Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to make a Statement on the recent collapse of a 7- storey building at Nii-Boi Town, a suburb of Accra and other related issues.
Indeed, Mr Speaker, within a brief period of less than two years, we have witnessed similar incidents occurring, not only in Accra but also in Kumasi, the Ashanti Regional capital. All these have always resulted in loss of human lives, serious injuries, loss of properties and displacement of persons.
In this particular instance, the collapsed building, according to media reports, left one person dead, while others sustained very serious injuries. As regards the previous one which occurred at Achimota, the collapse of the six-storey building belonging to Melcom supermarket, left 14 people dead, while 68 persons sustained various degrees of injury. Then last year too, a building at Sakaman, belonging to the Methodist Church also collapsed, injuring one worker.
These occurrences, following closely on the heels of each other, have left a sour taste in the mouth of all well meaning Ghanaians. In fact, Ghanaians are shocked and dismayed, particularly at this latest disaster. The reason being that, after the Melcom incident, most Ghanaians felt that such disasters would not happen again and that we would have learnt from our mistakes, so that such incidents never occur.
Mr Speaker, critical to all these are the bad and unprofessional approach to
planning on the part of of our city officials, such as the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and the Town and Country Planning Department, that look on while rules and regulations are violated with impunity.
People indiscriminately site buildings at unauthorised places in blatant disregard of warnings by the city authorities to stop work.
Mr Speaker, it is also a known fact that where people have been granted building permits, they put up buildings which do not conform to the authorised specifications. When these persons are confronted, they ignore the city authorities and continue putting up buildings with weak foundations, which eventually turn to collapse on innocent persons.
Another major cause of these weak and easily collapsable buildings, is the use of sub-standard materials, such as thin iron rods, which cannot stand the test of time and the use of cement blocks that have a very high content of sand instead of cement. In no time, these buildings collapse on innocent people.
Mr Speaker, other reasons certain buildings collapse are due to the type of soil on which these buildings are constructed. When buildings are constructed at places where we have sandy or clay soils, then the logical result is that, these buildings would be affected negatively by changes in weather patterns, resulting in weakened foundations, and the end result is obvious.
All these flaws turn these buildings into death traps. Apart from the causes already mentioned, most persons employ unqualified and professionally incom- petent persons to undertake constructional works. All these inadequacies combine to produce structures which will inevitably collapse at a point in time.
Mr Speaker, the surest way to avoid the recurrence of these unfortunate disasters which result in loss of innocent lives and displacement of citizens, is for us as a nation to act firmly to do away with the existing bad habits which result in these disasters.
To summarise, buildings collapse mainly due to bad designs, faulty construction, weak foundations, use of unqualified personnel in the construction industry, building on inappropriate soils and above all, non-enforcement of laid down rules and regulations relating to construction of buildings.
Mr Speaker, in order to avoid the recurrence of these disasters, we need to do away with all these bad practices. First and foremost, we need to take a critical look at all permits granted for the construction of high rise buildings to ascertain whether they meet the required standards. The structural integrity of these buildings should also be critically assessed to determine whether the right materials have been used and that the building will not collapse at the slightest pressure or weight.
Mr Speaker, the second issue that needs to be addressed, relate to our general approach to planning. People put up buildings indiscriminately at unauthorised places, while the authorities look on, only for them to post notices of “stop work” when the buildings have reached the lintel level. It is, therefore, important that the capacity of the Building Inspectorate Division is strengthened to make it more effective to be able to conduct regular checks and monitoring while construction is in progress.
Where the standards have not been met, the officials involved, the owners of the building and contractors must be
compelled to conform to the required standards.
Officials who condone and connive with the owners of buildings to proceed with shoddy work irrespective of warnings, must be severely reprimanded or prosecuted, while the unqualified contractors must be prevented from putting up buildings. In short, persons planning to put up buildings must award contracts to qualified professionals. It is also proposed that the licence of contractors who put up weak structures that do not conform to required standards, must be revoked.
Mr Speaker, in conclusion, let me say that this is a very serious matter involving loss of innocent lives, injuries and loss of properties. I therefore wish to urge my Hon Colleagues to give this issue the attention it deserves in order to make these disasters a thing of the past.
Thank you for this opportunity.