Except the Federal Government does something urgent to reflate the economy, redundancy in the construction industry may assume a new dimension, as the on-going recession hits the built sector badly.
In the last one year, many construction companies, especially those handling major highway projects, have not been able to recall over 50 per cent of their staff that were hitherto laid off as a result of non-payment of their outstanding debt by both the federal and state governments, according to findings from the Federation of Construction Industry (FOCI).
Similarly, the story is the at the Association of Building Consultants and Artisans Nigeria (ASBAN) and Association of Construction Workers of Nigeria (ACWN), umbrella bodies for artisans and concrete casters in the country.
Many of construction workers, who were used to daily or weekly pay before now are now waiting endlessly for works to come their way, while many who have resorted to their fate have seen opportunity in commercial motor bike (okada) to earn a living for a while. The case of one of the bricklayers at Magboro, who identified himself simply as Baba Esther, was pathetic .
He said he was pushed out with two children and a wife by landlords from his one bedroom when he could no longer pay his rent for months due to lack of job. To make ends meet, he said he had to use his motorbike (Okada) for commercial purpose.
“The last time I received a call for job was six months ago. When I can no longer provide for my family and pay children’s school fee due to the economic recession, I turned to Okada rider,” Baba Esther said in an emotion laden voice.
Baba Esther is not alone, as a tour of Lagos metropolis by New Telegraph revealed how many of the construction workers especially, labourers, bricklayers, concrete casters and carpenters are waiting endlessly for days and weeks at the job call centers at Iyana Ipaja, Mushin, Agege, Ikorodu and Ajah for engineers or contractors who have jobs to engage them.
“Unlike before when we go sites to works on daily basis, we have to pray for daily jobs again,” Mr Bayo Osona, one of the construction workers told this newspaper in Agege, Lagos.
According to the President, Association of Construction Workers of Nigeria, Lagos State chapter, Mr. Tajudeen Ilemoboye, during their meeting in Mushin, Lagos last weekend, he said that the on-going recession had badly affected them as builders/ contractors have slowed down or stopped their construction projects.
Apart from the nation’s economic recession, he stated that a major challenge to their jobs was high cost of building materials, which, according to him, has limited execution of building projects across the country.
He said: “The price of building materials have gone up. Take for example, a bag of cement now costs at N2.300. This singular hike in cement price has made people to stop their projects. There is not much construction work going on right now. It is as if workers are more than available jobs.”
Owing to lack of job in the sector, Ilemoboye said his members found it difficult to increase their fee owing to recession, adding, “we don’t even have jobs to do.”
Many of the construction workers who spoke, lamented the harsh economic situation in the country, saying they have no jobs to do. Ilemoboye is seeking the government’s intervention in the construction sector, adding that the authority should recognise the Association of Concrete Workers as part of built environment stakeholders.
“We want the government to recognise our association as part of building family. We want the government to help us out,” he said. His counterpart, President, Association of Building Consultants and Artisans of Nigeria (ASBAN), Mr. Jimmy Oshinubi, said the situation in the construction sector is getting worse due to recession, calling on the government to do everything possible to reflate the economy.
He noted that over one million of his members across the country have been rendered jobless due to ongoing economic crisis in the country, pointing out that building contractors have stopped construction projects they were hitherto handling due to lack of fund. ASBAN is the umbrella body of block moulders, bricklayers, aluminium fabricators, sand and granite suppliers, carpenters and furniture makers, licensed electrical contractors, house painters, plumbers, welders and tillers.
Oshinubi added that the situation grew worse with the rise in cement price, noting that people who have been managing to keep their housing projects ongoing suddenly suspended them.
He said: “The situation got worse when cement manufacturers also jacked up prices of cement last month by 40 per cent increase.
This was the final struck that broke the camel’s back.” According to him, people who wanted to develop property before now have suspended their projects, saying “they are still battling with the payment of children’s school fees.” He added: “The recession is affecting us badly.
There is no job for our members. The rich that used to give jobs are now hiding. They want to build but are being cautious because of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),” Oshnubi said, adding: “We are just doing maintenance jobs. This involves repairs of water pipe, roof, window and plastering of wall cracks.”
One of the home builders, Mr. Biodun Arinola, speaking at his construction site, said the economy has made it difficult for him to continue with the project. According to him, he summoned courage to continue due to an assurance from one of his friends, who promised to assist him.
He said: “We are finding it difficult to cope. Before now about one and half years ago, the budget for this concrete deck of this twostorey building was N2.5 million, but now it is not the same. I have to borrow additional N2 million to get the job done. If I had known, I wouldn’t have gone ahead with the construction. “Things are very expensive now; the cost of labour has gone up. Costs of sand, granite, cement, iron rods and even water have doubled.”
Second Vice President, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Mr. Kunle Awobodu, said that construction activities have gone down generally due to current economic recession. The ongoing meltdown in the economy, he pointed out, also affected construction companies, which has resulted to a situation where most of the concrete workers in Lagos and Abuja are currently jobless. He said: “Most of our workers have been calling us, but since we don’t have any job to give them, they will remain jobless until the situation improves.
We that have construction companies are feeling the recession mostly. “We are working on existing abandoned projects but there are reductions in volume of works. Outstanding payments have not been collected and people are just struggling to survive. It is difficult to embark of capital-intensive project now.
SOURCE: New Telegraph