DETERIORATION OF HUMAN SETTLEMENTS: NIGERIAN GOVERNMENTS SHOULD TAKE RESPONSIBILITY, BEING TEXT OF THE FIRST PRESS CONFERENCE HELD BY THE NATIONAL PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIAN INSTITUTE OF TOWN PLANNERS (NITP), TPL. OLUTOYIN AYINDE FNITP, ON WEDNESDAY, 27TH JANUARY, 2021 AT THE NITP-JOSEPH AWOGBEMI HOUSE, CBD, ALAUSA-IKEJA, LAGOS STATE
The Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), a non-governmental professional association of practitioners trained in the art and science of planning human settlements, held its Annual General Meeting in October 2020, where a new National Executive Committee was elected to run its affairs for the Year 2020-2021. The new team comprising Urban Planners from different parts of Nigeria, also reflects representation from the various sectors of practice - public service, private sector and the academia. The choice of a team so diverse in nature underscores the premium placed on inclusiveness, which is a most desirable element in evolving a credible leadership team. Today marks the first Press Conference held by the National President since the new National Executive Committee came on board.
2.0 APPRECIATION OF THE MEDIA
The Executive, since assuming office in October 2020, has enjoyed the spotlight of the media and has benefited from good reportage in our three months of administration. It is therefore appropriate at this moment to appreciate the media for this kind gesture and the collaborative support that our team, which we have christened the Renaissance Team, has enjoyed in the short time. As commonly quoted, we would, like Oliver Twist, plead to want some more. And it is for this reason that we have invited this gathering.
3.0 PURPOSE OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE
This Press Conference, which is the first by this administration is called for the underlisted reasons:
3.1 State of Physical Planning in Nigeria
Physical Planning over time has been defined in many ways, but for the purpose of this gathering, I would like to adopt a global definition as put forward by the UN-Habitat. Urban and Territorial Planning can be defined as a decision-making process aimed at realizing economic, social, cultural and environmental goals, through the development of spatial visions, strategies and plans and the application of a set of policy principles, tools, institutional and participatory mechanisms and regulatory procedures. It has an inherent and fundamental economic function, and it is a veritable instrument for reshaping the forms and functions of cities and regions in order to generate internal economic growth, prosperity and employment, while addressing the needs of the most vulnerable, marginalized or underserved groups.
Urban Planning has the capacity to assist in effectively guiding demographic changes (growth, stagnation or decline) and improve the quality of life in existing human settlements, and particularly in new urban settlements. Simply put, Urban Planning involves envisioning the spatial structure and organization of human settlements, and thinking through harnessing the processes and resources to make the vision a reality. It is a creative process that is embedded in imaginative engagements, an exploration into the realm of possibilities, where the seemingly impossible is made possible. It seeks to make human settlements livable and sustainable for all strata of the society, which is why it promotes inclusion.
The state of physical planning is what we all live to see and feel in our everyday life. We are most familiar with the consequences of lack of it which manifest in the chaos in our environment, congestion on our roads, dysfunctional infrastructure, building collapse, unconnected settlements, avoidable flooding and other disasters, leading to stressful living and a reduction in life expectancy. There is no gain-saying that every activity of man is on land; which is fixed because it cannot be increased. The use of it without planning affects economic fortunes, health and safety of communities and nations. Between the early seventies to the mid-eighties, some awareness of the need for planning was felt. This made the governments then to embark on preparation of masterplans and other levels of physical plans for settlements and parts thereof. As good as that step was, due to lack of political will and funding, the plans ended up in the shelves of government offices with little implementation. I make bold to say that the attitude of government(s) as briefly described above is greatly contributory to the poor state of our human settlements in Nigeria. As we speak, less than 30% of the States of the federation have adopted physical planning laws deriving from the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Law (NURP), CAP 138, LFN 2004. This attitude amounts to governments either not believing and/or abusing the law and structures that they created.
3.2 The Profession and the need for Awareness
The overwhelming ignorance about the profession is preponderant even amongst the elites, which is why it is not surprising that those at the helm of affairs politically also mistake physical planning for a revenue generation tool. The lack of knowledge is more revealing when you hear the term, Master Plan, being used as if it was the master of all plans and nothing else after, or they misconstrue Urban Renewal, when only a few roads are being expanded; urban renewal without any urban action plans can only fulfill sectional interests. Many of the citizens have come face to face only with the downstream side of physical planning, which is Development Control, particularly the enforcement part where red oxide colour “X” marks have become the synonym for Town Planning.
With this background, many are truly unaware of the creative power of Urban and Territorial Planning which goes beyond Master Plans and is capable of making our settlements functional, livable and sustainable. There are indeed different types and forms of urban and territorial planning methods and practices, which have been tested in many countries. They include regional planning, city-wide strategic planning, master planning, community planning, land-use planning, etc. For physical planning to be effective in any country, the multiscale continuum of spatial planning must be recognized and pursued for implementation, which is what the NURP 2004 is seeking to achieve.
3.3 The Case for Physical Planning
The statement, “if you fail to plan, you have planned to fail” is not a mere slogan, but the reality dawns and the consequences of failure to plan are usually severe, leading to low quality of life. It is therefore needless to agitate about the need to plan. We can only ignore physical planning at our expense. Many of the activities we lay claims to as planning are mere paying lip service because in the first place, we don’t carry our planning processes through, neither do we implement the few plans that we take the pains and resources to prepare.
The scope of physical planning is broad and it entails an evolving continuum which employs both top-down and bottom-up approaches to achieve the desired results. For physical planning to have any serious effect, this continuum must be recognized and the linkages amongst the various levels of planning must be acknowledged. Whether they are regional plans, master plans, sector plans, district plans, action plans, neighbourhood plans or layout plans, all plans are programmed to influence human settlement forms and functions, and they do so in diverse ways.
It is also important to take the time, resources and discipline to implement development plans. Failure to implement plans is worse than not preparing plans at all. The one who did not make any plan reserved his resources, but the one who prepared development plans and refused to implement has wasted scarce resources to prepare plans that would not be turned into reality. The beauty of plans is that when they are prepared and implemented, it makes the pace and pattern of development predictable, and oftentimes, it leads to safety, better health conditions, improved economy, beauty and convenience. But failure to implement plans too has its implications. According to UN-Habitat report, even plans that are not implemented have an impact on the real world, for instance by becoming obstacles to sustainable change. Therefore, when we feel the pain of discomfort in our settlements, it is a representation of the implications of failure to plan and/or implement plans.
3.4 The Purpose of Physical Planning
Physical Planning brings order and convenience to daily living, but this is dependent on the political will and commitment of resources to preparing development plans and implementing them. It is designed to resolve a lot of environmental issues. There are many issues that would adequately be addressed when physical development planning becomes a culture. Some of these include:
The effect of climate change has proved to be mitigated with physical planning. Adopting principles of planning has helped many developed nations to cope with climate change effects because of measures like landscaping, conservation of forests and eco-friendly development.
There is a land use-transportation relationship which physical planning has always employed to resolve issues of linkages and connectivity. The transportation problems of the country would be better resolved from the perspective of a national/regional physical development plan, which would highlight how the various regions of the country can be connected.
Like transportation, infrastructure would achieve the desired efficiency when viewed within the context of physical development plans, particularly at the national/regional planning contexts. Looking at it from these contexts would ensure equitable and justified distribution.
In view of the fact that physical development plans of the lower order provide details of road/street planning and plot allocation, it allows processes such as street naming and house numbering to be carried out seamlessly. This has the capacity to improve safety and security of neighbourhoods.
One of the problems militating against physical planning in Nigeria is the dearth of data, one of which is the national census. No nation makes meaningful progress not knowing the number of its citizens. It is on this note that we appeal that adequate sensitization of the forthcoming coming national census, for its successful outcome would serve as a springboard for effective physical planning.
3.5 Government Responsibility
In every clime where physical planning has succeeded, governments have always played a leadership role. This responsibility falls on the laps of governments because of a number of reasons. First, only governments possess the power of eminent domain, having the authority to take over private lands for overriding public interest, as well as limit, by regulation, the extent of development on any parcel of land. Second, governments have the power to make policies guiding the functioning of human settlements. Third, it is with governments that the power of political will lies. For these reasons, governments need to be run by those who possess the intellectual capacity to understand the complexities involved and are capable of casting visions that represent the collective will of the citizenry.
Whichever way we choose to look at the issue of physical planning, successful implementation of plans always requires strong political will, appropriate partnerships involving all relevant stakeholders and four key enabling components:
i. Enforceable and transparent legal framework.
This is premised on the establishment of a system of rules and regulations that provide a solid and predictable long-term legal framework for urban development.
ii. Sound and flexible urban planning and design.
This would include considerations for the design of common spaces, which contribute to urban value generation, provision of appropriate street patterns and connectivity and the allocation of open spaces. It should concern the layout of the buildable blocks and plots, as well as compactness that maximizes the use of the built area, in order to make gains from reduced mobility needs and cost of service delivery.
iii. A financial plan for affordability and cost-effectiveness.
Urban plans cannot be implemented without being established on sound financial basis, ensuring that public investments are capable of generating economic and financial benefits to cover the running costs.
iv. Adequate professional and technical capacity
Urban planning must be carried out by persons who are well-trained to carry out the job. Practitioners of the profession are either in private practice as consultants or in public service as planning administrators. It is a common sight that even in places where planning offices and authorities are created, most of the staff engaged there are administrative and clerical officers whose contributions are minimal or revenue generation-inclined. In developed climes or fairly livable societies, the ratio of town planners to the population ranges between one planner to between three thousand to ten thousand population. Presently we have barely four thousand qualified town planners in Nigeria; and more than 60% of them are not engaged in practice either in public or private sector. This implies that the Nigerian ratio of about one planner to over a hundred thousand population is extremely outrageous and an indication that Nigeria is not making tangible efforts to give its population a sane and organized environment. There is the need for vigorous engagement of innumerable number of town planners (to work in both public and private sectors) whose skills are wasting away in the midst of deplorable human environments in Nigeria.
Based on world best practices, it is government alone that is well positioned to make the four components cited above possible, and to ensure harmony and balance amongst the various sectors. The effective implementation and evaluation required to make physical plans a reality, and the continuous monitoring, periodic reviews and sufficient capacities to make settlements systems sustainable require governments that are focused and know exactly what to do.
3.6 The Role of Stakeholders
Everyone of us is concerned with planning because we all feel the impact of the failure to plan or to implement prepared plans. A stakeholder is any individual or group that has vested interest in the outcome of projects/actions to be carried out. In terms of human settlements, the stakeholders would be the citizens. As it has been argued, citizens are not customers of government; they are its owners, who elect leaders to represent their interests. As customers, citizens would be left with a reactive role of liking or disliking services, but as owners, they would play a proactive role by deciding what the government’s agenda should be.
Here, for the sake of brevity, I will refer to two major stakeholders, under which many others can be classified:
I. Civil society organizations and their associations:
(a) They ought to contribute actively to the preparation and implementation of plans by mobilizing concerned communities, liaising with partner groups and voicing the concerns of the public, including the urban poor, in relevant committees and other institutional arrangements;
(b) They should provide feedback to the authorities on challenges and opportunities that may emerge in plan preparation and implementation phases and recommend necessary adjustments and corrective measures;
(c) They have a key role to play in educating the masses of the people, the grassroot stakeholders who lack the awareness required to demand for responsive and responsible governance systems.
II. Planning professionals and their associations:
(a) We are here to provide technical assistance for the preparation and implementation of different types of plans and support the collection, analysis, use, sharing and dissemination of spatial data;
(b) We are available to design and organize training sessions for policymakers and local leaders to sensitize them to physical planning issues, particularly the need for continuous and long-term implementation and accountability;
(c) We are available to undertake on-the-job training and applied research associated with the implementation of plans, with a view to learning from practical experience and providing substantive feedback to decision-makers;
(d) We are ready to document planning models which could be used for educational purposes, awareness-raising and the broad mobilization of the public;
(e) We seek to engage with the civil society organizations with a view to reaching out to the people whose awareness needs to be raised, so they can key into the mindset that supports preparation and implementation of physical development plans to secure sustainable settlements.
3.7 Roadmap for Ordered Human Settlements in Nigeria
For physical planning to truly have effect on ordered and sustainable development of human settlements, plans must be prepared and implemented within the framework of the hierarchical order of plans as indicated in the NURP Act (2004). The UN-Habitat International Guidelines on Urban and Territorial Planning (2015) offers some suggestions which are highlighted below:
The supranational and transboundary level/multinational regional strategies which could help direct investment to address global issues such as climate change and energy efficiency, enable the integrated expansion of urban areas in cross-border regions, mitigate natural risks and improve the sustainable management of shared natural resources;
The national level/national plans which could take advantage of existing and planned economic poles and large infrastructure in order to support, structure and balance the system of towns and cities, including those of urban corridors and river basins, to fully unleash their economic potential;
The city-region and metropolitan level/subnational regional plans. These could foster economic development by promoting regional economies of scale and agglomeration, increasing productivity and prosperity, strengthening urban-rural linkages and adaptation to climate change impacts, reducing disaster risks and intensity in the use of energy, addressing social and spatial disparities and promoting territorial cohesion and complementarities in both growing and declining areas;
The city and municipal level, city development strategies and integrated development plans. These could prioritize investment decisions and encourage synergies and interactions between separate urban areas. Land-use plans could contribute to the protection of environmentally sensitive areas and to the regulation of land markets. Urban extension and infill plans could minimize transport and service delivery costs, optimize the use of land and support the protection and organization of urban open spaces. Urban upgrading and retrofitting plans could increase residential and economic densities and promote more socially integrated communities;
The neighbourhood level, street development and public space plans and layouts. These could improve urban quality, social cohesion and inclusion, and the protection of local resources. Participatory planning and budgeting, involving communities in managing urban commons, such as public spaces and services, could contribute to improved spatial integration and connectivity, human security and resilience, local democracy and social accountability.
Physical Planning is not complete until every square millimeter of land (resources) can be accounted for in terms of physical development planning. Making all of the above happen rests on governments for coordination and harmony.
3.8 The Media Responsibility
In today’s world, the media is as essential as our daily needs. The media plays an outstanding role in creating and shaping of public opinion and strengthening of the society. The Media makes available to the public every information that is required, beaming its searchlights into grey areas to make people aware of their environment and responsibility. The media is needed in propagating policies and improvements being planned, so that every citizen could be reached.
Unless there’s partnership with the media, every effort made on physical planning would be like winking in the dark, which nobody would see. There’s need to always keep the people informed because governance is some form of stewardship responsibility. The media thus has a duty to inform citizens and stimulate debate. This is healthy for a virile physical planning structure and development. The media is therefore a major stakeholder in this respect, thus we seek your active collaboration.
We’re all involved in this. It requires a collective effort to bring order to our human settlements. However, Governments must be willing to provide strong leadership, which can only happen when the system produces competent people to run the affairs of their lives. It requires those who would recognize man and the environment as resources to be managed efficiently for the generations to come. That is the whole essence of sustainable development. The buck for creating chaotic and unsafe human settlements must stop somewhere: on governments’ tables. We must arise from the general lethargy towards ordered settlements to faithfully commit to the preparation and implementation of physical development plans. We will either organize or agonize.
Thank you all for listening.
Toyin Ayinde FNITP