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‘Decentralisation will curb bottlenecks in planning permits’ processes’

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IDRIS SALAKO


The Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON) is implementing the community livability project targeted at encouraging all communities to show more commitment to physical developments. In this interview, ATOPCON president, IDRIS SALAKO, points to non-decentralization of town planning process as inhibiting inclusive sustainable development planning. He spoke with VICTOR GBONEGUN on the challenges facing practitioners.

Your association has repeatedly called on the authorities to decentralise town planning process by involving local government authorities. Why these calls? What would be the impact on the profession?
The Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Law Decree No. 88 of 1992 in (Section 4 and 5), specifically stated the responsibilities of the local government authorities in plan preparation, implementation and development control process. The insistent calls for decentralisation of town planning process is a conscious reminder to the government on the need to ensure that physical development planning is accessible and not cumbersome for the public to embrace.

The decentralisation will thereby reduce unnecessary bottlenecks associated with planning permit processes and bridge the gap between the approving/monitoring authorities and the public. It will also contribute to an inclusive sustainable development planning and management process that will encourage the people to obtain necessary permits within a reasonable timeframe and discourage erection of illegal developments across the states in Nigeria. Therefore, our voice as stakeholders in the built environment is critical to advancing the goals of an inclusive and sustainable environment.

Many of the city centres in Nigeria are seen to have falling short of the standard of a 21st century responsive physical planning system. How do we move forward on this?
The way forward is simply the implementation of the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Law Decree No. 88 of 1992 and the review of the Land Use Act 1978 to accommodate the statutes of the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Law Decree in order to achieve a responsive physical planning system in the country.

Some of your members have complained about delays in the issuance of planning permits by government, why the situation and what is the solution?
For us in the profession, this is due to the bureaucracy experienced in the issuance of planning permits triggered by the restriction of the process to the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA’s). To solve the problem, we need a full implementation of the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Law Decree No. 88 of 1992 to give room for the decentralisation of town planning process in all states of the federation.

Experts have advocated adoption of Business model for cutting edge consultancy practice in planning, how are you keying into this innovation?
ATOPCON has continuously engaged in capacity development programmes for members on the need to fully adopt cutting edge consultancy practice in planning and leverage on the evolving business development in the built sector to advance the profession.

How is ATOPCON contributing to the evolvement of various policies and programs that concern physical planning education research and practice?
The association has been partnering with our colleagues in the academia and educational institutions. We also visit planning schools to boost institutions’ programme content and offer supports for the students and management.

In the last ten years, industrial attachment students go to the ministries and other government agencies. ATOPCON member firms have successfully changed the orientation of students, planning school administrators and thereby succeeded in letting them know that, there are several other places they can have their attachments to acquire basic professional knowledge from the practitioners.

What criteria must intending members meet before they could come into the fold?
The association is open to all town-planning firms that are certified and recognised by the Town Planning Registration Council of Nigeria (TOPREC) as a consulting firm.

There have been concerns on the high level of limitations to the basic rights of all human being to adequate shelter, which have been reinforced even at the World Habitat Day. What is ATOPCON doing to change the narrative and encourage grassroots action towards improving livability?
We have made calls to governments and private investors to fully prioritise the issue of housing provision across the states. The association has also partnered with the Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, to implement the community livability project targeted at encouraging all communities in the state to show more commitment to enhancing the livability condition, be alive to their responsibilities and thereby, help in enhancing a livable environment. In return, the Government will be stimulated to carry out development projects for the winning communities based on their most essential or pressing needs.

Training is central to professionalism, how are you impacting the young members especially those who are still in school?
The institution impact on them by reaching out to students in planning institutions across the country as well as through our activities, such as the annual Professional Development Workshop; we encourage our students on industrial trainings (SIWES) to attend some of these functions.The code of conduct and ethics of our profession are essential rules for practitioners to comply with.

How many of your members have been sanctioned so far for non-adherence?
Our members have always conducted their affairs in an ethical manner, which has constantly improved the image of the profession among its peers in the built environment sector. We have impacted positively on the profession and our member firms have been in the forefront of upholding the ethics and standards of the planning profession.

Your executive has been saddled with the task of moving ATOPCON to greater heights. What challenges are you facing in achieving the task and what plans have you put in place to take your profession to its pride of place?
We hope to build on the past efforts and giants’ strides of past leaders and our founding fathers as the custodians of the practice arm of the Town Planning profession and as an affiliate of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) and Town Planning Registration Council of Nigeria (TOPREC). Our mediation and intervention efforts will be geared towards facilitating improved practice by member firms and therefore, better returns and rewards to all stakeholders. We plan to increase our member state branches across the federation in addition to continuous enlightenment of the public on their perception of planning consultancy and private practice professionals in all state branches.


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ATOPCONIDRIS SALAKO
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