NITP decries deterioration of Nigerian cities, physical planning’s neglect
Troubled by poor state of the nation’s settlements and the fact that less than 30 per cent of states in the federation adopt physical planning laws, President of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Mr Olutoyin Ayinde, is calling for collective effort of stakeholders and the government to change the narrative. DAYO AYEYEMI reports.
“Between the early seventies and the mid-eighties, some awareness of the need for planning was felt. This made the governments then to embark on preparation of master plans and other levels of physical plans for settlements and parts thereof. As good as that step was, due to lack of political will and funding, the plans ended up in the shelves of government offices with little implementation. I make bold to say that the attitude of government(s) as briefly described above is greatly contributory to the poor state of our human settlements in Nigeria.”
Those were the words of the President, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Mr. Olutoyin Ayinde, while condemning various forms of deterioration of the Nigerian cities/settlements.
In his first press briefing as the president of institute in Lagos at the weekend, Ayinde blamed the sorry state of Nigerian settlements on neglect of physical planning by government at all levels.
He pointed out that less than 30 per cent of the states of the federation have adopted physical planning laws deriving from the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Law (NURP), CAP 138, LFN 2004.
This attitude, the number one town planner in Nigeria said has amounted to government either not believing or abusing the law and structures that it created, adding that most familiar consequences of lack of physical planning included manifesting chaos in the environment, congestion on roads, dysfunctional infrastructure, building collapse, unconnected settlements, avoidable flooding and other disasters, leading to stressful living and a reduction in life expectancy.
To change the narrative, Ayinde, who was accompanied by two past presidents of the institute and former President of Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON), Mr Makinde Ogunleye, Waheed Kadiri and Moses Ogunleye respectively, said it would require a collective effort of all stakeholders, comprising government, town planners, media, civil society organisations and people at the grassroots, to bring order to the human settlements.
According to him, government must be willing to provide strong leadership, which, according to him, could only happen when the system produces competent people to run the affairs of their lives.
“It requires those who would recognise man and the environment as resources to be managed efficiently for the generations to come. That is the whole essence of sustainable development.”
Ayinde, who was the former Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development in Lagos State, urged that the buck for creating chaotic and unsafe human settlements must stop on governments’ tables, adding that time has come for all stakeholders to arise from the general lethargy towards ordered settlements to faithfully commit to the preparation and implementation of physical development plans.
He argued that only government possesses the power of eminent domain, the authority to take over private lands for overriding public interest, as well as limit, by regulation, the extent of development on any parcel of land.
Besides, he said it has the power to make policies guiding the functioning of human settlements, adding that “it is with government that the power of political will lies.”
On the importance of physical planning, he said it would bring order and convenience to daily living. According to him, many issues that would adequately be addressed when physical development planning becomes a culture would include challenges of climate change, transportation problems, infrastructure development, safety and security, and national census
Whichever way people choose to look at the issue of physical planning, he stated that successful implementation of plans would require strong political will, appropriate partnerships involving all relevant stakeholders and four key enabling components, which include enforceable and transparent legal framework, sound and flexible urban planning and design, a financial plan for affordability and cost-effectiveness and adequate professional and technical capacity.
The NITP boss bemoaned low engagement of town planners in the country, noting that barely 4,000 qualified town planners in Nigeria, more than 60 per cent were not engaged in practice either in public or private sector.
“This implies that the Nigerian ratio of about one planner to over a 100,000 population is extremely outrageous and an indication that Nigeria is not making tangible efforts to give its population a sane and organised environment,” he said.
To arrest the situation, the NITP boss canvassed vigorous engagement of innumerable number of town planners, to work in both public and private sectors, whose skills, he said have been wasting away in the midst of deplorable human environments in Nigeria.
For physical planning to truly have effect on ordered and sustainable development of human settlements, the NITP boss stated that plans must be prepared and implemented within the framework of the hierarchical order of plans as indicated in the NURP Act (2004).
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