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Issues & Challenges of Urban Sustainability in Nigeria

While ideal cities all over the world are designed as opportunity centres and anchors of human ambitions, most Nigerian urban centres are characterized mainly by deprivation, over-stretched amenities, lack of adequate planning, insecurity and unequal access to opportunities and resources. Apart from Calabar, and to a certain extent, the Federal Capital City, Abuja nor of the cities in Nigeria ranks among world model cities. According to industry experts, the worrisome state of the cities in Nigeria may escalate to an uncontrollable level with the United Nations projection that the world’s slum residents may hit over 1.4billion people by the year 2020. Little wonder discussion on the state of the nation’s cities formed the fulcrum of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers’ 46th Annual Conference, with the theme: City Growth: Issues and Challenges of Urban Sustainability in Nigeria. The 4-day programme, which brought together stakeholders both from the public and public sectors dwelled extensively on the plight of slum dwellers, the state of the nation’s cities and the need to evolve effective urban agenda. In his opening address, the 21st president of the Institution, ESV Olorogun Omeru, lamented the state of debility, infrastructure decay and the pervasive inequality in most of the cities in Nigeria. Citing specific examples, Omeru noted that although the capital city, Abuja was conceptualised to correct the lapses in the old capital, Lagos, the seat of government is gradually declining due to over-population which is taking a toll on the existing infrastructure. He said: “The Federal Capital City of Abuja was conceptualised to be a model sustainable city in contrast to what was obtained in the former capital city of Lagos.

To this end a beautiful master plan was drawn up to give this nation a city that should be one of the world’s model cities. Unfortunately, what one is seeing today is not exactly in sinc with the original concept. The city is growing very fast but unfortunately, some of the challenges, especially sustainability issues, witnessed in Lagos are now becoming stark realities in the city. Omeru emphasized that the nation’s cities had degenerated because relevant professional, like estate surveyors and valuers, who have requisite knowledge in cities management, were not involved, adding that,”we believe that what we are seeing in Abuja and other Nigerians cities today can be reversed if we, estate surveyors and valuers, are given conducive environment to demon strate our professional skills and expertise in urban governance. As part of the strategies to decongest the Abuja city centre as well as other major cities across the country, the NIESV ex-boss urged the federal government and state governments to decentralize major government offices. According to him, by relocating some of the ministries and agencies of government to satellite towns would reduce movement of people to the city centre as well as reduce pressure on the available infrastructure. On the imperative of the theme of the conference, Omeru noted,”It has been carefully chosen as estate surveyors and valuers are stakeholders in cities, not because the city is the environment within which they operate, but also because they are professionals with relevant skills which guide policies for shaping cities. “The new focus of the United Nations on Sustainable Development Goals (MDGs), is a call on nations of the world to entrench sustainability in all aspects of development, including city development.

It becomes imperative, therefore for us as one of the foremost professionals in the built environment, to show leadership in building our nation towards sustainable city development.” In a paper entitled, “The Role of the Estate Surveyor and Valuer in Managing the 21st Century City in Nigeria,” ESV Iyke Ozigbo, and ESV Mrs. Chinelo Ozigbo, both of the Department of Estate Management, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, argued that most cities in Nigeria had become more of places of deprivation, inequality and exclusion. Lamenting the failure of successive governments, both at the federal and state levels, to make adequate investments into the evolvement and management of the nation’s urban centres, they cited the organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s prediction, which averred that the global annual investment required for infrastructure provision in the cities between 2010 and 2030 would hit $1.8trillion. Arguing further, they said “the United Nations projects that by 2050, about 6.3billion persons will be in cities across the globe; a figure that is almost as large as the world’s population today.

This is worrisome in the face of vital questions particularly for the third world cities.” According to the expert , for Nigeria to overcome its slum challenges, the country would require rapid economic growth, political stability and the willingness of decision makers to plan for long term. In all of these, they contended that estate surveyors and valuers had pivotal roles to play. For instance, Dr. Muhammad Nuhu, in his paper entitled, “Development in Abuja Urban Management in Nigeria,” traced some of the problems militating against Abuja urban management to perennial inability of successive government to review the Abuja Master Plan, absence of modern transportation system such as modern railway system, among others. According to him, just as in the case of Abuja city, in most states of the federation, there has not been adequate provision made by governments to cater for the ever increasing population of the poor and low income earners. However, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki who declared the event open, urged the institution to purge itself of corrupt practices, particularly in the real estate sector, stressing that only them they could have their deserved place in the socio-economic life of the country. The Senate President who was represented at the occasion by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Housing Barnabas Gemade, restated the commitment of the National Assembly to give necessary support to the institution both in the discharge of the oversight function and enactment of effective legislation, calling on all the professionals to use the avenue of the conference to proffer solutions to some of the challenges associated with urban management in the country.

He said:”The conference, therefore, serves as a veritable opportunity for the institution to partner with the current administration to deliver on its set goals that will significantly improve the welfare and the living standard of our people. As the managers of lands, buildings and other facilities, you are in a prime position to develop effective strategies that will cleanse the industry and make it attractive enough for meaningful collaborations. “A situation where the real estate sector is riddled with cases of inflation of rents, over-priced land, lack of integrity and sundry corruption cannot augur well for the development of the country.” According to him, the National Assembly will be willing to work with the recommendations from the conference in the overall interest of the nation. He urged the participants to formulate useful and enduring strategies towards generating necessary funding for the development of the real estate sector in Nigeria. In his welcome address, the FCT Minister, Muhammad Bello, solicited the cooperation of the NIESV, for the effective implementation of the Abuja master plan. According to him, in its 25 years span, government has only been able to complete 35 per cent of the infrastructure requirements of the city.

He confirmed that the challenges confronting the nation’s capital include resettlement of original inhabitants, uncontrolled development of squatter settlements, a fast growing population that is increasing at a much faster pace than provision of infrastructure, among others. The minister noted that it was the expectation of government that the conference proffer appropriate solutions to these challenges in the interest of the Federal Capital Territory Administration and the nation as a whole. Also speaking, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Raji Fashola (SAN), seized the opportunity of the gathering to highlights some of the efforts being made by the present administration to address the housing challenge in the country. He said since he came on board he had been working assiduously to come up with practical options to tackle the housing deficit put at 17million units. According to him, his ministry would soon unveiled the plans.

Source: National Mirror

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