Wednesday, 27th September 2023

Lagos: Journey ahead still long (2)

By Oye Akintoye
07 April 2015   |   7:11 am
If permissions are actually being given for these conversions, then it is arguably one of the greatest pieces of fraud being perpetuated in Lagos because money must certainly be changing hands to sanction what is clearly against every sensibility of urban planning.

DreamlandWITH the rate at which residential buildings are being converted, it’s obvious that there is no government authority that signs on these changes.

If permissions are actually being given for these conversions, then it is arguably one of the greatest pieces of fraud being perpetuated in Lagos because money must certainly be changing hands to sanction what is clearly against every sensibility of urban planning.

The result of all of these conversions is that these new commercial buildings lack parking spaces, despite the fact that they attract more vehicular traffic due to their new status and inevitably the sides of the roads become car parks, further constricting the normal flow of traffic (cause and effect!) and this occurs in the entirety of Lagos! Another cancer it seems Lagos is unable to conceptualise solutions to deal with! Lagos needs to give the original Abuja model some thought, where residential, commercial, educational and even medical districts have been clearly marked out, set aside and are developed one by one.

A satellite view of Abuja via google maps clearly shows districts that are bare despite being surrounded by development because they have not been opened up due to the fact that the basic infrastructure and plot charting has not yet been done.

New suburbs of Lagos need to be developed one by one with well laid out plots, clearly delineated residential and commercial zones, land kept aside for schools, hospitals etc to serve specific areas. The environment is another area in which Lagos needs smarter solutions and attention.

Beyond the obvious elements of the environment such as refuse collection, drainages etc, I refer to a complete package involving green areas, parks, sporting facilities etc. Of course kudos to Governor Babatunde Fashola for his beautification programme which has dramatically changed the face of Lagos. Fair is fair.

His quality consciousness is certainly not in doubt. However, more still need to be done. Lagos is a city of dizzying levels of hustle and bustle, a proverbial concrete jungle and therein lays the problem! The occupants of Lagos are so stressed that an enabling environment needs to be put in place for the inhabitants to relax and de-stress.

Communities in Lagos need spaces set aside for parks with trees, lawn and sporting facilities where people can jog, play tennis, basketball and at least five-a-side soccer is a safe environment and at relatively close proximity to their homes. There is virtually no direction you walk in the city of London for 10-15 minutes, even right in the city centre, where you don’t come across greens and parks where people are walking their dogs and children are playing.

Asides from a few hotels, exclusive clubs and a few estates, none of which are accessible by the general public anyway, there is nowhere to play tennis after a hard day’s work between Victoria Island and Lagos Business School axis of Ajah! Neither is there any green park (asides the Chevron conservation centre – ironic that it’s a white man’s company that conceived this.

Where was the black man when the white man was thinking?), standard amusement park, organised mini soccer field etc along that entire axis.

The solution to this comes back to urban planning! Regardless of the cost of land, Lagos simply needs to be disciplined and forward looking enough to set land aside for these specific purposes across the city. Another case of cause and effect! Housing is yet another area where Lagos needs more intelligent solutions.

Yes, Lagos government is building houses, but who is Lagos building houses for? Lagos seems to be competing with typical developers to build house types that are already replete all over the city particularly the Lekki axis.

If that market already exists and indeed flourishing judging by the number of housing developments, one wonders why Lagos is active in that space.

Lagos should rather be catering to the underserved by designing real low cost housing in the N500k to N5 million range. Can’t be done? I think it can. I have seen many programmes on television showcasing various types of prefabricated buildings that can be put together cheaply and in a matter of days.

I recall watching a video of a 30-storey structure put up in China in 15 days. Many other examples abound on YouTube. Imagine if a really ambitious plan is put in place to bring down the whole of Makoko and replace it with simple prefab buildings that cost say N800k-N1.5 million such that these people can pay back over time 5-10 years.

This can be done with much deeper thinking, plenty of imagination and political will. Even with the Lagos HOMS initiative, I doubt that as much as 5000 housing units have been built since the scheme started.

Again, this is not acceptable for a city the size of Lagos that should be operating in the 20,000 to 50,000 housing units per year range at the minimum. This can be made possible with prefab houses, rather than the traditional block and mortar model Lagos is adopting.

In all of these areas – transportation and mobility, environment, housing and more – Lagos has made progress and is moving in the right direction, but what is needed now is that extra spark that is brought about via real intellectual discussion and brainstorming with a view to putting actual, imaginative and workable solutions in place and take Lagos to the next level and cement its reputation as a mega city that Nigerians and the rest of the world can look to with admiration. Concluded. • Akintoye wrote from Lagos State.