‘Process for granting building permit no longer cumbersome in Lagos’
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mrs Boladele Dapo-Thomas, in a chat with GBENGA SALAU, asks Lagos State residents to comply with government’s rules when building as the process is not cumbersome
There are claims that the process of getting building permit in Lagos State is cumbersome?
The job of the ministry first and foremost is to initiate, formulate policies, ensure compliant, review the physical planning environment, urban planning development, urban regeneration and so on and so forth. So every thing concerning the physical planning environment is under the ministry.
One thing we needed to look at was the process of obtaining the planning permit. Yes, it could be cumbersome, and a lot of people need to understand where we are coming from. The business of government is bureaucratic. Wherever you are in this world, once you enter into the business of government, you need to follow the rules and regulation.
Also, be mindful that while we are trying to put our acts together, saying, this is the regulation; these are the rules. We have people who want to circumvent the process, and of course, they are usually the third parties. A lot of people don’t want to come, they just ask, who do you know, the who do you know syndrome is with us.
So, really isn’t about it been cumbersome, because I have had a lot of people come to my office wanting permit. And I tell them it is simple as ABC. These are the steps to take and they come back saying, thank you. Every government office, particularly when it delivers a service, would have a service desk to advise you.
On what we have done to cut away the third party, we have the e-planning permit platform, it is a partial automation for the process of granting planning permit. We are still gong into the full automation, as it helps cut a lot of human interface. You sit down in your office, you upload your drawings and you can have an interactive discussion online with members of our team. When it is time for them to come and inspect your site, you are invited, you go with them so that they do not go to another site. And it is understandably so, because there are a lot of land grabbers everywhere and we want to be sure of what we are seeing on the survey plan.
Before I posted to the ministry, I have read people claiming to have spent years getting planning permit, but we are committed in the ministry to granting planning permit in 28 days, all things being equal. And we are working assiduously to ensure that all approval levels, when the permit request is sent to us, it doesn’t take more than two days in any of our tables.
To make the process of getting permit smooth, we have a pre-screening process. And it is an advisory desk; it is a customer service desk. When you come into our office, and you tell us you want to obtain a planning permit, what we do is to look at the requirements. You are supposed to submit a number of documents; drawings, titles and other papers. Our officers will look at the documents. In looking at the architectural drawings, you have to follow the building regulations, you don’t just bring any drawing and then expect us to rubber stamp it, no. We look if it is in line with building code, building regulations and planning regulations. Where you are to build, you can’t just build anything, I mean, if you have a piece of land that is residential, you cannot build a shopping mall there. If you are not meeting standards, we let you know you are not meeting standards. If the measurement for your set back, for air space is not enough, we advice you and you go back. So it is as fast as you amend your drawings and return to us, that would dictate the promptness you would be attended to. If you do not have any issues, you move to the next stage of the application of the planning permit and that goes through seamlessly because all other things have been checked during the pre-screening process. And all of those other things have helped to cut short the numbers of days and cumbersomeness that people have talked about. And we are still improving on this service, because we need to move up in the rank of ease of doing business in Nigeria.
Under the ministry, you have a number of agencies, about five, are there plans to have a one-stop shop for approval?
It is not about moving from one agency to the other. There are some requirements that are not part of our procedures. If you want to build on a swampy ground, you need to do a soil test. It is not our responsible, but we advice that a soil test be done through a town planning consultant.
Before you build, the first thing is to procure a land, that is not under our ministry, and when the land is bought, it is advisable to know what could be done on the land, or even before you pay, you ask for planning information or go to the office of the surveyor general, because you need to know if the land is under government acquisition, so that somebody is not defrauding you of your hard earn cash. If it is free from government acquisition, then you bring it to the ministry, the ministry will then give you planning information, which is delivered free of charge to all.
The planning information provides the height, the setback and other requirement and what you need to do, before you move to the agency, Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority, (LASPPPA), which is an autonomous agency and an implementing arm of the ministry. This is because it is not the ministry that gives the planning permit. Under the law, the agency is the LSPPPA. You submit your drawings to Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), which is a prescreening process, if certified okay then you go to upload for us to work with towards the grant of permit. Each agency has a role to play and the work is on the site. Lagos State Material Testing Laboratory cannot test the sand, blocks and iron in the office; they have to go to the site. Once you are given the permit, you are told to contact the building control, because we tell you where next. The building control takes it from there to ensure that your building is certified fit for human habitation and this is done through the different stages of building.
After the foundation, you are certified, after the first floor, you are certified. So each of these duties, from the material testing to the building control are done simultaneously on the site. But a lot of people want to circumvent it by calling in quacks, aside not wanting to build with our people. This is responsible for some buildings collapsing because they have not done what is right under the law, not building right and under the rules.
When some of the structures are marked but after sometimes the structures come up fully, are your staff not compromised on the field?
Not all buildings marked are to be demolished. When we mark, we are saying we have observed a contravention, which could be of regulation or approval given. So some buildings have approval and still get marked because they built outside the approval given. And once they comply, we remove the mark and the developer continues to build. We are not inhuman, that is interested in pulling down buildings, as a lot of the buildings can be brought to compliant.
So we have some customer service personnel who will advise you on what to do. Some people really want to comply, but they really do not know what to do and how.
But if you build on drainage, high tension, it will come down, as nobody gives approval for that. Before the building is demolished, the affected persons would be notified, as we do no want litigations. We will remove according to procedure with notices served; stop work, contravention, removals are served to the affected persons, and you are informed that if you have documents contrary to what we have on site, bring it to any of the agencies to work with you.
You identified not wanting to comply with building rules as one the reasons for building collapse, what are the other things promoting building collapse in Lagos?
A number of the developers are working with personnel that are not registered professionals. You must have a registered engineer on site; a registered architect must have done your drawings. Of course, people want to do it cheap, but it has negative implications.
Also, a lot of people use substandard materials, which is why the Lagos State Material Testing Lab is out there. And government is doing its best to ensure compliance through inspection. Also, the state government has set up the special offences court to deal with contraveners who break the seal off signs.
You said the lives of the residents are of importance to the state government, what efforts is the ministry putting in place to avert building collapse?
The town planning laws are there, which gives detailed steps of what to do, but not everyone would read the law
However, the ministry is trying to sensitise the people through a mass media campaign, using all forms of media to get people aware about the procedures. We would rather educate, bring to compliant than demolish the buildings. So we are stepping up our game to bring people to compliant, though the governor will not tolerate illegality.
What advise do you have for residents of Lagos in terms of planning and building permit?
Our charges are online, except you do not read, so if someone asks you for something outrageous for building permit, you can query it.
Also, for someone who intend to rent from a landlord, you should ask if the building has a permit, because a number of people have come in complaining, because they rented a building that is suppose to be residential but has been converted to a commercial building. When we come in to shut the place, they say they do not know. You need to know. You should not live in an estate that does not have a layout approval and you did ask the developer before committing your money.
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