, an architect and General Manager, Lagos State Building Control Agency, suspended indefinitely by Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, probably confirm the complicity.

He revealed, “(Osibona) got an approval for a 15-storey building and he exceeded his limit… And the materials he used are so inferior and terrible. The materials he used, the reinforcement, are so terrible. He got approval for 15 floors but built 21.”

Some add that Osibona chose to use direct labour, instead of professionals, for most of this job. If that is true, “o ku die kaato,” (it’s a little less than acceptable), as the Yoruba would want to put it.

If Oki knew that a lot was wrong with what Osibona was doing, why couldn’t he stop the work? And if he did, and was overruled by his superiors, he could have resigned or written a protest, however mild.

Swirling on social media is an amateur video supposedly showing Osibona being arrested, or resisting arrest, for what is not exactly clear, though there are claims that he had earlier tried to prevent inspectors from inspecting the job he was doing.

Now, if it is true that after he was arrested, taken to the Alausa Secretariat of the Lagos State Government, released and granted permission to raise the building to 21 floors, what was the point of Governor Sanwo-Olu suspending Oki and threatening that the heavens will fall on anyone found complicit in the deal?

When Nigeria happens to an individual, not even the Solarin ethic or the religious preaching about doing things the right way can help him or her. In the Book of Matthew in the Bible, Jesus said a wise man built his house upon the rock and when it rained the house didn’t fall.

But on the other hand, the man who built his house on the sand, after the rain fell and the winds blew upon it, “great was the fall of that house!” Anyone who fails to observe building construction standards is looking forward to disaster.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that the prospective homeowners in the property have jointly shelled out close to $250 million for apartments, whose prices range from $500,000 and $3 million. The report added that close to 65 per cent of the apartments had been paid for by homeowners who were expecting to move in sometime in 2022.

Of the living style envisaged for many prominent Nigerians who wanted to live in the property described as “Luxury In The Sky,” Osibona boasted, “What we want to achieve is to have people live in their homes as if they’re living in a 7-star hotel.

“There is security with access control from the entrance on Gerald Road and there is another security post when coming into the buildings. Electricity will be guaranteed 24 hours a day and there will be cleaning and gardening around the estate, as well as housekeeping/concierge services for those who desire it.”

As many as 43 bodies of the dead, including that of Osibona, have been recovered from the rubble, while nine persons have been rescued alive. Some fortuitously walked away before the building fell.

Governor Sanwo-Olu has set up a tribunal of enquiry, whose members are all from the private sector, “to get to the root cause of what happened to the building.” The Chairman, Toyin Ayinde, is President of the Nigeria Institute of Town Planners, and Ekundayo Onajobi, a lawyer, is to serve as Secretary.

Other members of the tribunal are a real estate lawyer, a structural engineer, an architect and a representative of the Nigeria Institute of Builders. One expects that these professionals will be able to cover all the relevant angles to the sad incident.

Governor Sanwo-Olu’s promise that integrity tests will be conducted on the two 15-storey towers still standing sounds like putting the cart before the horse. It’s an unwitting admission that relevant agencies probably failed to perform their responsibility all along. It is comforting though that he gave the assurance that the search for more bodies will continue till they reach ground zero.

Rufai Oseni, co-anchor of Arise News Television’s “The Morning Show,” expressed disappointment that there were hardly any (punitive) consequences for breaches like these that cost many lives in the past.

That, if you like to know, is the Nigeria that happened to Osibona; knowing that there wouldn’t be any sanctions against him if he breached any of the housing development permits of Lagos State.

Lagos State Physical Planning Authority, acting under the “Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law of 2010,” approved the erection of “a residence of 15 floors at 44B, C, D, Gérard Road, Ikoyi, on 9th April 2019,” under the hand of an unidentified officer who signed for the General Manager.

Despite the provision in paragraph (e) of the Permit, which says, “Non-compliance with the approved Planning Permit will void the Permit, and the development will be regarded as illegal,” there is no evidence that sanctions were meted out when the building was raised to 21 floors.

One even wonders what led genial Lagos State Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hamzat, to try to preempt the tribunal set up by his boss by claiming that the permit was actually for 21 floors instead of 15 as clearly shown in the permit now in the public domain.

One hopes the deputy governor was misquoted, considering the damning letter of withdrawal from the building project issued to Fourscore Heights Limited by their erstwhile structural engineers, Prowess Engineering Limited, on February 20, 2020.

The letter reads, in part: “We can guarantee the integrity of the first two buildings and also work done up to the fourth floor of the third building supervised by us, provided specifications have been met in terms of required concrete strength.”

Now, the question: Did Lagos State Physical Planning Authority vet the competencies of professionals who worked on the site, the architectural and structural designs and the integrity of materials used? Or did Nigeria prevent all that?

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Publish date : 2021-11-09 23:26:18

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