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Saturday, June 10, 2023

Why Lagos governor must address critical urban planning matters

The Osborne-Foreshore Residents Association, Phase II (OSFRA), Ikoyi and Peace Valley Zone Residents Association, Magodo are facing difficult times and are calling the attention of the Lagos State Government (LASG) to rescue them from the activities of capitalist developers whose developments on the two estates violate the extant Operative Development Plans and the Approval Orders for the localities.

Babajide Sanwo-Olu
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State

The obvious planning infractions are “weighty, scandalous, fraudulent, and worrisome.”

The Chairperson of OSFRA, Mrs. Chinwe Mbah, a lawyer, in a power-point presentation she made to the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at a meeting three weeks ago cogently analysed some developmental problems in the estate and the anxieties of the Association as follows:

  • Introduction of a new Building Approval Order 2013-2033 sequel to the change of the estate’s Master Plan.
  • Wrongful classification and change of Osborne Foreshore Phase 2 from low density residential to high-density residential estate.
  • No consultation with and non-representation by accredited representatives of Osborne Phase 2 during the planning process.
  • No consideration for commensurate infrastructure needed in anticipation of the sudden reclassification from low to high-density zone.
  •  Violation of approved building plans above the approvals given to a certain developer with many construction sites in the estate (e.g i) the developer had approval for five family housing units but developed 25 units instead, ii) at another site, the company had approval for 28 family units but went ahead to increase it to 84 family units, iii) at other location the company developed another 78 family units in violation of its approved building
  • The height of building permissible in the estate was fragrantly increased from five to 15 floors.
  • Consideration was not given to the number of car parks required for many of the high-rise buildings being built at an alarming rate and the quantity.
  • Statutory setbacks are not maintained. They illegally built on the perimeter fence.
  • Contravention of Lagos State physical planning laws in connivance with the officials of the Lagos State regulatory authority.
  • Flooding in the estate with the blockage of the canals by the developer.
  • No Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for all the buildings with additional units.

The Peace Valley Zone Residents Association would not allow a property owner who bought a residential building in the estate and converted it to a hotel to operate because of vehement opposition by the Development Control Unit of the Association.

The infraction was reported to the LASG and the building was sealed off twice and, on each occasion,, the erring developer yanked off the seal and continued with his development. He caused six policemen dispatched from the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Monitoring Team, Abuja, who came to the residence of the Chairman of the Residents Association, Ayobami Olubiyi, at 6 a.m. on Wednesday 24, 2021 to arrest him on charges that he threatened the life of the developer.

However, the unexpected happened. The estate’s residents mobilised themselves and resisted the arrest of their Chairman being whisked off unceremoniously to Abuja by the IGP Monitoring Team. As we write, the matter is stalemated.

The cases cited above are genuine complaints from the two Residents Associations regarding incessant infractions of the Operative Development Plans and the Approval Orders applicable to both estates, by non-conforming and obstinate developers whose primary motive was greed for profit, not the interest in creating a conducive neighbourhood for living.

Therefore, it is not in the best interest of the LASG to gloss over the complaints of the two Residents Associations. The developers should not be allowed to get away with the litany of provable planning infractions, they committed in the estates to the detriment of the residents who cherish liveable communities for the comfort of their families.

If Lagos megacity is to be liveable and sustainable, the government must play the role of “an unbiased enabler/umpire” in achieving the twin-objectives. The government must solidly support the citizenry to take preventive/proactive actions against reckless violation of planning regulations in the communities where they live, the way the residents of Osborne Phase 2 and Peace Valley Zone, Magodo have valiantly demonstrated. There should be zero tolerance for planning violations.

No developer should be accorded undue preference or given an option of a fine to deliberately tamper with the operative zoning rules and regulations. The imposition of a fine is illogical and contradictory! It does not deter illegal conduct. Rather, it emboldens the developers to engage in more illegalities, mindless of the adverse consequences of their actions to the built environment.

For example, excessive building and population densities and unauthorised change of use are inimical to good urban planning. If developments are not controlled by fiat, chaotic development takes over and the loss of urban aesthetic is apparent. Similarly, urban planning and management become a daunting task for the government with excessive overcrowding, humongous refuse generation, traffic congestion, environmental pollution, provision of urban basic services and infrastructure, and crime control.

Liveable cities are not products of chance, but the handiwork of diligent and upright urban planners with vision and knack for innovation and who make the planning process inclusive. When people feel loved by the city, they will love the city back and willingly fulfil their civic obligations without prompting. The reverse is the case if the municipal government is uncaring; the citizens display apathy, and the spirit of we-can-do-this-together starts to ebb.

As a suggestion, Governor Sanwo-Olu must be mindful of his legacies. Governments that tolerate or look the other way in respect of violation of rules and regulations may not be judged by the good they are doing, but by the excesses, they are willing to condone. It speaks for weak government and ineffective governance.

Sanwo-Olu must demonstrate a leadership style with compassion. He must listen to the residents’ distress calls with a desire to alleviate them. The governor should make people believe and understand that he is making their lives better.

By Yacoob Abiodun, Urban Planner/Planning Advocate wrote from Parkview Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos

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