Under fresh efforts to ensure sustainable development, the Federal Government has announced plans to redefine and scale up slum upgrading efforts toward confronting challenges of expanding urban areas in the country.
In the renewed action plan, the government is also proposing a vibrant platform to give a voice to the growing segment of slum communities, which would also act as a permanent communication vehicle to enable slum dwellers, urban managers and technocrats share experiences on both past slum improvement efforts and emerging best practices to achieve better result for the future.
The development was as a result of new studies released last week at the 2014 World Habitat Day (WHD) commemoration and First National Urban Forum organised by the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development in Abuja, which established that inner city slums constitute a huge fraction of total communities in Aba, Kaduna and Oshogbo. Similarly, Director and Chief Scientific Advisor, UN-Habitat, Prof. Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka presented the lead paper for the WHD while Mrs. Mariam Yunusa, Head, Partners and Inter-Agency Coordination Branch, UN-Habitat also spoke on Beyond Habitat III: he African Urban Agenda as a transformative Force of Africa’s Development.
The studies commissioned by the ministry on this year’s theme ‘Voices from Slums’, handled by the Foundation for Development and Environmental Initiatives (FDI) recommended the improving of livelihoods of slum dwellers, provision of basic infrastructure, regularization of titles in slum communities, mobilizing finance for slum upgrading and participatory approach to development in the affected cities.
Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Mrs. Akon Eyakenyi who addressed well-attended gathering of stakeholders at the programme, said that “ the reality that slums co-exist with well-planned areas in most of our cities is worrisome. The commemoration, therefore affords us the opportunity to work together to remedy this unpleasant situation.”
She charged the experts and all stakeholders to hear the voices of slum residents and ensure that their genuine concerns are effectively addressed with a view to significantly improving their livelihoods. “Ultimately, we will not be simply hearing them speak, but also reinvigorating partnerships amongst stakeholders and speeding up the process of integrating slum communities with the rest of the city.”
Mrs. Eyakenyi also disclosed that United Nations (UN) General Assembly has designated October 31 as World Cities Day, to review, renew and advance ideas and best practices for future development of cities as well as encourage cooperation among countries in meeting opportunities and addressing challenges of urbanization towards sustainable urban development.
“The task of managing human settlements is no doubt huge, but despite some gloomy vistas across the landscape, it is heart-warming that global development partners are not relenting, “ she added.
UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki- Moon in statement read by the UN Resident Coordinator/ United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), M. Daouda Toure stated that efforts under the Millennium Development Goals have cut the proportion of people living in slums by more than half.
Ki-Moon said: “We have the technology and the know-how to build economically, socially and environmentally sustainable cities based on local solutions.” He urged governments, businesses, academic institutions and non-governmental Organisations to “give slum dwellers a voice, and listen to what they have to say.”
In a statement, the Executive Director, UN-HABITAT, Dr. Joan Clos, stressed that great efforts are being made to improve many slums around the world and better the lives of those that live there.
Clos, represented by the Habitat Programme Manager, UN-HAPSO, Mr. Kabir Yari, called for a new focus on robust urban planning and the provision of safe, affordable housing that is appropriate for citizen’s growing needs. “But slums are manifestation of rapid unchecked urbanization – a result of allowing our cities to expand without design or regulation and with disregard to their citizens.”
He said that the Habitat III in 2016, would set the path for a new urban agenda.
“But we cannot wait until then to stop the spread of slums. our urban citizens have the right to adequate housing and basic services and we need to make sure that our cities and towns are planned appropriately to provide these,” Clos said.