With an exception of few cities like Lagos, Abuja, Enugu and others, there is absolutely no master plan to guide development processes in many Nigerian cities.
Where they exist, the level of implementation is low. The clear evidence of this inadequacy is reflected in illegal structures and slums in many Nigerian cities.
As at today, the rating of master plan is relatively low in terms of utilizing the good intents of master plan.
Consequently, many cities are witnessing high rate of environmental deterioration due to uncontrolled urbanization, leading to urban sprawl.
This urban sprawl is characterized by haphazard housing development in the urban suburbs, where majority of the structures are without planning permit in uncoordinated layouts.
For instance, in Abuja and Portharcourt, the nonconformity to master plan has led to the shrinking to the minimal level, the quantum of green space in the city, inability to meet the relevant targets of SDG 11,
Also, in Lagos, which is one of the cities with master plan,, its none adherence has led to persistence flooding, high rate of city scale disaster, limited space for physical distancing, severe transportation challenge, slum proliferation and high susceptibility to climate crisis.
But experts said current efforts by the Lagos State government to revise the existing master plans to address its infrastructural challenges and make the commercial city more sustainable, organised, liveable and investors friendly is commendable.
For instance, the state is making efforts to produce strategic master plans for the entire state as envisioned in the Lagos State Development Plan (2012-2025).
Already, eight out of the 12 new development plans proposed for the state, are operational. They include Lekki Comprehensive Master Plan, Badagry Master Plan, Ikoyi-Victoria Island Model City Plan, Ikeja Model City Plan, Apapa Model City Plan, Lagos Mainland Model City Plan, Alimosho Model City Plan and Agege Model City Plan.
The other three, which include; Epe, Ikorodu and Oshodi-Isolo Master/Model City Plans, are at different stages of completion
However, experts said flagrant flouting of master plans by governments and citizens are causing limited urban services as well as regular disagreements between policy makers and residents on which direction development should take among others.
The President, Nigeria Institute of Town Planning, (NITP), Lekwa Ezutah said, only Nigeria few cities currently have master plans indicating that guidance needed for Urban growth is missing. “Out of the few many are absolute or are allowed to gather dust on the shelves. Where there are active plans,the framework for implementation is weak or completely lacking.
Unfortunately, any development planning without a high content of physical planning will lead to retrogression rather than progression . We must consider physical planning as a veritable tool for effective economic growth and development as evident in many parts of the world.
Ezutah said the process of planning and implementation is not cheap but planning provides a necessary foundation for all success.
It is therefore imperative for the government to be in full support of the process, especially in terms of finance and political will , and for the public to be law-abiding.
He urged governments at all levels to appreciate the imperative need for physical planning and embrace same.
According to him, disregard of master plan is lawlessness and “we know the consequences of lawlessness.
“Contravention of master plan (fragrant or subtle) will result to haphazard development . Incompatible land uses will lie in juxtaposition resulting to environmental degradation (pollution, flooding, congestion, breakdown of infrastructure due to pressure).
“On the flip side , underutilization of infrastructure has costly effect on the budget.
Ezutah, regretted that successive governments unfortunately only pay lip service to physical planning, seeing it as a tool for revenue generation and not investment to improve the lives of the people.
He stressed that local government is where physical planning best locates but that’s currently the weakest link in the chain ; nothing literally happens there .
Providing wider perspective on this, former president, Nigerian Institute of Tow Planners (NITP), Bunmi Ajayi said master plan is a legal document that should guide development but alas Nigerians and their governments are lawless.
According to him, even the Europeans did not plan the native areas as planning was restricted to the Government Reserved Areas (GRAs), there was no really plans across the cities.
He applauded the Lagos state government for its current efforts to revise the existing Ikeja Model City Plan in order to address infrastructural challenges in the capital city and make it more sustainable, organised, liveable and investors friendly.
According to him, states like Ogun , Osun, Oyo and others should follow suit by adhering strictly to the master plans to solve the numerous environmental problems inherent with its non adherence.
Providing another perspective, the vice chairman of Lagos branch of NITP, Lookman Oshodi said master plans prepared are not tied nor connected to the local situation, hence their inability to reflect the dynamics of development in Nigerian communities.
“Where there is connection between the plan and the city, clear interpretation on the part of city operators becomes a major challenge. In the ensuing gab between the plan and the city, development continues to take its own form, orientation and shape. The product is the sprawl informal settlements we have in different Nigerian cities”, he noted.
Oshodi, who is also the project director of Artic Infrastructure, Lagos, stressed that governments in different parts of the country are doing their best, but there is huge gap on what is expected of government.
According to him, budgetary provision to drive implementation is limited.
He, further, noted that the inability to meet the housing and urban infrastructure needs of city’s residents will continue to motivate informal development in a cyclical manner.
But the Lagos State Government through the Ministry of Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, said there is no lack of master plans in Lagos State as it have already had 11 master plans out of the 13 expected to cover the State.
According to the Assistant Director, Public Affairs in the ministry, Mukaila Sanusi said the remaining two which are Lagos Island and Kosofe are underway.
He also stressed that The Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) has been established to address any abuse of the state master plans through enforcement of their infractions.