Friday, 24 May 2013

Owner of ill-fated Nyagatare building looks to the future


Barigye at his Kabeza home, where he is still nursing injuries suffered after his building collapsed, trapping him and other employees.
Engineer Geoffrey Barigye, the owner of the four-storey building which collapsed and killed six people and injured several others in Nyagatare district last week, was absurd and regrettable.

Barigye, who was also injured when the building collapsed on May 14, told The New Times from his home in Kabeza, Kicukiro District, yesterday that he was shocked when the building collapsed, trapping him as well as others under the rubble. 

“I only learnt about what happened after regaining consciousness at King Faisal Hospital,” he said, adding that he cannot readily establish what triggered the collapse of the Rwf1.38 billion building. He was financing the project using his own money.

“What happened has happened, and we have now to plan for the future. How can I sit down and relax?” he asked.

The idea to construct the commercial building was conceived in early 2001, when he bought two plots of land in Nyagatare District.

In 2009, he contracted Yves Tusiime, a civil engineer whom he still believes was a good choice to implement the project.

“I sold him the idea and we signed a contract for implementation,” the Nyagatare District native says.

In October 2009, he got a construction permit from the district, a step, which he said took two or three months. Construction of his first ever project started. It is alleged that Barigye was both the supervisor and developer.

This was condemned by the chairman of Institute of Engineers, Rwanda, Eudes Kayumba who said it was both inappropriate and unprofessional for the owner of a building to be both the supervisor and developer.

But Barigye dismissed teh allegations, saying as an engineer, Tusiime is qualified to carry out both architectural design and construction.

“ But the most important thing to consider in such a project is the calculation note which indicates what kind of material would be used for a building to be strong and this is a specialty of engineers,” he said.

Other arguments fronted for the collapse were that the Nyagatare technical team did not meticulously analyse the project before they authorised construction.

But Barigye said his trust in district institutions is unwavering.

“We know district officials have the skills required to ably assess the validity of a project. So there is no way they would have let us begin construction if there was a problem with the project,” he says, adding that he is awaiting the verdict of the nine-man team formed to investigate the possible cause of the collapse. The team is investigating among others, claims that the building collapsed because pillars on the ground floor were being tampered with, a claim Barigye denies.   

“Workers were simply removing the walls in between pillars to turn the shops on the ground floor into one larger room for Cogebanque. This has no effect on the pillars,” he says.

Both the building and workers were insured with SORAS.


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