‘Nigeria needs a national physical development plan’
Inadequate planning and execution of such plans when available has been the bane of physical development in Nigeria. In this interview with BERTRAM NWANNEKANMA, the 22nd President of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), LUKA BULUS ACHI spoke on the challenges facing town planning in the country and the need for proper master plans for cities.
In recent times, there has been widespread review of master plans in various cities in Nigeria. What prompted that?
I am not sure it is wide spread, but there are attempts by some states to review previous plans and to prepare new ones. What could be responsible include, that previous plans require review by their life span and that respective governments are becoming responsive to the need to plan ahead in order to do proper resource allocation. In order to provide dividends of democracy, we should know that a plan has to be prepared to justify resource allocation, distribution, and equity.
How many years are master plans supposed to last?
There has been variations in the life spans of master plans, the first generation of plans were designed to last between 20 and 30 years with a five year review regime but the later generation reduced the life span to five - 10 years with more social economic elements and a shorter period to prescribe a physical content.
What factors may be responsible for the dis-connect in land use in several towns and cities?
By disconnect, I suppose you mean the physical plan and what we see on ground. If that is the case the reasons may include; absence of implementation of the plans, lack of political will, finances, indiscipline of the society and rascality of the implementers.
Can this be remedied?Yes, if we implement the plans with all the desired political will. We will also need to improve societal discipline by effective control mechanisms.
Lack of strict compliance to the master plans has been a recurring decimal in many Nigeria cities? What do you consider as reasons for this?
Again like I said, societal indiscipline, administrative rascality, and lack of continuity in government policies. These are reasons for lack of compliance to master plans.
Can NITP resolve this problem?
NITP can intervene by pointing out these issues to government and the public.
They can also suggest alternative solutions and approaches to effective plan implementation as well as checking on erring members of the institute.
What is NITP doing to members that alter master plans?
We try to first identify them, discipline them and maybe prosecute them. If need be de-register them
What is the greatest problem confronting town planners in Nigeria?
All the professions in the built environment sector face the problem of interference from political office holders, who prevent them from exercising their full professionalism. There is also the problem of inadequate funding for planning activities and production.
How do you regulate the activities of quacks in your profession?
We try to regulate their activities by ensuring that all designs reports and planning statements are endorsed and stamped by registered planners. By doing that the activities of quacks are either regulated or reduced.
Do you think that urbanisation in Nigeria maximises the capacity of cities to generate employment and wealth?
In my mind, the national urban policy is in the right direction but more can be done especially in the area of developing a national physical development plan that identifies all natural resources, appropriate linkages and settlements locations
Nigerian cities are planned to foster diversity and social cohesion between different classes, cultures, ethnicities and religions. Is this true?
Yes, some of the cities are really designed to be heterogeneous. However ensuring strict compliance to the plan has remained an issue.
What role can NITP play towards ensuring a credible census in Nigeria?
One of the critical role, NITP can play in this regard is to provide the census commission with the land use map of respective towns with house and property numbering as well as sampling techniques.