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Mixed reactions trail Lagos’ urban renewal efforts

By Kingsley Adegboye

Driving through Eric Moore Road in the night, one would be tempted to think “this is Europe or  the United States or any of the developed nations”. This is because of the massive upgrade of the physical infrastructure in the area.

But the same cannot be said of communities in the Alimosho Local Government area, Ajegunle and Amukoko in the Ajeromi-Ifelodun Council area as well as other slummy neighbourhoods in the state. The infrastructure in these areas have so degenerated  such that residents now accuse the Babatunde Fashola -led government of being selective in its developmental programmes in the state.

According to those who hold this view, Fashola is only focusing on highbrow areas at the expense of other thickly populated parts of the city. They would readily point to the infrastructural uplift of areas like Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lekki- Peninsula, Ikeja, parts of Surulere and Yaba  to buttress their allegation. According to them, areas such as Agege, Ogba, Ikotun, Ijegun, Egbe, Orile and several other lowly rated communities are not remembered in the urban renewal projects of government.

But built environment experts who spoke to Vanguard Homes & Property on the alleged Fashola’s selective approach to urban renewal, faulted the argument. According to them, government’s choice or preference for areas selected for improvement or upgrading is usually informed by the degree of blightedness and other  political and economic considerations.

A former President of both the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners NITP, and  Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria APBN, Mr. Bunmi Ajayi insisted that the government has seriously and genuinely addressed the urban renewal issues in Lagos state.

“We have always had problem of flooding, traffic, security, roads and etc. Now you have a government that has taken a holistic view and approach to it and every aspect is being touched. This government is focused”. On the criticism that the government is being selective, he stated that  it  (government) cannot  do everything in one day. This is why it has to be selective.

“But  the people’s argument is that the government is concentrating on Victoria Island, Lekki corridor and such highbrow areas at the detriment of places such as Agege, Ikotun, Ipaja, Ijegun and others. That is exactly what people are saying. But if you look at the number of roads at Agege alone, they are more than all the roads in Lekki and Victoria Island put together.

“This is because Agege has been in existence before places like Lekki and others, that is why it has more roads than the new areas. The government has to have preference in selecting areas for redevelopment, and the argument of the government selecting highbrow areas may be that it can generate more money from those areas to develop other rural communities.

The former NITP boss however, laid the lion share of blame on poor planning. His words: “For me, I think that  the greatest failure is planning. Planning over the years has failed because it has favoured only the rich, the highly placed and the privileged. Some times it has to do with politics, but the government has forgotten that those who will vote are people from rural areas and not those from highbrow areas.

However, those highbrow areas they are putting money, they will get money from them but they will not get votes. Whichever way, government needs money, and this is why it has to  go and make money elsewhere to develop other areas. I think the issue of balance is what matters, and to that extent, you can see development projects going on in Alimosho, Agege, Lagos/Badagry Expressway and several parts of the city by the government”, Ajayi said.

Also speaking on the issue, a  former chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, Lagos Chapter,  Mr. Bunmi Adeyeye explained that urban renewal projects have a process of selection which depend on the degree of blightdedness of a particular area.

He pointed out that it was this process that informed the government’s intervention in Maroko. That intervention was based on the study carried out between 1980 and 1981 to determine the degree of blightdedness of some settlements in Lagos.

According to Adeyeye, out of between 38 and 40 of such identified settlements, Maroko ranked the worst, hence it was the first to be demolished by the government. He added that apart from the degree of blightdedness which is the first factor to determine the preference for urban renewal projects,  available resources to a government is another factor that can determine a project the government can embark upon.

He noted that if a project is massive but the resources available cannot execute it, the government may go to a place where the resources at its disposal can execute the project. According to Adeyeye,  unless there are political manouverings, there is procedure for selection of projects  to be redeveloped.

Another settlement expert,  Mr. Makinde Ogunleye who is the chairman, Lagos State NITP,  said the state government is carrying out the urban renewal projects according circumstance of the time. He pointed out that the  metropolitan master plan for Lagos of 1980 to 2000  recommended  the comprehensive physical development of the city with its various components such as transportation network, land use system, housing and others.

Mr. Ogunleye added that in the course of carrying out the recommendation, pockets of unplanned  built up areas sprang up in the city. These unplanned built up areas are what is referred to as slums which are due for urban renewal. He said the policy of the government is to adopt ta different approach to each area. While some areas require outright demolition of structures, other areas require urban upgrade, he said.


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