Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development Mr. Abiola Anifowoshe, in this interview with MUYIWA LUCAS, says things are getting better with urban planning under him.
It?s two years since you became commissioner for the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development. Will you say the masterplan of the state has been fully implemented, especially in Ikoyi and Lekki-Ajah?
We have concluded the Masterplan of Lekki, Victoria Island. We have also done that of Lagos West; but we have not done that of Lagos East. We have done Alimosho and Badagry. We have done Mainland; at present we are doing Oshodi. Some will be finished before the end of this year; some will be finished in the first quarter of next year. It remains only that of Kosofe to be implemented. We are working to ensure that we have a comprehensive master plan of all the segments of Lagos to be concluded 2018. By 2019, we will collate them and have a comprehensive master plan for Lagos which will last 25 years. If we had that master plan, every inch of land in the state would have been planned.
There is a lot of coastal development going on. Are you not worried about them considering the processes involved like dredging and sand filling?
If you are worried about dredging, then there may not be any development, especially in a state like ours. Dredging allows for more depth and allows for an heavy vessels to ply your waters. The entire Netherlands is on water, so if there is proper sandfilling, there won?t be any problem. Lagos is the smallest state in Nigeria in terms of land size and yet is the biggest in terms of population. For this enormous population, we must cater for them.
So, how does this development fit into the Lagos Masterplan?
We never had a coastal development that is not recognised by the government. If you look at the master plan of Lagos State, especially the Ikoyi-Victoria Island, all those islands have been identified and incorporated with the Masterplan; we will not just do anything to jeopardise the lives of the citizens of Lagos.
How are you integrating new town development into the settlements?
Well existing settlement to start with, it is unfortunate that planning is chasing development; in a civilised society, the reverse is the case. It is supposed to be planning first before development. But be that as it may, there is something we call development guide. Rather than total removal of existing structure with people, before you do a development guide, you factor the existing structure in. First, you need to do development guide for the old town so that you will not ask those people who are in old town to move to the new town because every amenity we have in the new town is also provided for in the old town; so you balance the two together.
You are tightening the noose on new structures to prevent collapse. What are you doing about old structures?
If you recall early this year, I did two announcements in national dailies advising property owners to do something about their properties, and that this must be done in laison with the ministry so that the two of us could be on the same page. Some refused to comply, some did. What we did was that we complied their list sent to his excellency Governor Akinwunmi Ambode; we have removed over 100 endangered houses in the state. When we remove a dangerous structure the cost of removal will be borne by the owner and if he fails to pay, the property is forfeited to the government.
How much has it cost the government to pay compensation to property owners who?s structures gave way for right of ways (RoW)?
The cost of compensation is ongoing. Whether you have papers or not; whether you have approval or not, you are paid compensation. It is in billions of naira, so far.
Is there an understanding between the state and Federal Government to refund the expenses incurred on building roads belonging to the Federal Government?
The one that was done by his predecessors up till now has not been paid. Whatever the governor does is for the citizens because he loves them. This is our state we are developing our state- whether the road belong to the Federal Government or state.
How realistic is the 28-day approval your ministry claims?
The most difficult thing in life is change. Our people are used to old ways of doing things. When I said approval in 28 days, I meant it. But that 28 days is excluding submission of documentation. Until you submit your documents and a file is opened for you. with a number allocated, that is when you start counting your 28 days. There is a law here that no file must spend 24 hours on your table. So, the 28 days is real. This is just the beginning as time goes on, it is still going to reduce. What stops you from doing approval in 20 days?
Is Lagos ready for full vertical development?
Of course. You see urbanisation, whether they like it or not, we have to change. Twenty years ago, the population of Lagos State was not as much as this. We are not where we were 20 years ago. At present, we have 23 million people in the state, and every hour 87 people keep coming to Lagos. The reason we are ready for this is that, in the past our master plan lasted 25 years and due for review every three to five years.
So, what should the citizens expect in the next two years?
For now, all I want to tell them is that,they ain?t seen nothing yet. All I am only asking for is to keep supporting the government.
What will you say is the landmark achievement in your tenure, so far?
Well, I think the e-planning that has been on drawing board for years which we have implemented and has kicked off is a major feat. The master plan of Lagos State was still on the board when we came has also gained steam.