In the last few years, civil engineering practices in African countries such as Kenya and more notably Nigeria have been investigated. Now, some questions of a recent tragedy might finally get some answers. It was September 12th, 2014 when the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Nigeria collapsed, killing 115 people. The investigation into what actually caused the collapse has turned into a court case which is now being conducted at the Ikeja High Court in Nigeria. The engineering entities that assisted the investigation were: The Nigeria Building and Road Research Institute (NBBRI), the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) and the Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG). The entities compiled a report that refuted any claims that terrorism was behind the collapse of the building, and rather made a case for structural failure of the building itself.
The compiled report from the coroner had detailed what exactly made the building fall down:
- Inadequate beams of 750mm by 225mm (should have been 900mm by 300mm)
- Inadequately reinforced columns (should have been reinforced with 12 x Y25 bars or 20 x Y20mm bars. Instead they used 10 x Y20 bars (as seen in the video released by SCOAN).
- Inadequate bearing pressure for the central column due to the 2m x 2m x 0.9m foundations.
- Failure to introduce rigid zones for bracing the structure and did not design the frames as an unbraced structure.
- Failure to provide movement joints that could have absorbed any movement due to creep, contraction, expansion and differential settlement etc..
- 8 out of the 12 main beams of the structure failed because they were undersized, under-reinforced (both in tension and shear), the tension bars were poorly anchored to the column supports and 8 x Y20 was used instead of 14 x Y20.
- The ground floor columns were slender and readily gave in to buckling
In the court case that is currently happening, a witness, Dr Olusegun Oyenuga, a civil engineer, has confirmed that the project, when in the building phase, had no structural engineer. He said: "There was no structural engineer for SCOAN to the best of our knowledge. During the compilation of the report into the collapsed building, no structural engineer for the church came forward. The court needs to educate the public that every structure needs a structural engineer."
The naysayers on TB Joshua's (the pastor who presided over the church) side say the strange aircraft that flew overhead before the building's collapse somehow has something to do with it. "A civil engineer is not necessarily a structural engineer unless registered by the Council of Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN)," Oyenyuga added. He also gave what he think may have caused the building's collapse: "Our findings revealed that the superstructure was undersized in terms of the reinforcement of the beams and columns, the foundation was also not adequate but it may not have been the case of the collapse. On the bearing capacity of the soil, the maximum bearing capacity should be 800 and what should be ideally used for construction are 330 and the church used 550. This may have been responsible for the collapse."
Another engineer involved in compiling evidence of structural failure, Idowu Alakija, said: "I was a member of the committee that generated a report on the SCOAN building collapse. COREN put up an advert that all engineers involved in the construction of the collapsed building report to the COREN office at Ikoyi but no one showed up. I and some other members of the committee went to the site of the building to conduct some analysis and design tests." COREN refers to the Council of Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria.
Here is a footage from a source that believes the church was downed by the strange aircraft, it is not suitable for sensitive viewers. What is apparent from the video, however, is that structural failure did occur, which sent the building hurtling to the ground. What remains clear is that civil engineering in African countries needs to be thoroughly investigated and revamped so that structural failures are not commonplace in the 21st century history books of African civil engineering.