My attention was drawn to the publication titled “How Planning Blunders Deface Lagos,” on Democracy Day May 29th, 2015. The article was written by an urban planner, Tpl. (or Town Planner) Yacoob Abiodun and published in EnviroNews Nigeria an internet-based news magazine on Town Planning and Environment related issues. The author, Tpl. Yacoob Abiodun, made wide allegations on town planners in Lagos State Public Service as well as Lagos State Government. I am reacting to the allegations made by the author on personal grounds as a proactive, upright, Registered Town Planner in Lagos State Public Service. This response is personal and not the position of the Lagos State Government.
I have decided to address the issues raised by the author on town planning related matters and not personal attacks on town planners in Lagos State Public Service. The issues raised by Tpl. Yaccob Abiodun are summarised to eight, and they are:
(i) Lagos State Government is the Chief Culprit breaking her Laws on Urban and Regional Planning and, by extension, the Urban Planners in Lagos State Public Service. He cited non-establishment of Urban and Regional Planning Appeal Tribunal as stated in the Law.
(ii) He also cited location of Lagos Ferry Service Terminal at space earmarked as play ground for the residents of Osborne Foreshore Estate Phase II Ikoyi, Lagos.
(iii) Underhand dealings with members of the public by town planners in Lagos State.
(iv) He equally alleged that Lagos State planners can approve anything under the sun based on bargaining power.
(v) Approval of filling station in a residential area at Admiralty Way, Lekki.
(vi) Approval of Shopping Mall at Jakande’s Roundabout in Lekki without adequate setbacks.
(vii) In Lagos State, the citizens never have “our plan” but Government plan public participation in planning is perfunctory.
(viii) Town planners in Lagos State are “arm-chair town planners”.
A critical digest of the report revealed that the author Tpl. Yacoob Abiodun did not proffer any workable solution to physical planning challenges confronting Lagos Mega City and Town Planners in Lagos State Public Service or to the hydra headed town planning blunders he identified in his report. Since Tpl. Yacoob Abiodun did not proffer any solution, I will take him as a very good critic who is demanding attention and relevance.
My reactions to Tpl. Yacoob Abiodun’s allegations are:
(i) That Lagos State violated her Law by not establishing Town Planning Appeal Tribunal. It is unfortunate that a Senior Registered Town Planner reacted negatively to an issue he has limited information on. Let me set the record straight. In 2009, a list of nominees for appointment as members of the Appeal’s Tribunal was presented to the former governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, for approval by your colleague and a good friend of yours, the then Honourable Commissioner for Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development in Lagos State. Within a week the Governor returned the file and requested to know why no female nominee was in the Seven-Man Appeal”s Tribunal. For reasons best known to the presenter, he never returned the file to the Governor. All spirited efforts made by town planners working in the Ministry to ensure that he represents the list or give reasons for non-inclusion of a female nominee in the composition of the Tribunal met a brick wall.
By 2010, a new Urban and Regional Planning Law was in place and, towards the end of the Fashola Administration, finishing touches were being put in place by the Ministry of Justice, on the Town Planning Regulations that will back the 2010 Law. Tpl. Yacoob Abiodun with his wealth of experience should know that the Town Planning Appeal’s Tribunal can only function with these two instruments in place. That is, the law and the regulation. Tpl. Yacoob Abiodun may throw more light to the reader, that if the Lagos State Town Planning Appeal’s Tribunal is in place today, which regulation will the Tribunal use? In view of these circumstances, where didthe State go wrong or where have the town planners in the State Public Service erred?
(ii) As regards Lagos Ferry Service Terminal located on parcel of land earmarked as playground for the residents of Osborne Foreshore Estate Phase II. The information given by Tpl Abiodun is not correct. The layout plan of Osborne Phase II was prepared in 2010 by the Federal Ministry of Environment, Housing and Urban Development; Urban and Regional Development Department, Ikoyi Zonal Town Planning Office, Lagos. Signed by Tpl Olakunde A. D. for the Director URD, it revealed that the subject site zoned for mixed use and not playground. That is, the site can be used for a combination of residential and commercial or either of the uses. I am sure, Tpl. Yacoob Abiodun knows the Law governing Urban and Regional Planning in Nigeria. If this statement is in the affirmative, he should answer these questions. Was the Osborne Phase II Layout Plan approved in 2010? Who approved it and who should approve it by Law: the Federal or the State? Notwithstanding, the Scheme is owned by the Federal Ministry of Environment, Housing and Urban Development, not Lagos State Government. How can Lagos State embark on the construction of Lagos Ferry Service on Federal Land without strong resistance? For the project to be on course without strong resistance, I’m positive that the Federal, State and or the allottee of the parcel of land must have mutually agreed to use the parcel of Land as Lagos Ferry Terminal as against playground in overall public interest. I think it is unethical for a senior Urban Planner to give the whole world wrong information. To the best of my knowledge, the scheme was only prepared in 2010 but not approved by Lagos State. However, the scheme was official and publicly approved in May 27, 2015 along with the review of Ikoyi Victoria Island Model City Plan and the subject site captured.
(iii) Tpl. Yacoob Abiodun also alleged that there are underhand dealings with members of the public by town planners in Lagos State, but failed to mention any particular case or name those involved. This is a serious allegation which Tpl. Yacoob Abiodun must be prepared to explain before Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) Ethics and Disciplinary Committee. Tpl. Yacoob Abiodun equally alleged that Lagos State town planners can approve anything under the sun based on bargaining power. I and many other town planners take total exemption from this allegation and Tpl. Yaccob Abiodun must give an instance or name culprit(s).
(iv) The petrol filling station in a residential area at Admiralty Way in Lekki is another infringement cited by Tpl. Yacoob Abiodun. I expected Tpl. Yaccob Abiodun to list in his publication the conditions for citing filling station or where filling stations should be cited. Who are petrol filling stations are meant to serve? Until when he responds to these questions or he comes up with acceptable conditions for location of filling station before I will react. It is important to note that that Admiralty Way Lekki is covered by approved Lekki Scheme I Layout prepared by the New Towns Development Authority (NTDA) which designated the locations of two petrol filling Stations along Admiraty Way . These locations have been planned more than three decades ago as filling stations for over 3,500 residential plots in Lekki Scheme I. Tpl Abiodun may want to enlighten us on this. However, the review of the Scheme is on and Abiodun is free to come up and present superior reason(s) for the best locations of the filling stations. I will refresh the memory of Tpl. Yacoob Abiodun who has been living in Lagos for over 40 years and he knows Lagos in and out. I want him to state the land use of the following planned corridors in the 60s and 70s: Itire Road, Akerele and Western Avenue in Surulere, Herbert Macaulay and Muritala Mohammed Way in Ebute Metta/Yaba, Igbosere Street in Lagos Island, to mention a few. Tpl. Yaccob Abiodun should make it public when the existing and some relocated filling stations in these corridors have been in operation.
(v) Another infraction is the Shopping Mall at Jakande Roundabout in Lekki with inadequate setbacks. He further raised the traffic congestion the project will cause when it becomes operational. It is only a criminal planner that will approve such a landmark shopping mall without adequate setbacks or clearance on Traffic Impact Assessment. That, is the extra mile Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority adopts before granting of development permit. If these two conditions are met before approval of the shopping mall is granted, then the author is either biased or has chosen to mislead the readers.
(vi) Tpl. Yacoob Abiodun further alleged that in Lagos State the citizens never have “our plan” but Government plan with no public participation in planning. It is only a person who has been out of circulation can hold on to such position. In Lagos State there is no existing Local, Model City or Master Plan without at least two different public fora of the citizens’ and stakeholders participations. These are, consultations of the stakeholders at inception, data gathering, public presentation of the interim report and public presentation of draft final report. The recently signed Agege, Apapa,Lagos Central Mainland, Ikoyi Victoria Island Model City Plans and Badagry Master Plan are examples. These plans were signed in the public where they started.
(vii) Finally, Tpl. Yaccob Abiodun claimed that town planners in Lagos State are “arm chair” town planners. Yes, Tpl. Yaccob Abiodun is “right” because the last Administration in Lagos State makes them comfortable, in their offices, exposed them to best practices, monthly interactive session with the Chief Executive of the State, budgetary provision for physical planning and placed square men in square holes. These are the reasons why Lagos is regarded as the State of Excellence. The Akinwunmi Ambode Administration is also leaving no stone unturned on physical planning, by focusing on improving quality of living, ease of doing business and wealth creation in the state.
By Tpl. Badejo, Hakeem Olatunji (Director, Town Planning, Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority)