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Controversy dogs new library project as UNILAG halts contractor

There was a strong indication that the collapse last year of a seven-storey building belonging to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) has been dogged in controversy following claims emanating from investigative panels set -up to probe the incident.

While some reports claimed that the collapse was caused by the alleged appointment of an incompetent contractor, others exonerated the contractor from the incident.

Investigation by The Guardian showed that no fewer than four investigative panels, which include, Ministry of Education, House of Representatives, The Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, (COREN) and two others probed the unfortunate incidence.

The multi-million new library and located beside the UNILAG Bookshop, adjacent to Mariere Hall, had a section of the building caved in during the casting.

Although no life was lost in the incidence, it, however, caused a public outcry and subsequent assessment visit by the Architects Council of Nigeria (ARCON) led by its chairman, Sir Dipo Ajayi.

During the visit, the new Director of Works, Babatunde Oloko, led the ARCON team to a visual inspection of the collapsed portion of the building, from outside the site perimeter fencing.

But Ajayi, alongside with ARCON’s members including Kayode Anibaba, Adebayo Dipe and Ladipo Lewis, met with the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Olutoyin Ogundipe, who briefed ARCON’s members on the incident.

The Council, the VC said immediately the collapse occurred the site was sealed off.

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According to Ogundipe, following the incident, the Chairman of Council, University of Lagos, Dr. Wale Babalakin has been notified and he is taking charge of further actions on the project and investigations.

Findings also revealed the consultants on the project, They are architectural firm- ATO Architects; structural engineers – Landmark; quantity surveyors – Tuber Consult; mechanical and electrical – IFC; project manager – CPMS Limited and main contractor -Dutum Company Limited.

Ogundipe stated that the Federal Executive Council under Tetfund awarded the contract, adding that it was a fixed contract with counterpart funding from Unilag.

The VC notified the panel of his observations of the contractor and his inadequacies, and slow pace of work on the project.

A probe panel was later constituted to look into the matter, shortly after ARCON’s visits in February 2019.

However, a year after the four-man panel was constituted, the university authority is yet to make the findings public.

But, The Guardian investigations revealed that the panel found the contractor guilty with some infraction, which basically reflected his alleged incompetence.

It was learnt that the findings were the reason why work is yet to start on the project. “Right now, the multi-million project is still standing and nobody can touch as it has become a lion that nobody wants to buy and the person who wants to sell is looking at it and cannot even go near it,” a source said.

According to the source, there has been a subtle move by the contractor to continue work on-site, but it was deterred by a letter from ARCON.

The source said: “The panel found that the process of awarding the contract was faulty because the people highly confirmed in writing that the contractor was not competent.

When you look at the building, you will see some incompetence in the working process of the building”, the source added.

The Guardian further learnt that the architects were exonerated because they proved that the contractor did not comply with their instructions before proceeding with the casting.

Apart from the contractor, the project was also indicted.

“ It is the practice that when a member of the building profession is involved in any way in a building collapse, he is summoned. If he is an architect, he is summoned either to face Architect investigative panel or the tribunal where the licence could be taken or suspended.

However, in the case of the Unilag incident, it was found out that the architect commented that the contractor was not complying with instructions.

We tracked the documents to cap it all, the architect, who represents the company said the instruction was not granted the contractor that the particular aspect of the building should be cast.

“When you don’t get architect’s instruction in the system, you don’t do the job that is why the company was exonerated, they do not grant approval for the contractor to cast that aspect of the building and there is evidence to support it.

“The project manager was not approved and the contractor was not competent and I don’t know how he was appointed,” the source added.

Efforts to get the institution response to the findings proved abortive as the institution’s Deputy Registrar, Information and Protocol, Mrs. Taiwo Oloyede, did not respond to calls made to her phones or messages sent to her mobile lines.

However, the main contractor, Dutum Company Limited, through Mr. Olalekan Awolaja, said the entire issue is political.

According to him, there have been a series of reports.

“ The school itself set up a panel before this last one, to look into the structure and they submitted their reports that nothing is wrong with the integrity of the building, likewise the House of Representatives in their findings said the same thing.

“ It is all about politics., As far as we are concerned there was a little setback and we ought to have resumed works because the Ministry of Education and House of Representatives Committee have even intervened and have sent their recommendations that we should move back to the site .

“The delay is being caused by the school management, even as at two weeks ago, we met with the management as well as COREN and its recommendation was that the contractor should be allowed to move back to the site but we don’t know why the delay”, he added.

Source: Guardian News

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