TOWN PLANNERS IN THE PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT OF ABUJA
Abuja’s design was by an international planning consortium, but the planning aspect of its implementation is wholly by Nigerian professionals. This is enough testimony that planning in Nigeria has come of age. The success story in the development of Abuja will never be complete without mentioning the contribution of Town Planners, by extension the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, most especially the pioneer Town Planners at the helm of affairs during the planning and the initial stages of the FCT development.
The Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) was established by its founding fathers on the 6th of September 1966, hence the celebration of its Golden Jubilee anniversary in Abuja this year, 2016. Ten years after the Institute’s establishment, in 1976, the Decree heralding the creation of a new capital city for Nigeria was signed by the Murtala Mohammed Administration. That was the first time a complete whole city of such caliber would emerge out of modern planning in Nigeria, and in the whole of Africa in the recent years. The then ten years old Town and Country planning profession in the country was thus put to task.
Today, the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners is 50, and Abuja’s creation is 40. It is on record that the pioneer Director of Land, Planning and Survey in person of Tpl. Alhaji Usman Sabo Ago, was at the same time the National President of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners during his tenure in the Federal Capital Development Authority. While one of his sub-ordinates Town Planner Saka A Olajide was for a long time, if not the longest serving Chairman of the Abuja Chapter of the NITP.
The FCT Minister Malam Muhammad Musa Bello at the opening ceremony of the Golden Anniversary ceremony in Abuja last week stated that, the Institute is part and parcel of the Federal Capital City, whatever is done in Abuja is based on planning, and that he will be the last person to go against professional advice from the Planners. At the same occasion, while delivering his key note address, the Minister of State Solid Minerals Alhaji Abubakar Bawa Bwari who himself is a veteran Town Planner stated that, The Town Planners are the first line of defence as protectors of orderly developments in our urban areas. If they fell our plans also fail. As such, the most hazardous aspect of Town Planning as a profession is the threat to the Professionals, by Chief executives that wants to engage in the development of our cities contrary to the approved land use plans.
Planning as a profession requires operational tools, and these tools must be backed by legislation. The NITP struggled to ensure that the relevant laws were provided, in order to protect and empower the profession and the professionals while discharging their duties for the benefits of the general public. The enabling law that kick stated the production of the Abuja Master Plan and the Development Standard Regulations was the FCT Act. Legislation is again required to control the developments, in order to adhere to the approved standards. This was provided, by the signing into law the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Law in 1992.
There are numerous instances which led to Town Planners losing their jobs over the years, while trying to protect cities’ plans against desecration. Facility like the War College which should be outside the City is now at the City Center contrary to planning advice. Many Town Planners in Abuja and other States across the country are victims of similar circumstances. For this reason, Town Planners are considered as the endangered species.
The change agenda of this administration should support those Town Planners that are committed to the protection of our plans. The above statement by the FCT Minister is one of the most encouraging on the protection of planner’s professional ethics and practice in recent years. What remains now is for the Town Planners to play the game strictly according to the rule and never to initiate, assist or be part of any dishonourable act of the desecration of plans, even if it means losing their jobs. The opportunities outside is more than what is inside according to the statement by the FCT Minister.
It is most honourable to die while rendering service to humanity by defending our plans, than to stand while committing destruction by desecrating our beautiful plans designed for the benefits of our community for some filthy pecuniary benefits.
By Umar Shuaibu