Town planners under the aegis of Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), the Abuja chapter gathered at Abuja yesterday to mark the 2015 Town Planners Week and to deliberate on the Practice of Urban and Regional Planning in this era of change brought by the election of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The theme of this year’s Town Planners Week lecture is: “Urban and Regional Planning Practice in the Era of Change”. Speaking at opening ceremony of the week, the chairman NITP Abuja chapter, TPL Garba Kwamkur said the theme of this year’s Town Planners Week lecture involves attitudinal change on issues, challenges and opportunities faced by planners on their day to day practice of profession.

He said the lectures are expected to be of benefits to all professionals, administrators and city managers. He noted that over years, planners have face their works with laxity hence the call has been on need for planning more satellite towns and villages which has been emerging sporadically leaving leaders and administrators helpless in search of ways of navigating through the challenges these settlements are imposing on them.

He noted that these settlements have emerged in most cases, without any development plan nor approvals and are now becoming monsters within and around the city lacking basic facilities and services to make them likable. He said the theme for the planners’ week is apt, timely, contemporary and relevant to the needs of the nation presently saying cities are known to be engines of growth and centers of innovation.

Kwamkur said the change required now is in the management of the environments of such human agglomeration which plays a critical role in the maintenance of the FCT and the country at large physically, socially, and economically.

He observed that the profession of Urban and Regional Planning has come of age to rise to the challenge of quackery and terminate the works of imposters to give Nigerians the type of change which is conducive for living, work, recreation and interaction in peace and harmony in order to promote growth and development.

He observed that these are only achievable though creative change thinking, proactive steps and effective management of resources for benefits of those that planners plan for. He reminded planners that Nigerians are earnestly waiting for change from town planners to give our cities the befitting status of physically functional structure, balanced land-use patterns, aesthetic beauty.

In a paper entitled: “Urban and Regional Planning as a veritable tool for delivering democratic dividends”, Dr. Kingsley C. Ogboi, of the center for Environmental Management and Control, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, said Nigerian cities are growing and changing rapidly.

He said without planning they will become increasingly chaotic, inefficient and unsustainable.

He said: “This has serious political consequences. With the promulgation of the Urban and Regional Planning (URP) Law of 1992 (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1992), planning institutions of Nigeria have gradually been strengthened but the mounting urban problems have become more obvious.

“Though planning has partially gained professional legitimacy at the traditional master plan and other regulatory tools at the lower levels. Furthermore, in some states the planning system remains surprisingly centralised with the grassroots partially edged out.

The new societal context and the drastic economic downturn which accompanied the past has led to serve urban challenges including uncontrolled urban sprawl, failing infrastructure, and sharp socio-spatial segregation.

Furthermore, the ideological climate within which planning operates has changed radically as well. Neo-Liberal doctrines espousing the superiority of unbridled free-market systems had let to a legitimacy crisis for planning. In fact some citizens and politicians view planning as an unwanted vestige of colonial system, and planners as enemy to the people and their development.

“These challenges however ultimately highlighted the need for a reinvigorated urban planning. After 1992 urban planning tended to re-establish itself as an important societal function in the country. The positive developments include the articulation of a clearer institutional framework for urban planning process and create a new planning focus. Nigeria has just stepped into a new democratic dispensation. This has very important implications for physical planning.

The 2015 election brought in an expectation of change in which an absolute majority of the people have only very little idea of what they should expect.

In physical terms, this requires confronting the challenges and finding a pathway to articulate the uncertainties. The key questions are: How do planners create a new sense of urban identity and of planning profession? What are the opportunities for political actions by individual’s communities and governments to shape urban planning? What should planners do to deliver the dividends of democracy? Re-imagining and rebuilding the process is a critical component of the new dispensation.

“Therefore the achievement represents not the ‘final destination’ on the issue but merely the beginning of what will be a long process.”

In another paper presented by Tpl Umar Shuiabu entitled: “The Imperatives of advocacy planning in the acquisition and development of lands in the FCT”, Shuaibu said that advocacy planning was a prescription meant not only from urban planners, saying the theory applies to all professions and disciplines that confront the political that confront the political and ethical dilemmas bound up in their practices-social work, public health, public administration and all of the social sciences that deal with urban policy.

“The environmental movement also brought forth many advocates of radical change. These and other developments have produced what today we call ‘progressive planning’. This is more than just the sum of all of these theories and practices. An indispensable part of progressive planning today is the focus that advocacy planning started with-opposition to the conditions.

 

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