Ebonyi State Government recently inaugurated a revalidation committee. Under the auspices of the state committee on the illegal structure. By October this year, the committee is poised to swing into action to visit and assess all buildings in the state to subject them to integrity test
In this interview with Bldr. Nweke Chinasa Jonathan, the chairman Nigerian Institute of Building, Ebonyi State chapter, he spoke on Sundry issues affecting building and construction industry in the state excerpts:
May we meet you, Sir?
My name is Bldr. Nweke Chinasa Jonathan, the Chairman of Nigeria Institution of Building Ebonyi State Chapter that is regulating building engineering in the State – all the builders that are constructing any house are under my control. We are the statutorily assigned professionals to handle building construction and building production. So anybody that is building a house that did not read building in the polytechnic or university, that did not register with Nigeria Institute of Building or register with the council of registered builders of Nigeria under the Federal Ministry of works and housing is a quack. So, he is not qualified to be on site.
So it is not meant for civil engineers. Building a house is not meant for civil engineer, civil engineers are for road construction and drainages as well as underground tank, flyovers est.
But now when you come to the aspect of the structural engineers; the role of the engineer in the building profession is that they draw. They initiate the drawing of the rods, structural drawing to determine the rods that will be used for the building either as a decking, as a pillar, beam, lintel or all those things, as long as the house is concerned, whether it is a 100 story building, whether it is an airplane building or any kind of structure, they determine the rod to be there. Theoretically, they will do it on a table.
The architect will just come and draw it, snap my picture, you will see my visual representation. That is what the architects do. They bring out the beauty of the house; the dream of the client. After bringing out the dream of the client, the structural engineer will carry that drawing, calculate it, and check the load, the strength of it before you can start building it. The architect will have his drawing; the structural engineer will also have his drawing. So by the time the two of them finish, they will now employ the service of an electrical engineers who will determine where there will be lighting points in that building before construction starts. After generating it, you also submit to make it three drawings, before the mechanical will come up with his own drawing and produce the rising of the showers and whatever in the kitchen, the plumbing, and the soakaway are all the duty of the mechanical engineer. By the time he finishes the drawing, he now submits, making it four drawing to be submitted to the client, i.e. the person who owns the building or the sponsor. The client will now gather all the drawings and put them together and start looking for a builder. “My builder, I have this drawing, I want you to cost it.
He will invite the quantity surveyor first to say I want to build this house, and this is all that should be inside the house. How much will it cost me? The quantity surveyor will take it and begin to measure it to determine how many bags of cement, how many lengths of rod, how many pipes of electrical wiring and pipes of plumbing work; when he finishes, they will attach prices to them and give you the idea of the cost.
You will now invite the builder with the four drawings and tell the builder, I want to build this house, this is my drawing, this is the architectural drawing, see the reinforcement, see the plumbing, how much will it take you to build this? The builder will collect them for proper study and scrutiny. He will take it and go. He will employ his own quantity surveyor. And that is the one we call contractors quantity surveyor, while the other one was the contract client quantity surveyor. By the time he finished preparing his own, he gives you a better idea of the actual cost of the building, putting into consideration some environmental factors the contra-client quantity surveyor may not have considered. The implication that will be/formed on the site; check the underground pipes, water pipes, electric pipes, overhead tank, whatever other utility equipment or obstruction, how much it will cost to remove them and make the environment safe for the construction. Is there any gully that will be filled? Is there any place that will be treated as a builder or any other thing that will obstruct those things. After all these considerations, I can determine how much to charge the client. By the time he is made aware of the reason behind the cost; that there are some things on-site before construction which his own quantity surveyor did not include-because quantity surveyor is not a builder. He did not consider all those unforeseen circumstances that might impede the project in the site. This ultimately may determine the total cost.
After signing the agreement as a builder, I will employ the services of the artisans and take them to the site.
We have different types of artisans, from digging, carpentry, plumbing, electrician, bricklaying est.
What is the relationship between all these professionals and the artisans and there complementarily in the building industry?
The builder ultimately is the client protagonist. He leaves the artisans for the various series on site.
If I am building my own house and decide to use direct labor, don’t I have the right to engage the artisans directly to do the work?
No sir. You must have a builder, who will be the owner of the site. Like me, I am called builder Nweke Chinasa. I have the seal; I have the registration number on the internet. So if you want to engage me as a builder for your personal job, you’ll find me. And if you cannot pay for the contract, you may opt to say, “Can I employ you to manage the job?” I will now be managing the construction processes. I will introduce my laborers and you buy the materials.
What if I engage the architect who did the drawing to manage the construction?
He is a quack: There is a law that states that he should not construct. His job is to come and supervise to see whether the builder is constructing according to his drawing.
What do you do if an architect is found on-site supervising a building project?
Already in Port-Harcourt, one is undergoing prosecution now. Because one of the buildings they handled collapsed.
What means are you going to use to ensure that only the building professionals are seen on site, even if it is not a government project?
It is monitoring.
How equipped are you for that?
What happened is that we have none at this moment, we lack facilities like vehicles; if it is about manpower, I think we have about 48 builders registered in the state. So there is no how even if it is ten or twenty projects that each is handling at a time that he will not be able to manage those sites. But we cannot cover the state
The idea is that you set up in the morning, go round all the building sites to see if there are non-professionals, and have them dealt with? What do you do if you find anyone wanting?
We will apprehend him and make him face the law
What do you do with the artisans you see daily doing menial jobs on-site?
They are our workers. We engage them. They cannot work without us.
Are they registered with you?
With respect to registration, you can see some people train in a university and where you get them registered when they go to the appropriate quarter for registration, most of these women are not registered. Some are not even aware. While some are aware but still preparing their finances to make sure that they register. But the most important thing is trying to make sure that they show their presence and cooperation to mix up the required standard. And not only meeting up with the required standard, but there is also what is called pupilage. There are other artisans, they will be pulling till the level they get to the maturity of learning and registration.
There are some of these graduates who will understudy as, in their growing up, they get to the number of years the law says, if you reach the number of so age, you now register them. From that level, you register them till you are recognized. And then we will give you a number, wherever you are in the whole country or even outside the country, once you click there, your name will appear and show every detail about you. You can be beamed from anywhere if you do any wrong thing or jeopardize the job and you run away, you can easily be picked on the particular database.
Given the preponderance of building collapse in the country now, which is firing up the zeal of your organization, what are you prepared to do differently?
Actually, for those of us who are in the profession, the incidents of building collapse cannot be completely eradicated. We use in one terminology that building collapse will be reduced to the barest minimum. Because there is some collapse that is caused by natural factors, either by earthquake, tremor or any earth movement. But for the human factor aspect of it, what we are trying to do is to make sure that we visit. The state government has instituted a revalidation committee on the illegal structure and that of the integrity tests. What we are trying to do is to visit all buildings within the state with the integrity machine, then test all those buildings and then see the ones that are still measuring up to the standard strength and those that are not meeting up to the required strength can now be recommended for renovation or total demolition. That is what we intend to do now. That will commence any moment from this month; already we have been commissioned and inaugurated.
And what happens to buildings built by the aborigines and the elders that obviously did not utilize modern drawings and plans of architectural designs?
In such cases, I am not the chairman of the community per se, like I said, I’m a member, but peradventure I’m given that privilege, what we will do is, we meet you, we will first of all charge you for not having a drawing. The issue of drawing started from time immemorial, it did not just start today. And on that note, the only option we will consider is, so that it will not affect your building is to give you time to produce what is called “design as-built” , it is going to now reflect the way you built on paper. An architect will do the drawing, it is not the builder. And in the committee, architects are involved, engineers are also involved, all the professional bodies are all involved, engineers are also involved. At this point in time, you come and play your own role.
What is your final appeal to the public concerning your institute?
I will want the public to comply with this all-important professional ethics for it will help society in general and help individuals because we don’t know who next will be the victim of building collapse. And to some of our colleagues in the profession, everybody should stick to his area of specialization, so that when we want to prosecute, we know exactly whom to hold responsible for what. And why we are prosecuting and how we are prosecuting the person, and the law to invoke during the prosecution. Then for those young artisans, I will also advise them to respond, they shouldn’t just go and take a project that their hands cannot carry. Each time they are given a job, they should ask for a builder on the site, who will direct them on what to do. And let them see builders as their guide, according to the national building code that says in article 13(12)4, that it is the responsibility of a registered builder to supervise the roles and activities of artisans and then building production management of any kind in all ramification.
Is it the same portion that classified architects as quacks on project sites?
Yes. That is what brings about that. Other professionals as well, like now, I’m a builder, if I go to handle building drawing, I’m already a quack. If I produce a structural drawings, I’m already a quack. If I make an electrical drawings, I’m already a quack. Even though in our own area, we are taught all these angles, so that by the time we are handling the building products, we will be able to know what we are producing. But that does not guarantee you to go into it as your major profession.