‘Why Nigerian cities lacked coherent physical planning’

PHOTO: Hope for Nigeria

Amid exponential growth in city’s population, a former Lagos government official last week revealed that the absence of National Spatial Physical Planning Policy framework has burdened States and local councils with the task of urban planning in the country.

The former Permanent Secretary in Lagos State Ministry of Urban and Physical Planning, Ayo Adediran who made the submission at the 5th Urban Dialogue programme titled:”Dialectics of Urban Planning in Nigeria” organised by the department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Lagos, called for a review of planning statutes with sustainable subsidiary legislations.

He acknowledged the urgent need for governments at all levels to embark on preparation of appropriate development plans and reform of the land use law and land rights to ensure positive planning and effective development control.

Adediran stressed that issues of climate change, smart development, public participation and inclusive planning approaches must be considered in planning regulations.

Experts in the built environment have posited that about 70 per cent of Nigerian cities exist in slums with places like Lagos and Ibadan amongst others identified as prominent in that regard while cities like; Vienna, Toronto, Paris, New York, London, Tokyo, Berlin, Copenhagen, Hongkong and Barcelona are currently ranked as top ten smart cities in the World.

The foremost town planner said inability to attain best global practices in urban planning in Nigeria comes from individuals’ orientation, biases and dismal understanding of what development connotes by stakeholders in the building industry.

“We have a common responsibility of improving the living condition of human settlements, will be the challenge. We need to realize that the best legacy we can leave is to build a sustainable, resilience and inclusive society. It is our collective responsibility to find answer to what this might be.

“ The challenges of strategic development planning is connected to lack of clear interpretation of the content of the plans, lack of synergy between National Physical Plan and States Plans, absence of Spatial Planning Policy Framework for guidelines and standards for urban and regional planning, low level of public participation in plan preparation and implementation and the technical complexity and obscurity of the plan documents”, he stated.

He attributed poor planning services in the country on dialectics of the different school of thought, the application of uniform planning standards to developments, Poor Governance system, the disconnect between the technical experts (professionals urban planners) and political decision makers (executive urban planners) and Poor public participation of the citizen  in planning process.
The occasion attracted doyens of town planning profession which include; Prof. Egunjobi, Prof. Alo Aluko, Dr. Wale Alade, Prof. Leke Oduwaye,Prof. amongst others.

Speaking on his 30 years of town planning practice, he explained that sustainable development plan needs to balance environmental concern, social equity and economic prosperity while also tackling the challenge of climate change, sustainable development and the evolution of smart city concept in the 21stcentury.

His words: “Concerns for urban sustainability are driving the development of various ecological-derived design concepts. The Smart city goals which seek to improve quality of life and efficiency of services that meet residents’ needs.

Improve governance and standard of living of the people through effective service delivery, efficient use of physical infrastructures that support healthy economic, social, and cultural development”.

Adediran commended the Lagos state government for signing an MOU for the development of “Africa’s first smart city” on 1,000 hectares in Lekki,and noted that the multi-billion dollars investment would create several thousands of jobs, transform the entire landscape of the State and engender a sustainable globally connected as well as compact knowledge-based community that drive knowledge economy.

According to him, the idea of a smart city factored into contemporary spatial planning process in line with sustainable development and it is applicable for both the old cities (including slums) and the new settlements and represent a practicable approach to tackling complex challenges of the cities, such as flooding, traffic congestion.

He however bemoaned the non-existence of a policy framework on smart city initiative despite government setting up an inter-ministerial committee; organization of smart cities sustainable summit; and release of guidelines for the formation of National Consortium on a PPP model for the implementation of smart cities initiatives.

The Lagos State commissioner for Urban and Physical Planning, Wasiu Anifowoshe said government is working hard at improving the ease of doing business in the state with the introduction of e-planning and increase in budgetary allocation to physical planning.

He charged professionals in the built environment to work together in developing a smart city Lagos for the benefit of all.

On his part, the Dean of environmental Sciences, Prof. Gbenga  Nubi who observed planners and planning is pivotal to the development of any nation, argued  that the problem of  poor planning of Nigerian cities must be a wake-up call for professional town planners.

“If planning controls are put in place, there won’t be need for the incessant evictions of people from one place to another. According to him, the discussion was timely as it serves as a connection between the industry and the academics,” he said.

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