Investors in the building and construction industry in Nigeria have, over the years, put their money on various projects with good returns, but occasional fatalities at some sites are beginning to shake their confidence. However, professionals in the sector believe investor-confidence could be sustained through quality construction.
Amid daunting challenges, the industry is doing well in terms of growth. GDP figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows the industry grew by 4 per cent in the second quarter of 2021 with a projected 2.8 per cent annual growth over the next four years (2022-2025).
However, in the last five years (2016-2021), the same industry has witnessed building failures that beg the question as to what quality of construction goes into some of the 'beautiful' structures that adorn the landscape of Nigerian cities.
The collapse of Lekki Gardens 7-floor building in March 2016 which claimed about 34 lives, the November 1, 2021 collapse of a 21-storey building in Ikoyi, Lagos that killed about 45 people, including the developer, and many others before this are major sore points in the industry.
These incidents immediately call to mind the Biblical parable of the Wheats and the Tares growing together in the same Vineyard but planted by different sowers with differing mindset. In many ways, these incidents have badly bruised public confidence in an industry that, arguably, has great future.
"No doubt, these sad and avoidable incidents can discourage investment in property, especially luxury high-rise properties. They reduce the confidence of institutional and foreign investors in the luxury high-rise property market," a building professional who did not want to be named, confirmed.
Dotun Bamgbola, former chairman, Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Lagos State Branch, however differs, saying that these incidents, as unfortunate as they are, might not discourage investment in the luxury high-rise property market.
"I don't think people will be so discouraged once the competence and capacity of the contractors of such buildings are known. Without mentioning names, there are some contractors who have both foreign and local track records for excellent delivery," he said.
Evidently, the building industry in Nigeria has seen great architecture crystalised in beautiful and solid brick and mortar. Contrary to what has happened, in this same country are such great structures as the NET Building, Union Bank Tower on Lagos Island and the Cocoa Building in Ibadan which have been standing for decades.
Similarly, there are new generation structures built to international standard that stand out to the credit of the industry, the admiration of the public and the joy of their developers. These include The Oceanna Cerulean, a project of one of the subsidiaries of Palton Morgan, 4Bourdillon by Elalan, Standard Chartered Bank Towers; the Eko Towers, The Wings Towers, Dangote new Head Office, etc.
These are great testimonies to quality construction where the developers and the builders, including the project teams, have not compromised on standard practice.
"Quality construction demands that any building should be given the right and adequate team. Construction is not one-man-show, but team work. Human resources should be enough for the project. There should be adequate checking and control on the structure and the finishing," said Arkan Aljbaie, General Manager, Construction at BCL.
Aljbae noted that the most important thing to ensure the stability of any building is to follow the design and the specification 100 per cent, insisting that building failure could occur anywhere in the world including America, Asia or Europe where this is ignored.
"Building collapse happens everywhere; it is not only in Nigeria that it happens and construction must not stop. That means people will have to put more resources in their project by engaging the right contractors. Consideration should not be just on the costs alone. Some developers are looking at the cost and are therefore looking for who gives them the lowest cost. Beyond the cost, consideration should also be given to knowledge, experience and team work," he advised.
Aliyu Suleiman, Resident Site Manager at Trevi Foundations, shares this view, adding however that quality construction of any building, be it low or high-rise, starts from the foundation.
"The kind of structure you want to build will determine the kind of foundation you should have. Once your foundation is wrong, the whole building is wrong. And it is not just about the nature of your foundation, who does the foundation is also very important," Suleiman noted.
Trevi, according to him, is number one in piling and has its signature in many high-rise buildings in Lagos, especially in Ikoyi and Victoria Island. The projects are too many for mention but notable to mention is The Oceanna Cerulean and most recently, piling project for Paramount Twin Towers, a project of Palton Morgan.
He believes that there are many local construction firms that are also involved in construction like Trevi, but they have their limitations. "The local companies need to invest in their resources, especially their human and material resources.
"If a company has good human resources but lacks the necessary equipment, it will still go back to the same thing. There should be good equipment and good skilled professionals with experience working together. There should also be adequate funding," he said, noting that the local firms lack most of these things.
It is instructive to point out that the building and construction industry in Nigeria is not in lack of good and reputable companies like Trevi who have stamp of quality and integrity on the work they do. These are mainly multi-national foreign firms and they include Julius Berger, Cappa D Alberto, Lambert, Trevi Foundation, BCL among others.
Reputable Nigerian developers, whose developments occupy prime locations in Nigeria's big cities of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, don't lose sight of these multi-national firms in choosing their contractors and other project partners.
At the forefront of these developers is Palton Morgan Holdings, the parent company of Grenadines Homes which, by no accident whatsoever, has become a byword for quality and luxury buildings.
As a matter of corporate policy and due consideration for quality and safety of investment, Palton Morgan goes for the very best of contractors while assembling project partners for its developments strategically located in Ikoyi and Victoria Island in Lagos, and Maitama in Abuja.
Currently, the company is working with design consultants like ECAD and HOK Architects, a global name in the world of architecture. It is also working with Lambert, Trevi Foundation, BCL, APD, MO & A and W Hospitality Group to deliver its promised products. These contractors and consultants have solid track record of delivering the best quality real estate products in Africa and beyond.
"For almost all our piling works on all our projects, we use Trevi Foundations. Presently, we are working with Cappa D Alberto for structures of The Oceanna Cerulean at Oniru in Victoria Island; BCL is being used for the construction of Skyvilla and Claren Villas, both in Ikoyi," said Deolu Okesola, the company's Head, Project & Development.
The choices the company makes is not for fancy or aimed to impress. Instead, they are in line with its mission in the Nigerian real estate space and that, according to Okesola, is to lead the real estate sector in Africa with revolutionary ideas and strategies that will fuel great innovations within the Nigerian property market.
Part of this mission too is to build sophisticated masterpieces and create new standards for luxury living. The company is overly committed to delivering quality and this commitment is not lost on investors who have recognised that Palton Morgan, as a developer, focuses on quality and on-time delivery.
The Oceanna, the company's flagship development, stands tall as a testimony of that commitment to quality and luxury architecture. Though Covid-19 affected its early delivery, Palton Morgan did not just fold its arms and watch. It used this time as an opportunity to improve the overlook of the project and upgraded the facilities and finishing of the Cerulean Tower.
"The ultimate objective of Palton Morgan is to give the best quality in town. This project is now moving with great speed and the top international contractors like Cappa D Alberto - the Italian contractors, Alico from UAE, and Lambert from Canada, are working on this Project," Okesola assured.
In an earlier interview, Nidal Turjman, Palton Morgan's Group Chief Operating Officer/Executive Director, described The Oceanna as a "Great Architecture," pointing out that with its architecture, the company has been able to change the narrative on Nigeria's luxury real estate market. "Now, when you come into the market, you see good architecture; people are redefining the skyline with the kind of development we see," he noted.
The company's latest development, known as Paramount Twin Towers, follows from the Palton Morgan tradition of quality and luxury. Okesola says the project is among the most desired sophisticated projects in the Nigerian luxury real estate segment, assuring that, when complete, it will be a significant part of their customers' success stories.