By Kingsley Adegboye
Lagos is gradually assuming the status of unplanned cities, as its original master plan is rampantly being abused by government officials who flout it thereby giving way to arbitrary developments that further compound the problems of the sprawling city.
This observation was made at the weekend by a concerned citizen who resides in the Lekki Phase 1, Mr. James Anifowoshe, as he lamented the arbitrary allocation of residents’ water fronts to unscrupulous individuals for sand filling as one of the off-plan moves by the state that scares investors.
Explaining the need to strictly adhere to master plan, Anifowoshe who is a real estate developer, said “In an article entitled ‘The Developing City – Lagos, Nigeria: A Case for a Stronger Master Plan’ written by Byron Nicholas and published in ‘Black + Urban’, stated that in 2017, a BBC report of a city that won’t stop growing highlighted the seemingly endless population growth of Lagos, Nigeria.
“By 2050, Nigeria is projected to have twice the population it has today, more than half will live in cities, and about 60 per cent of them will be under 25. If we do not intervene to solve the issues that overcrowding may cause, Lagos will be the 3rd largest city in the world with the least infrastructure than any other large cities of the world”.
According to Nicholas, “The current development plan for Lagos is weak. It needs an ambitious comprehensive development/master plan backed by all levels of government to catapult the mega city into the future”.
He therefore recommended that the state facilitate a global competition to attract well-known architecture and planning firms and companies to create an ambitious physical master plan framework, release a RFP for global architecture and planning firms to bid on a contract to create an actual comprehensive document, create an extensive public engagement process with workshops and charrettes, create a more realistic timeline for planning and implementation and engage in marketing for public support, stakeholders and investors.
Corroborating Nicholas, Anifowoshe said “Lagos’ metropolitan area holds one of the world’s largest populations but bears many of its burdens from overcrowding including inadequate housing and transportation infrastructure. The government is starting to grasp the benefits of investing in the city’s technology sector. Many notable technology companies are beginning to look at the city’s large population and workforce as an asset for high supply and demand.
“However, the city’s master plan does not reflect the government’s effort in making Lagos a smart city for the future to lure investors. Lagosos has the potential to be an economic hub not only for West Africa and the rest of the continent, but the entire world – reaching ranks such as Tokyo, New York, Hong Kong, Paris and London but incessant flouting of its master plan is a problem.
“For example, the space for the only police station meant for Lekki and public car park has been reallocated to individuals. For now, there is no police station in the entire Lekki. If you have issues, you either go Eti-Osa or you go to Ajah to report your case to the police.
“People incessantly lose their waterfronts through corrupt allocation by unscrupulous officials. These are lands officially gazetted and paid for as waterfronts. Some waterfronts in Banana Island and Osborne Foreshore Estate 2 have disappeared due to such out-of-plan allocations.
“The theme of such allocations is pecuniary greed by government fiat. This drives foreign investors away. Places designated as residential areas have been gradually turned to shops and offices. This has led to congestion and has made the allocation and maintenance of state infrastructure difficult. “For example the sharing of electricity between residential and commercial areas has been pretty difficult. Some industries get power supply at night while some residential areas get power during the day as the order of demand has been reversed. Also, roads in residential areas get destroyed quickly due to overuse by trailers offloading goods in warehouses based in residential areas.
“Yes there is a plan but it seems that the government is deliberately going off plan. If you go to London, the Trafalgar Square and the Queen’s old palace remain where they are as part of the plan for the city. Here, such land would have been shared or reallocated for other uses. The Nigeria House in London still occupies the same space. There are no shops or kiosks built anywhere near it. In Lagos, you cannot be sure of the scenery even in one year due to corrupt reallocation of land.
“Imagine that in the whole of Lekki Phase 1, there is no Police Station and car park. Business districts have been turned into residential areas by government fiat while residential areas are being turned into business districts under government watch. The Lekki Business District has been bastardized. “Whereas in the master plan each building in the District is meant to be a ten-storey in height. But small buildings and container shops have sprung up making the district look like a business slum. The same fate that befell Surulere is fast befalling Lekki. Many houses now have attached shops.
“Impunity is a social vice which is being accepted as the cultural norm in Lagos. Irresponsibility and lack of integrity of state governments make it impossible for businesses to plan. Extortion, hooliganism and gangsterism of governance weigh down on the populace. When we got to Lekki newly, there were no transformers, no water and no roads.
“Most of us built our roads ourselves. Twenty years down the line, the strategic master plan we bought into has changed considerably. The problem with the Lagos master plan is lack of integrity, social responsibility and accountability. Otherwise, how would a government turn children’s playground to shops or car park to residential houses.
“Anybody can wake up and build a kiosk or begin to fry ‘akara’ in front of his house. Residential houses now have shops built into the available spaces thus leaving no parking spaces for cars. Vehicles are parked outside leaving narrow road for road users. Most people in governance do not understand the dynamics of urban planning. Lagos, a city that is over 160 years old, ought to be protected.
“We implore the new government of Governor Babajide Sanwoolu to intervene and restore the Lagos master plan. This will resolve a whole lot of issues including traffic congestion. Traffic issues are highly correlated with the abuse of master plans. For every road created, there ought to be other access roads that will serve future development in that area. Lack of adequate planning for future development of areas, causes traffic congestion in future”, Anifowoshe stated.
Public protests against such acts are often rebuffed by persistent state officials and their collaborators bent on achieving their aim and distorting the master plan. For example, the Forte Oil filling Station on Admiralty Way/Admiralty Road junction in Lekki was not part of the Master plan. Lekki residents protested to the State Government over the issue but the government suddenly gave a fiat which squeezed the filling station into the area. The filling station which also has an eatery can barely contain 6 vehicles. The traffic congestion arising from this is usually huge.”
Byron Nicholas wrote that “Western cities have one thing that considers them amazing places to live work and play. Each of these cities has developed some sort of ambitious master plan which they follow through. Most cities underwent a physical renovation period to modernize the city for generations to come.
A master plan is a policy framework, in the form of a comprehensive document that envisions the physical, social and economic capacity of a city well into the future.
Nowadays, much credit is given to city’s Master Plans for designating land uses and acting as a regulatory document to plan future development. In most developed cities great parks, bars, restaurants, apartments, houses, entertainment centres and government institutions can be contributed to a comprehensive master plan”.