Cement thrown into church mix

23 September 2014

Rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building belonging to the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Lagos, Nigeria. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Nigerian authorities were investigating whether low-quality cement was used in the construction of the collapsed church guest house in Lagos.

Robert Okiyi, assistant director at the government regulatory body Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), told Independent Newspapers that an inquiry into the type of cement used was nearing completion and the findings were expected to be released soon.

Eight-six people were killed when the guest house belonging to The Synagogue, Church of All Nations collapsed on September 12.

“SON has been working hard to ensure compliance in the construction industry, especially considering the frequency of building collapses that are happening,” said Okiyi. “Our organisation has standard specifications for cement blocks for different types of buildings… but unfortunately most cement block moulders would not use the specified cement type.”

He said the organisation had given cement manufacturers a 60-day ultimatum to conform to national quality standards.

“According to the Lagos state government there was no approval for the building to be six storeys and that is something we are investigating. If there is evidence that regulations and compliance standards were flouted, then those responsible must be held accountable,” said Okiyi.

The investigation follows a SON survey which revealed that 95% of cement blocks in Nigeria did not comply with minimum standards.

SON director Joseph Odumodu said this was one of the major causes of building collapses in the country.

Construction industry experts in Nigeria have said that 32.5 grade cement, which is meant for general building purposes, is being used for major building projects to cut costs – resulting in structural weaknesses and building collapses.

In response, SON has banned the use of 32.5 grade cement for major building works and insisted on the use of 42.5 grade cement.

However, the ban has elicited strong resistance from cement producers who insist it is not their cement but poor application that is contributing to building collapses in Nigeria.

Nigeria’s top three cement producers – Lafarge Cement, Ashaka Cement and Unicem – are jointly challenging the ban in a Nigerian court.

By Zohra M Teke and Brendan Roane

Read the latest issue

Latest Issue