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Without town planners, Lagos wouldn’t be conducive for living, says Adejumo

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Adejumo

Govt should allocate adequate fund for physical developments

Mr. Ayo Adejumo is the chairman of, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Lagos State chapter. He spoke to VICTOR GBONEGUN on why some of Nigeria’s cities remain unplanned, challenges of urban development agenda and ways to mitigate housing shortfall in the country.

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How do you assess the implementation of Urban and Regional Planning laws in Lagos State?
I ALWAYS say, if not for the efforts of town planners, nobody would be in Lagos today. It is the little efforts of planners that made Lagos be conducive for living, working and recreation. A lot of people want to come to Lagos to come and live because they see Lagos as an organised society and settlement. One of the factors that make people take such a decision is because town planners are well on the ground in Lagos.

If the government had allocated more money in terms of provisions of facilities, working tools and equipment for town planners for the preparation of development plans for various areas of Lagos, much would have been achieved. We give credit to the Lagos State Government for its efforts because a lot of works have been done in the preparation of the master plan, city plan and structured plan.

One of the problems we have in Nigeria is the lack of political will to implement policies and programmes. Government should allocate more funds for physical planning, development and management in the state. It should also ensure that planning offices are conducive. Government should provide enough vehicles and modern tools like drones and technological devices so that their work could be easy and faster.

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Many prospective homeowners are facing challenges in obtaining planning permits in the building industry. What are the solutions to the bureaucratic bottlenecks associated with planning approvals?
Some of the solutions include more public enlightenment or education on the process to obtain permits, making e-processing work, ensuring efficiency and engagement of private consultants to support as well as complement public offices, which don’t have enough hands and equipment to service Lagos huge population. Government should also make it easier for citizens to get land and necessary documents.

A lot of people have been processing the Certificate of Occupancy yet; they have not obtained the documents. These are the things that are limiting developers from investing in housing development.

Recently, the institute inaugurated you as the chairman of the Lagos chapter; how do you intend to make urban planning more visible across the state?
One of the challenges facing our practitioners is that our people don’t know what urban planning is about and what services professionals can give to make life and the environment better, more conducive to life and work.

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On this premise, we are basically focusing on making urban planning more visible in Lagos through the engagement of the public in urban planning programmes, ensuring more publicity, workshops, sensitisation, organising skill and capacity building programmes for our members to catch up with global trends and technologies.

Now, we have a committee, specifically dedicated to organising training and workshops for our members’ skill development.

We are also into mentorship through our young planner’s forum, where we have developed a kind of field, where we guide young practitioners in what they are doing. We also have a package for their well being under our ad-hoc and standing committees. Every committee has a young planner as a member to carry them along in the scheme of things.
Town planning practice following the evolution of technological innovations for cities’ design and adoption of a new business model for consultancy practice. What do you think are needed for practitioners and new entrants to survive?

Town or urban planners just need to learn, know and embrace new technologies and apply them to their works while the principle of physical planning remains the same.

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Relationship between government and town planners crucial in tackling illegal structures? What’s your relationship with the state government? What are the ways to eliminate illegal developments in Lagos?
As partners in progress, our relationship with the Lagos State government is very cordial. The relationship had been on for many decades and what we met on the ground, we are strongly building on it. We have to maintain and support the government as the biggest employer of our members. More so, the Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development and his team are our own members.

We constantly advise them on issues, policies and programmes that can help them in their operations and activities. They regularly engage and involve us when the need arises. We are also doing a lot of professional work together to make Lagos a livable city.

Let me add that provision of necessary modern equipment and facilities such as vehicles for monitoring and the creation of a conducive working environment for public servants in the town planning offices will guarantee the reduction of illegal structures in Lagos.

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Despite the existence of town planning as a formal activity of government, Nigeria is yet to embrace a culture of physical planning as most cities are still in a state of disorder. What are the issues?
I quite agree with you that most of Nigeria’s cities are still in a state of disorderliness and some states don’t even have master plans. This is what we get or have when the government does not put urban planning, development and management in their rightful place.

When the government does not budget adequate fund for physical planning, the systems for socio-economic planning will not work or function well because space for them is not organised. These are some of the critical issues. When we fail to plan, we plan to fail.

Illegal developments can be easily eliminated or reduced in Lagos when the government reduces the bureaucracy and bottlenecks in title documentation, approval processes, makes it easier and faster, as well involve private
practitioners to support their staff.

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The UN-Habitat has constantly reinforced the need for nations to toe the path of sustainable settlement for the prosperity of cities. How do we meet the goal of urban agenda 2030?
We can successfully manage urban challenges when government, people and stakeholders in urban planning and management play their respective roles efficiently and complement the efforts of one another. We can be out of this precarious situation when this is done.

If the government could provide fund for physical development planning and management, achieving urban agenda 2030 would be easier. It will require commitments not only from the government but also from professionals.

Town planners are not the only ones that should be involved in urban planning and settlement development, the architects have a role to play, the engineers and other professionals. We need to team up, bring together our skills and inputs to achieve a common goal. The UN-Habitat agenda is not something that is not doable but it’s all about cooperation and synergy.

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Housing in some clime is a social service, but that is different in Nigeria as the government finds it hard to meet the huge demand for affordable housing. How would you advise the Federal Government to tackle the housing shortfall in the country?
Government has a major role to play. Authorities should make the processes of getting houses easier by providing land, bringing town planners and builders together and making the process very simple.

A lot of people don’t have development permits because it is so difficult to process. In Lagos for example, over 80 per cent of houses do not have development permit because government policy is not making it easier for people to get development permit and this makes it difficult for stakeholders to provide housing for the people.

No government all over the world can meet the housing demand of its people in this present day. Therefore, the government has to open doors for private investors and developers to come in to support the provision of quality and affordable housing.

Government in Lagos State, to some extent, has created an enabling environment for property developers through ease of doing business to ensure that more houses are provided for residents. This is a fantastic idea that the NITP Lagos chapter really commends and appreciates in the past and present administration.

Land is a major issue for housing development; we have seen people fighting over land and the government has a stronghold on land through the Land Use Act (LUA) because the land is valuable and appreciates.

Government also needs to really coordinate all process that relates to the land. Government can acquire land and do the development plan for it, provide the necessary infrastructure and make people buy land there. Government could also reduce the cumbersome process of acquiring land, especially title documents. The LUA will not have meaning to people as long as they cannot easily have access to land acquisition, title documentation and development permit.

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