Dayo Ayeyemi | Lagos

Sustainable settlement experts under the auspices of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) have called on the present political parties to make the implemention of urban and regional planning the top priority of their developmental agenda in order to avoid what they described as “our perpetual practiced of confused growth or growth without effective development syndrome.”

Speaking during a press conference, the 25th NITP’s President, Mr. Nathaniel Atebije, stated that sustainable development normally preceded by laid out physical plans which take into consideration the economic potentials, social characteristics of the populace and environmental dispositions of space.

According to him, confused growth would result in mis-investment and under-development.

He pointed out that it was good that the political parties expressed their readiness to ensure compliance with town planning and environmental laws and edicts in their manifestoes but that it›s location in their order of priorities could be viewed with suspicion.

To correct this anomaly, Atebije wants the incumbent government, incoming administration – political parties and their flag-bearers at all levels to review their manifestos to reflect the critical role of physical planning in their agenda; and to carry out development in line with the provisions of the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning, 1992 as amended in 2004.

In doing that, he said they should be prepared to establish relevant structures for their implementation, as well as equipping them with the manpower needed, plant and equipment, infrastructure for administrative operations and adequate political will.

He said “Looking through the plans of action of the political parties, there are a few indications of positive intensions for building a prosperous country.

“One of the manifestos indicated that if they are voted into power, they will ensure full compliance with the town planning and environmental laws and edicts.

“Another party intends to embrace village and urban renewal programmes; encourage public-private-partnership (PPP) in housing development; improve and beautify the environment by establishing open space, parks and gardens for recreational purposes in cities, towns and within housing estates; and will not only provide affordable housing but will seek to build more inclusive communities comprising a mix of different income brackets and promises that their housing vision will be guided by equity and inclusiveness.

These indeed are good thoughts. But we are worried at seeing the location of these proposals in their documents. If the arrangement of the document would be the logic and priority of implementation, then urban and regional planning will be the last point of call. And if that becomes the reality, infrastructure, education, housing and all other developments would be carried out before they come to urban and regional planning.»

«This would result in our perpetually practiced “confused growth or growth without effective development syndrome” It will result in mis-investment and under-development.

«This is why it appears that this nation has been long on the journey to development but yet not so close. Our efforts have gone so far but we are still not so close to hope to turning our dreams into reality,» Atebije said.

The NITP president lauded the efforts of Lagos, Ogun, Kaduna States, , FCT and a few others and their institutions that had made remarkable progress in their planning efforts.

According to him, there was no doubt that human settlements in these states would be more livable than others.

He canvassed that the few other states that have made efforts should be supported with relevant strong institutions, adequate manpower, funding and strong political will.

He pleaded that states that have not started the process of domesticating and implementing the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Law needed to take urgent steps.

According to him, a state like Kwara that has got it completely wrong needed to retrace its steps to avoid the results of «putting the cart before the horse or putting square pegs in round holes.»

While sympathising with families who lost their loved ones during the building collapse disasters recorded this year in Lagos, FCT and Rivers States respectfully,the NITP boss called on the government to enforce city management and building control standards stringently to minimize disasters of building collapse.

Besides, he said «Let the authorities for once make offenders and violators to face the wrath of the law with possibilities of capital punishment.

«This will possibly scare people in the production process of buildings and make them to strictly comply with extant regulations.»

He blamed the ugly incidents on lowered professional standards; negligence on the side of professionals in the construction industry coupled with incompetence; multiplicity of authorities in charge of granting development permits, controlling and monitoring physical developments within urban areas and impunity.

«This is inconsistent with established current international best practice. Effective measures must be established for city physical development administration,» he said.