“Nigerian cities like Abuja, Kano, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, among others, are faced with the challenges of high population growth and urbanization. “- Daily Trust
As common with most cities faced with high population – cases of overcrowding, dilapidated houses, incessant collapse of buildings, collapse of infrastructural facilities, increase in slum settlements due to accommodation shortage, and high crime rate in the metropolis become major challenges.
Recently, built environment experts held a forum in Lagos themed ‘An Architectural Autopoiesis’ where issues of regeneration, rebuilding, recreating and reinventing Nigerian cities to reduce slum development took centre stage.
The stakeholders at the forum urged architects to craft modern designs that will accommodate the poor, especially slum dwellers.
Speaking at the forum, the Head, Department of Medical Microbiology, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Professor Folasade Tolulope Ogunsola, argued that cities would continue to grow alongside slums except something urgent is done to address the accommodation needs of the poor.
She said: “The poor services the rich, they can’t afford to live far from where they work so they are going to build shanties close to where they live.”
She stressed the need to rethink the way Nigerian cities were being developed with conscious effort to provide housing units for the poor in locations not too far from their workplaces.
“Should we not be rethinking how we construct our cities? Should we not have homes of the poor not too far from the homes of the rich? And if we must do that, should we not be rethinking how we are constructing for the poor?”she queried.
Ogunsola lamented lack of affordable housing for the populace with over 70 per cent of the people living in slums.
She challenged Nigerian architects and design experts to move away from designing expensive houses which the poor cannot afford as a panacea to “the poor creating their own shelter.”
Responding, Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Lagos chapter, Mr. Fitzgerald Umah, said the forum would address the issues of regeneration, rebuilding, recreating and reinventing in the light of current economic recession.
On his part, Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA) President, Tonye Oliver Braide, said that Nigerians require a new thinking and members should start networking about their designs.
Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Wasiu Abiola Anifowoshe, said the state government was partnering with the private sector towards the regeneration and urbanisation of the state into a befitting megacity that is livable and economically buoyant.
Daily Trust sought the opinion of a former national president of the Nigeria Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Kabir M. Yari, a town planner, who said the issue of regeneration of houses should not be viewed from a very narrow angle. He said what constitutes a slum from the UN-Habitat definition are houses lacking water and sanitation.
Yari who is the present UN-Habitat Programme Manager for Nigeria said, “There are about four parameters – if they lack adequate supply of water and sanitation; second – if the house is not in a durable condition, three- if there is no adequate living space and the fourth is insecurity.”
Yari called for collective efforts on the part of professionals and policy makers in ensuring sustainable and viable total regeneration.
He also emphasised on ‘planning’ which he said is “ahead of development and lack of it is why slums spring up.”
“Not all are slums, most are informal development. So, if you look at city centres in Nigeria, most of them, unless the traditional city centers where the white men did not develop, such as centres in Zaria, Kano are planned.
“So traditional city centres need to be regenerated. I believe regenerating the houses alone will not solve the problem. You have to look at the totality of the entire sector around. You look at water supply, you look at the roads, pedestrian movement, because when you provide the roads, you need to provide where pedestrians will walk safely and comfortably.
“So, by the time you improve that physical environment, people will want to improve their houses,” he said.
Also, a former FCT director of Development Control, Yahaya Yusuf, a town planner, told Daily Trust that one of the factors for the regeneration of our cities is because their facilities are overstretched by very high rate of urbanisation without commensurate increase in opportunities that people can use to increase the quality of their own environment.
He said, “In an attempt to address this issue, if we start from a city like Abuja, we shouldn’t be seeing a city essentially as an administrative town. You have to depend largely on private sector funding, which as you notice, was going to be addressed in the case of Abuja with the last SWAP programme which was a novel development whereby you could have used the private sector to provide infrastructure.”
Source: Daily Trust