Revitalising Urban Development: The Ogun Example
It is easy to highlight the importance of urban development in terms of holistic socio-economic impacts like improving the functionality, connectivity, interaction and aesthetics of a society and attracting investors and investments, yet urban development has even more far-reaching and immediate impacts on individuals, and requires a level of commitment from all strata of the citizenry.
One of the most important benefits of urban development is the safety of the inhabitants of any community. Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, identified shelter (housing) as one of the first three basic needs of man, second only to food and clothing. These basic needs must first be met before people move up the hierarchy to pursue other needs, including the social, emotional and self-actualising needs. However, for any housing unit to be a shelter indeed and fulfil its rudimentary purpose as a basic need, it must be safe for its inhabitants, not only from external elements like weather elements or threat from wild animals, but also from incidences of building collapse or the health challenges of building in dangerous terrains. To avoid this, buildings are subjected to a variety of tests, including structural tests, to forestall future problems.
Every developed society possesses a master plan for each community. When buildings are erected according to the master plan of any environment, it reduces the need for destruction of property in the future, as development takes shape more readily in areas where the parameters are earmarked for it. Also, as population increases, the need for certain social amenities also increases. Thus, if buildings are already erected within the parameters of a defined master plan, the level of destruction of property will be controlled than if buildings were erected indiscriminately. What’s more? It would be easier for government to plan and distribute resources when people follow building master plans. Electricity, water, roads and even establishment of hospitals, schools and police stations are easier provided for when building development fits into a general master plan.
This is not to say that some buildings might not need to give way for development of certain areas, as urban development is a dynamic and continuous process. Individuals can however, protect themselves from suffering any loss by following the building laws of the state where they reside, paying whatever levies are due to appropriate authorities, and keeping their receipts in case the need arises for them to defend themselves.
In Ogun State, the very first step is to search to know if the land falls within the boundaries of government acquisition or not, and whether it complies with the regional plans of different areas of the state. Although this process is initiated at the Bureau of Lands and Survey, it moves on to the major ministry in charge of the urban development drive of the state, the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, where the relevant unit, the Department of Planning Information, Research and Records, attempts to ascertain that the intended development, whether residential, commercial, industrial or agricultural, falls within the sub-regional plans designed according to the economic potential of the different areas of the state.
To drive the desired change in the urban development sector, the ministry’s name was changed from Ministry of Urban and Physical Planning to Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development in the year 2020. This was an innovation by the leadership of the Ministry under the Governor Dapo Abiodun-led administration to unbundle its statutory functions while adding several new components to its service delivery in a bid to meet prevailing realities in the urban development sector, and for improved service delivery. The Ministry thus established three agencies, viz; Ogun State Planning and Development Authority, Ogun State Slum Regeneration Authority and Ogun State Building Production Management Authority, to serve as its enforcement arms, while maintaining its regulatory oversight.
Since the overhaul, there have been many policy reforms across board in a bid to sanitise the sector and improve its regulation. Major among these policy reforms is the passage of a principal law in the state, The Administration of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Slum Regeneration and Building Production Management Law (Law 2022) which has six regulations for the physical planning sector – a first of its kind innovation in the built industry across Nigeria.
Also worthy of note is the fact that the Ministry, for the first time in Nigeria, leveraged Public-Private Partnership model by initiating the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Ogun State government and Ogun State Chapter of Building Collapse Prevention Guild (BCPG), a non-governmental group of professionals in the built industry and related sectors.
For the purpose of regional planning and development implementation, Ogun State is divided into five sub-regions. One of the major determinants of the sub-regional clusters, beyond historical, cultural and trade relationships, are the prevailing land use and local economic base. This means whether residential, commercial or industrial, all proposed buildings within each zone must be within the framework of designated development plan of the area.
Once it has been established that the proposed building(s) or facility meets the regulations of the state and falls within the appropriate cluster, other documents such as site plans, architectural drawings, electrical/mechanical and structural engineering drawings, among others are demanded. All these documents are necessary for assessment and endorsement of any building development plan, after which the physical assessment of the site is done. The totality of the planning permit process, which used to take months, presently spans between seven and fourteen days due to the reforms in the Ministry, especially if the public utilise the 22 zonal town planning offices across the state, specifically established to decentralise town planning activities and fast track obtaining building permits, among other things. Hence, obtaining a building permit has become less cumbersome.
As government is trying to ensure that urban development and renewal activities happen in a structured and civilized manner, the citizenry also has its own role to play, such that the advantage of a well-planned society is enjoyed by the governing and the governed alike. If members of the public can do their due diligence by ascertaining that their building development do not encroach on rights of way, pipelines, and setbacks of public utilities and infrastructure; that housing structure(s) or facilities are not proposed or built on erosion channels, water ways, river banks and other flood-prone areas; and more importantly, if they engage professionals in the built sector to achieve quality buildings and ensure that they do not develop their property in contravention of the laws of the state, they will find that the process is hitch-free and easy.
Members of the public should please note that it is important to obtain planning permits and building clearances before any construction work is started, so that the state can continue to develop in an organised, habitable and safe manner. That is the only way sustainable urban development can be achieved.
Ajibola Taiwo is an Information Officer in the Ogun State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Oke Mosan, Abeokuta and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.