The noose is tightening around operators of event centres in Lagos State. Government is currently taking inventory of all such businesses for the purposes of ascertaining their relevance in the physical development plan.
A task force has already been set up this month with a mandate to identify any inappropriately located event centre, which presupposes that they were not duly approved before development.
The State’s commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Wasiu Anifowoshe told The Guardian that the task force would wrap up its activities in three months being November for the government to begin to take the necessary actions against defaulting events centres.
His words: “Throughout Lagos State if there is no development permit for any structure, event centres inclusive, it is illegal to start with. Fine, we have so many, but we are taking inventory of them now. Anyone that builds event centres in a place that is not conducive, the government will shut it down. We will ask them to come and remove it or we remove it for them. We have been warning them. Before you can have an event centre, apply and investigate to know if it is conducive and if it won’t disturb the neighbourhood. Does it generate noise pollution, what are the environmental impact and all that? If it is going to disturb the citizens of Lagos State, we won’t allow it.”
“We are on it. We have set up a committee. There is a task force working with the commissioner. What we are doing right now is houses under high-tension wires. I gave them three months. This is our first month. They will make recommendations from their findings of the ones that deserve to stay and the ones that deserve to go.”
According to him, the government has set guidelines to be followed in siting event centres in the state, including enough parking spaces, fire protection gadgets, it must be far away from residences and there must be adequate plan for emergency response, among other things.
A past president of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Dr. Moses Ajayi, told The Guardian that most of the event centres are in contravention of State laws by the way they operate and that action is required on the part of the government if the situation must change.
He itemized some of the key requirements that have become necessary in the present circumstances.
“Unfortunately, many don’t have parking spaces. The Government should establish a standard of how many car parking spaces per square meter or have an ancillary facility like a school next door to supplement. There should equally be environmental permit in terms of toilet, water, and waste disposal outlet before a permit to operate can be given to them.
“Thirdly, a health and safety plan is necessary because you are putting a large crowd of people in the place. So, what is the emergency management plan? Is there an ambulance, fire extinguisher, emergency escape, and muster point, a medical facility close by in case of emergencies?
He continued: “Government should come out with clear criteria. Before granting them operating permit, they must first obtain an environmental permit, health and safety permit and emergency response permit. These three things are crucial. Initially, they were not building but rather they rent a space and put canopies to beat town-planning regulations. But now due to the change in people’s preferences we now have event centres dotting the entire landscape.
“Transport and traffic management procedures must be in place because those are critical planning issues. For already existing events centers, the government should ask them to comply and give them a period of time to do so between three and six months. If they fail, then close them down. If they cant comply, simply close them down”.
The immediate past commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Toyin Ayinde, a town planner, noted that the trend equally has a lot to do with the social behaviour of Nigerians and that it was high time people began to readdress their tastes, priorities and lifestyles in general.
“The first thing to address is our way of life. It is pointless inviting over 1,500 guests, selling aso ebi, inviting loud musicians and so forth. So, that is the first thing to address. Let’s cast our minds back to some years before democracy. People used to go the Local Government to get a permit to close the roads, which gave rise to sighting events centres today. With the rate at which we hold events, we don’t even have enough events centers. How do we manage the situation?
He observed that not all of them are defaulters, so government in seeking to regulate their activities needs to be careful to separate between the guilty and the innocent among them. The social behaviour of the residents should equally be addressed, he insisted.
“Some event centres are located within regulations worked out by the state standards. But because we in this part of the world tend to do things in excess, we still have problems.
“Even after the nation has declared recession, people still distribute aso ebi. Even the events centres appropriately located still bursts their seams. When people hold their events, they don’t work out logistics. So, the government should look at making people work out a plan of how they intend to manage things such as the traffic. Anybody found to be contravening should be sanctioned.”
Speaking on guidelines for the operators, he said parking space is required. “But the way we conduct ourselves, we even have to employ bouncers. So, it boils down to managing the situation. Before hosting, you must have worked out the traffic logistics, already liaised with traffic agency and other related agencies.
“A method statement should be brought by any event centre, showing how they intend to operate and not disturb the neighbourhood. Government, should also ask for the same from their clients: what crowd are you expecting, how do you hope to manage it? Until we review our culture and the way we do things, nothing will change.”