JOINT ARCON/NIA INTERIM REPORT ON THE COLLAPSE OF AN 8-STOREY HOTEL BUILDING UNDER CONSTRUCTION SITUATED ALONG MUSA YAR' ADUA DRIVE, OWERRI, IMO STATEDATED MAY 1,2020.
1. At about 4pm on Thursday 30th April 2020; there was news flash that an 8- storey hotel building under construction along the Musa Yar Adua Drive in Owerri metropolis, Imo State collapsed with about 30 artisan workers trapped in the rubles. As an immediate reaction to the news flash, some members ofARCON/NIA Practice Committee rushed to the site of the tragic incident for an on-the-spot assessment of the havoc. From their relayed report, there occurred atotal collapse of an ongoing 8-storey frame construction hotel building. Rescue efforts commenced that Thursday, April 30 and there were 2 dead bodies, 12 recoveries with various degrees of severe injuries and several others still trapped in the collapsed building debris. As at this report total dead is 4 while recovery is 14 as rescue operations continued until Friday May 1 as it would take some time into the weekend to get to the ground floor.
2. Following a barrage of calls from the ARCONPresident, Registrar, Members and NIA Stakeholders, the ARCON Representative Imo State and the NIA Imo State Chair with their various Practice Committee members agreed to converge at the building collapse site at 10am, Friday 1st May for on-site assessment and subsequently inviting the Project Consultant Architect; a member of the Imo NIA chapter, together with his structural engineering co-consultants to meet privately with the Imo ARCON and NIA team to explain their role in the mayhem.
3. We all met at the collapsed building site along Musa Yar Adua drive promptly at 10am, Friday May 1, expressing shock and disbelief on the magnitude of the tragic calamity. We also had informal interactions with other professional bodies and relevant government agencies who were present on the site. Thereafter, we were granted an audience from the AIT and Radio Nigeria crew who interviewed the NIA Imo chapter Chairman and the ARCON Imo State Representative on our views of the trending building failures and the perceived lapses fueling these unfortunate trends. We reiterated our call on the Imo State government since 2019 to set up an immediate audit team to ascertain the statuses and integrity of all old buildings in the State starting with the OwerriCapital Territory. We then adjourned at about 11.30 am to reconvene at the Graceland Estate garden for the private meeting with the project consultants to ascertain firsthand the level of their involvement in the pre and post contract management of the collapsed hotel building.
4. The meeting of the ARCON and NIA members with the project consultants to the collapsed project commenced at 12noon with opening prayers and attendance taken. It so happened that the project architect has been a long standing and active member of NIA Imo state chapter and a registered architect with ARCON. On given the opportunity to explain their role, he introduced his team to include 2 structural engineers who confirmed that they are COREN registered and participated in the Pre and Post contract consultancy of the project. In their submissions to the meeting, they reported as follows;
a) Pre-contract: The architectural consultant was approached by the client, who resides in France, to design a 6-floor hotel complex on the land he acquired at the Musa Yar Adua Drive in Owerrimetropolis. On acceptance of the sketch design by the client, he engaged the services of qualified structural and M & E engineers for the production of working drawings and approval documents for the approval process. He also explained that as there was no formal commission letter, the client engaged him as an all-in-one consultancy service with the exception of the QS services based on their understanding. Also they were not involved in the approval process as the client interacted directly with the OCDA (Owerri Capital Development Authority).
b) Tender Process: The Consultant Architect also informed the meeting that the client earlier requested for the consultants to carry out the tender process which they embarked on by selectively inviting reputable contractors known to them and even pre-qualifying them only for the client to turn around to impose a contractor on the project who according to him happens to be his friend from Lagos. Furthermore, that the client said he has secured the building plan approval from the OCDA which copy was not made privy to them to date.
c) Post Contract: The Consultant Architect told the meeting that while they were still negotiating the post-contract supervision fees with the client, the contractor moved to site and commenced the foundation works up to ground floor level. When they were finally engaged, the structural consultants requested for the built foundation details and insisted on an integrity test which was resisted by the client and contractor and was not done because according to them due to cost implications. Instead the contractor presented his as-built drawings which the structural team accepted as workable. Furthermore, he explained that the post-contract supervision being a normal supervision, not residency for the complexity of the project, there were a lot of disagreements and discrepancies in the contract management namely;
i. Contractor was paid directly by the client without valuation and certification by the consultants
ii. The clients brother was the sole supplier of materials on site and deals directly with the contractor or his brother
iii. In view of the normal contract nature of the project management, the project consultants said they made several sacrifices visiting the site as often as possible to ensure compliance to site instructions. However, at a point, the site book disappeared making them to resort to a project whatsapp group chat with the client, contractor and all involved as participants.
iiii. When the project got to the 6th floor level, the client told the architect he wanted to add an extra floor before penthouse, the architect told him it could only be done on the advice and approval of the structural engineers. This request the engineers said they turned down necessitating the project consultancy team to pull out of site when the client insisted on going ahead. This according to them was in November 2019 as the project commenced in April 2018.
v. The consultants also reiterated that the quality of on-site supervision on a daily basis was poor that even when they tried to intervene by introducing some qualified and experienced on-site supervisors to the contractor, he fired them after a while that they were spies for the consultants. According to them, the contractor was a one man squad without requisite and complementary technical staff.
d) At the end of the fact finding private meeting ARCON and NIA team advised the project Consultants to ensure that they backup all that they relayed to us with transaction records of their activities as project consultants to the collapsed building project as it will come in handy during the enquiry of the investigating panel when constituted by the government and or the regulatory bodies.
At the close of our interactive session with the project consultants of the collapsed building, the joint ARCON and NIA Team agreed on the following;
1) To contact the Imo State Government Project Monitoring Committee to ensure our inclusion in the administrative panel of inquiry that will be set up with the ARCON Imo Representative and the NIA Imo chapter Chair as members. One of us who has access accepted to follow it up.
2) To develop and present this interim report on the situation as regards the unfortunate tragic hotel building construction collapse and the interactive session with the concerned project consultants
3) To ensure we (ARCON/NIA) keep up the pressure on the Imo State Government towards adopting the APRN for its building approval process as well as being relevant in the environmental and development control programs and processes of Imo State.
4) Conclusion; The official action of the Imo State government is being awaited as there are indications the government might not take the situation lightly. We will continue to update our people as the situation unfolds.
HRH Arc Jude Obidegwu, fnia Arc Dr.Basil O.Agoha, fnia
Imo ARCON RepresentativeNIA Imo Chapter Chairman