To avoid haphazard implementation of the proposed redevelopment plan for the North-east region of the country, the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) has called on both the Federal and state governments to put in place master plan for the region.
The planners said this was the first step towards ensuring a sustainable redevelopment initiative being projected by the government.
In doing this, the planners advocated that the authorities must ensure they are involved, as they have the capacities and expertise to turn the devastated region around through all-inclusive planning and implementation strategy.
The call was the high point by the professionals during their last colloquium held recently in Abuja.
Specifically, they asked all tiers of government to ensure there are well-designed master plan for the sub-regions before undertaking any development programme.
In a communiqué, town planners, who advocated that the profession should be more relevant in the scheme of things, also urged themselves to be involved in partisan politics, or to seek appointment in government. These, to them, would reduce the anomalies in the country, especially, as related to physical development.
The Executive Secretary, Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Barka Madziga, in his presentation titled “Proposal for Strategic Urban and Rural Development Plan for the North East Sub-Region of Nigeria”, quoted the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), that there are over 206,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and about 23,000 people have been killed, while between 2,000 to 7,000 missing. In total, more than 2.2 million people have fled their homes with seven million people estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance
To ensure adequate resettlement, Madziga called for town planners’ involvement. He implored planners to advocate for the design and implementation of regional and master plans for the affected region and sub-regions.
On this, four key questions were raised, namely: Whether planners involved in the Northeast rehabilitation? What are the planners in the region doing to be part of the resettlement programme going on there? Planners were expected to be the number one stakeholder and what is the NITP doing about the situation in the region?
According to them, the current situation in the North-eastern region was an avenue to brand the planning profession. Writing about policy issues and offering professional advice to the policy makers; rebranding should start at the local level by reviewing the local planning laws and regulations; physical planning should be taken to the grassroots, while planning professionals should appreciate themselves before selling (presenting) the profession to the public.
Besides, it was recommended that efforts should be made immediately to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing so as to align with their position on the project.
On whether planning laws and regulations were too restrictive or that the people were not well informed and that what should be the main goal of planning? It was recommended that planners should be involved in politics so as to influence policies that bear on planning. They also said there was need for attitudinal change among planners by which they should be professionally friendly, accessible and positive. “For planning to be more visible, planners need to be flexible about space standards and allow clients to be able to minimise cost and maximise returns; Planners must be proactive and be able to see challenges even before the government”.
It was also recommended that top government officials needed to be conversant with town planning laws and regulations and that there was need to return to bottom-up planning where the local planning authorities are adequately empowered. This, they said, is the best practice around the world.
Former Dean, School of Communication, Prof. Lai Oso, Lagos State University (LASU) concluded with the submission that every product could be made marketable just as any product could be ‘de-marketed’ through communication.
“Planners must, therefore, continue to brand their profession through public relations, politicking and lobbying. The value of town planning to the society must be articulated clearly via all possible media. Planners should connect and reconnect town planning to the ordinary people of the society”, he said.
Mr. Kunle Fatoki, also a Town Planner, believes that with the power of development control, town planning was key to meaningful development. He argued that if, truly, town planning is working in the interest of the people, the perception of the public about the profession should be positive. He observed that town planners are seen as agents of demolition.
In his presentation titled “Application of Geospatial Technologies in Urban and Regional Planning”, Omotayo Awomosu observed that the convergence of computer technology and information and communication technologies have widened the scope of geospatial technologies, providing new opportunities and challenges for town planners to thrive. He argued that information technology was one way to enhance branding of the planning profession.