Barnabas Atiyaye is the Managing Director of Envicons Team Consultants Limited, a town planning firm based in Abuja. In this interview with Daily Trust, he speaks on how government can reduce slums without necessarily demolishing structures.
Rural-urban migration is over stretching infrastructure in Nigeria, especially in the Federal Capital Territory. What should government do to accommodate people without overstressing infrastructure?
The most important thing we need to ask is why are people coming down to Abuja? Why are people leaving a particular urban centre to another? There are so many factors; the first factor is security. People feel that Abuja is more secure than any other place in the country. For instance, Maiduguri in Borno State is still volatile and some people feel the best place they can run to is where the security situation is stable, and Abuja appears to be one.
The second factor is that most governments have abandoned the issue of urban planning. If you want to attract investment to your state and you neglect urban planning, you are invariably depriving or driving away investors.
So, even indigenous Nigerians find it difficult to operate in such environments, how much more of people that are coming from outside. Therefore, foreign direct investment (FDI) will be absent. What we are saying is that the political will must be there, but unfortunately too, most of our political leaders want a quick win, meaning that within their tenure, they want to see results. That does not really happen when you want to do something that is sustainable. It has to have a base and a subsequent leadership can come and build from what you have done
Many planners have been engaged in preparing master plans and at the end of the day such master plans are just left on the shelves. Subsequent administrations will not go back to them. Meanwhile, the cities are decaying, infrastructure is not just there, access to economic activities are blocked, crime is on the increase and there is nothing to attract people to such places. This has resulted in some people trying to create new cities within their own environments. We don’t need that, all you need is to come up with very good urban renewal strategies, come out with good master plans that can be undertaken even if they are going to be in phases, and at the end people will be willing to be where they are.