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Planners urge innovative approach to confront Lagos urbanisation

By Victor Gbonegun
22 May 2023   |   4:00 am
Members of the Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON) have been advised to explore opportunities in planning and innovative tools that will assist them to confront the challenges of Lagos urbanisation.

Dr. Idris Salako

Members of the Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON) have been advised to explore opportunities in planning and innovative tools that will assist them to confront the challenges of Lagos urbanisation.

He said the move would enable them to properly manage the city’s continuous growth and its attendant consequences.

ATOPCON former president, Dr. Idris Salako, who said this at the 2023 yearly general meeting of Lagos State branch of the ATOPCON, said the exploding rate of Lagos city poses challenges to urban planners, as the city is changing rapidly without appropriate planning, as well as becoming increasingly chaotic, ineffective and unsustainable.

He lamented that consultant town planners struggle to effectively deliver their expected roles in the expansion process, hence, planning and management of the rapidly expanding city of Lagos has not been free from dynamic and increasing challenges.

The expansion of the city, he said has outpaced the capacity of government to plan for it, adding that development occurs so quickly that government officials and experts do not have appropriate solutions to the rapidly expanding city.

He said that consultants must harness and use their skills, make decisions with a sense of urgency ahead of competitors and avoid short-term pleasure in the course of practice.

Speaking on, “The Challenges of Effective Town Planning Practice in the Rapidly Expanding city of Lagos: The Role of Consultant Town Planners in Perception’, Salako said: “Consultant town planners needs to change public perception about practitioners as some of the complaints and act reported experiences of members, include deliberate roadblocks to frustrate applications, contacting clients ‘behind the back’ of the consultant, casting doubts in the minds of the client as to the competence of the consultant, hijacking submissions and plagiarism.”

He emphasised that to leave an indelible mark in the profession, as well as a legacy for younger generations; five C’s that is, character, competence, capability, capacity and courage are vital.

“As the city of Lagos continues to expand, in terms of size and population, there is a growing demand for experts, who can manage these changes. Thus, as consultant town planners, are we the experts? The town planners require a shift from the traditional focus of pure planning through physical plans and move towards integrated sustainable city planning that involves participation from a broad representation of stakeholders at all levels. Planners must work within the framework of political demands without compromising professional ethics and standards,” he said.

However, he observed that an average planner is bedeviled with poverty like mentality, low morale, bad perception, corrupt tendencies, inadequate knowledge, unethical practices and non-professionalism.

“Let’s cultivate an abundant mindset for other people’s triumphs, wellbeing and accomplishment and let their successes enhance rather than detracts from ours. If you don’t write your story, no one will write it for you. An average planner is docile, and we don’t push our stories well enough. If they decide to write your story, they will write it according to their worldviews, which might be wrong,” he said.

Past president of Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Waheed Kadiri, said practitioners have been challenged to improve on service delivery. However, he said there is a need to stop talking to ‘ourselves only’. We should stop winking in the dark and start listening to our clients and those identified as the “expectant”.

He encouraged town planner consultants to raise the bar of individuals and corporate bodies in the area of communication including being good listeners.

“Attention to details, people, time management and professional ethics matters. Not to forget the fact that most times, we are consultants because our clients expect us to know more than they do and therefore, guide all right. We should be ready to give quality service that could be provided by members of ATOPCON only,” he said.

Chairman of the branch, Dr. Kola Olayiwola, said the forum is important to develop capacity of members for quality service delivery in view of the challenges posed by urbanisation in Lagos.

“Again, the sprawling growth of Lagos on its contiguous communities has left a huge gap, which the consultant town planners’ contributions would help to fill, thereby setting the benchmark standard for spatial planning and management. The consulting firms must generate relevant physical planning documents.

“These documents would guide the direction of growth and ordering of land uses for general urban management and development activities, if Lagos is to remain an investment destination for both foreigners and local investors in a sustainable manner,” he said.