Registered town planning practitioners in Lagos have expressed concerns over what they describe as the “occasional mis-governance” in the strategic planning, implementation and sustainability of a robust physical planning and urban development policy for the comfort of human habitation in the state.
By this admonitions, the professionals are metaphorically referring to the pains and economic hardship that have been inflicted on the poor masses because of the ways and manners in which the governments, both in the past and present, have dealt with the challenge of waste management, flooding, infrastructures, slum residency, demolition of structures, land reclamation and location and relocation of market places.
The experts, who gathered under the auspices of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), were making the assertions while responding to questions from newsmen at a press conference on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 to commemorate the 2017 World Town Planning Day.
In the context of the theme of the celebration, tagged “Inclusive Cities and Communities,” the experts offered substantial ideas on how best to tackle the growing challenges of co-habiting a comfortable human being in a strategically developing megacity state like Lagos.
On attendance were the current National Vice President of NITP and former Commissioner of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Lagos State, Mr. Toyin Ayinde; President, Town Planning Regulatory Council of Nigeria (TOPREG), Mr. Moses Ogunleye; President, NITP, Lagos Chapter, Mr. Kunle Salami; and Chairman, Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigerian, Lagos Chapter, Mr. Omotayo Awomosu, among others.
Speaking at the event, on the question of planned banning of Yellow Buses on the roads among others, Ayinde, said that in the most advanced countries of the world “where you have moving population en-masse, you don’t move them in mini buses. It won’t get us anywhere. In fact, it’s the reason for gridlock. And if we do not change our attitude, one day we would want to get out from our house, and vehicular traffic would hold us back.”
Reacting to the aggressive land reclamation project on the Lagos Island and its environmental implications, Ayinde noted that most of the known water-logged communities today, especially around Oworonsoki, Ahmadu Bello Way and Adeniji Adele area of the state, were formerly dried land, eroded because of the construction of the Third Mainland Bridge and other urbanisation projects in the state.
Insisting that the only significant difference is the resolve to erect structures on the reclaimed land space, Ayinde also touched on the challenge of brutal eviction of people living in the slum by the government.
His words: “Whoever entertains fear over the ongoing reclamation in the state and or blaming the government are doing so either because they dont have sufficient research or information on the history of the areas.
“We are a nation that has passed through history. And that is why some people are saying we should reintroduce history as a subject back to the school curriculum. The reason is because there is a generation of people now who don’t know Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola and who don’t know that we passed through a civil war.
“Therefore, there may also be a generation now that doesn’t know that when the first Urban Renewal was conducted in 1951-52 in Broadstreet, Nnamdi Azikwue, Marina, Lagos, the exercise was done peacefully. And that is exactly what gave birth to where you call Surulere today.
“You may not know also that, throughout the four years I was in government, the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development didn’t carry out any eviction. Did we relocate people? Yes, we did. How did we do it? We brought down some blocks at Adeniji Adele Housing Scheme. But we followed the due process. We met with the residents. We showed them what government wanted to do. We gave them an offer of what was available, which is either for them to be moved into relocation settlement or to be given Rent Advance. And they made their options. And government did what was supposed to be done. And the people moved without anybody hearing any noise about it.
“This is not about us being violent. It’s just about following the due process. So, the stand of NITP is that there is a process to everything. And we will always advice that anyone undertaking any project should follow due process, including the government.
“Therefore in all of these questions of removal and replacement of the Yellow Buses on the road, the truth is in anywhere in the world.
In a brief submission, Ogunleye, who is also the Managing Director of Beachland Resources Limited, said the end-product of an efficient planning is a satisfactory result, insisting that arriving at such a feat “requires a wider consultation and harmonisation of professional ideas.
“The city belongs to us all. Those in government should not see themselves as the kings of philosophy. They should consult wider and reach out to all the relevant professionals and stakeholders on the most efficient ways to management an inclusive yet megacity state like Lagos.”
In an address, the Chairman, Lagos Chapter of NITP, Mr. Kunle Salami, said that, given the staggering growth rate in the migration of people from rural to urban areas, there must be serious commitment to managing the aftermaths.
According to Salami, these highlighted challenges are infrastructural decay, high rate of slum growth, urban crime and insecurity, climate change (flooding), waste disposal and other associated environmental problem.
His words: “Lagos is undoubtedly a rapidly growing megacity located in South West Nigeria and one of the most populated cities sub-Sahara Africa. According to the World Bank report, Lagos has both the highest annual urban growth rate (of 4.58%) and the highest slum growth rate of (4.53%) in the world.
“From the foregoing scenario, Lagos is so populated and confronted with severe pressures from overcrowding, prevalence of incidences of slum development, ecological and climate change impairment, industrial pollution, overdevelopment and as well as poor allocation of resources to physical planning programmes,” he added.
The certified town planner however admonished the government to do much more than what its currently doing, saying it would also be helpful to engage all the professionals and other stakeholders in the sector for better result.
He said, “Though we must acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of the past and present administrations in ensuring that sustainable physical planning and urban development is accorded its due regards.
“However, much still need to be done, especially in areas of democratisation of the planning process, sustainable megacity development, adequate allocation of resources for planning and city management, prioritisation and coordinated interventions especially on infrastructure improvements, safety and crime reduction and as well as robust policy initiations to facilitate socio-economic development and creation of a sustainable and resilient Lagos Megacity,” he adds.
Corroborating the earlier speakers, Awomosu said it’s unfortunate “that Nigeria is not a shining example in the area of tow planning efficient, attributing the retrogression to inconsistency of government policy, lack of political will to implement existing planning and public empathy to embrace and assist in the implantation of the existing physical planning policies.
“Yes, in the world today, Nigeria is not a shining example in the area of town planning. And the fault rests on the shoulders of all of us – the professionals, regulators, government and the people.
“Otherwise, who is responsible for building houses without obtaining the necessary approval documents, thereby subjecting lives to risk accruable from possible demolition or collapse of such building? It’s we the people! Also, who are those blocking the drainage with refusing at night? Is it ghost? Definitely no, but we the people.
“Therefore, until we embrace governance as a collective duty, the effort to plan and implement a habitable settlement for all of us maybe a mirage,” he added.
By Bankole Shakirudeen Adeshina