Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, has said that the state will prepare master plans for its three major cities: Umuahia, Aba and Ohafia.
The governor made the declaration recently through his deputy, Mr Ude Oko Chukwu, during the 2015 Annual Luncheon of the state’s chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) held in Aba, the state’s commercial nerve centre, on Thursday, August 20, 2015. The theme of the luncheon was: “Improving the quality of life of Abians through Physical Planning.”
Amid concerns over the alarming state of decay and broken-down infrastructure in urban centres such as Aba, and the deafening calls for a physical development blueprint to address the situation, Dr. Ikpeazu disclosed that the state government has commenced discussions with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) that will, in collaboration with consultants, drive the process.
Nigeria Programme Manager at UN-Habitat, Mr Kabir Yari, while describing the state’s intention as “both a welcome relief and development”, urged government and fellow professional planners to ensure that adequate resources are made available to implement the plans.
According to him, the challenge before the NITP is how to be a catalyst in breaking the current vicious cycle of inadequate planning and dysfunctional settlements to a vicious cycle of getting liveable, efficient and functional cities.
“I would recommend that you take the issue of plan preparation and plan implementation very seriously,” he stated, stressing that urbanisation and unplanned urban growth are associated with slums, informal settlements development, traffic congestion and inadequate basic urban services.
“Urbanisation dividend does not come automatically. The way urbanisation is planned and managed matters significantly. If cities are to contribute significantly as engines of growth, they must get necessary and adequate attention from the city authorities. This comes in terms of adequate resources – technical, financial and institutional capacities as well as tools and instruments to plan and manage cities,” said Mr Yari.
National President of the NITP, Dr. Femi Olomola, disclosed that priority number one of his administration’s Seven-Point Agenda is the development of a Multi User Template for land Use Planning Report and Analysis (LUPAR) that will, among others, create no less than five million units of jobs annually nationwide.
He said: “The report shall be exclusively prepared by registered town planners (RTPs). It is planned to accompany applications for: building plan approval/permits, issuance of Certificates of Occupancy (C-of-Os), opening of corporate accounts with banks, incorporation/registration of new companies with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), insurance of buildings, issuance of license by the Department of Petroleum Resources for the development of oil pipelines.
“The concept is novel and calls for creativity. This is an example of an indigenous solution/response to an indigenous problem. You cannot get any textbook discussing this concept. We made it the theme of our Mandatory Continuing Professional Development Programme (MCPDP) for 2015. We will launch model copies of this report at this year’s Annual Conference and General Meeting in Ilorin, Kwara State in October.”
Shedding light on the linkage between LUPAR and the theme of the luncheon, Dr. Olomola added: “If out of the estimated five million units of consultancy jobs to be created nationwide 250,000 units are domiciled in Abia State, I have no doubt in my mind that this will surely lead to an appointment in the lives of Abia State RTPs that will prepare the 250,000 LUPAR reports and their clients will enjoy a faster decision-making process in the issuance of their physical development permits, issuance of C-of-Os, etc.”
In a presentation titled: “Improving the quality of life through physical planning”, Dr. Moses Olubunmi Ajayi, a Past President of the NITP, concluded that the physical planner is a major determinant of the quality of life that people live in the urban areas.
He, however, added: “The physical planners have been trained to look at the overall group interest but, in as much as we insist on our individual interest to supersede group interest, we shall all suffer the consequences.
“If we want improvement of the quality of life in our cities, we must allow the physical planners to do their work and give them all the support as individuals, communities as well as different levels of government.
“The state of quality of life of our cities is the responsibilities of all of us and therefore I can say that we have found the enemy to a good quality of life in our cities and he is all of us.”
Deacon Chibueze Nwaogwugwu, Chairman of Abia State Chapter of the NITP, described as “a jinx that has been broken” the approval by Gov. Ikpeazu for the immediate commencement for the preparation of the Aba Master Plan, among others.
His words: “This, we know, has remained almost impossible over decades ago. This is the political will we have been expecting over the years to move the state forward. Our governor is indeed a man of his words and a man sent by God to Abians.
“Individuals, groups, communities, corporate bodies and non-governmental organisations are hereby encouraged to cooperate with the consultants when they start by giving them the necessary information and other assistance that will facilitate timely realisation of the Master Plan.”
Chairman, Local Organising Committee (LOC), Elder Nelson Nwaosu, expressed optimism that the physical, social and economic development of the state will be enhanced when the physical planning and management of Aba, Umuahia and Ohafia are handled by professionals in that field.
He said: “The profession of Urban and Regional Planning has come of age to rise to the challenges of quackery and the works of impostors. They can give to Nigerians the type of human environment which is conducive for living, work, recreational interaction in peace and harmony.
“They can also promote growth and development in all nooks and crannied of the nation. These are only achievable through creative thinking, proactive steps and effective management of resources both human and material at our disposal for the benefit of all and sundry.”
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Renewal, Elder O. C. Aguwa, commended town planners for their role in planning for healthy and functional cities in the state.
His words: “Your worthwhile efforts in promoting understanding between the town planners and the public on one hand, and between the town planners and the policy decision makers on the other hand, must be sustained – for there lies the source of success in changing the quality of life of Abians through physical planning. I, therefore, advise that the symbiosis which exists between your Chapter and the Ministry must also be sustained to achieve the desired improvement of the quality of life of Abians using the instrumentality of physical planning.”
Meanwhile, courtesy of a directive by the state government, the NITP has been grant a free one-hour airtime on radio on the Broadcasting Corporation of Abia to henceforth educate the people on the importance of physical planning. The first edition, which was a phone-in interactive programme, held on Monday, August 24, 2015.