A Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, FUTA Felix Omole has attributed the increasing spate of flooding, building collapse and development of slums and urban decay in the country to lack of adequate planning. He stated this while delivering the 154th inaugural lecture of the university on Tuesday June 6th, 2023. He said market centres, which he described as traditional growth centres, should be configured, through deliberate planning policies and strategies to bring about the spread of development into various regions.
Dwelling on the importance of planning, Omole who spoke on the topic, “Regional Planning and Market Centres: The Fulcrum of Physical Development,” said “when one fails to plan, the repercussion will come, that will make or force him to do the planning. The repercussion could be floods, collapse of building, slum and shanty developments, sprawl development, traffic congestion, conflicting land uses, poor and narrow road, inaccessible buildings, fire outbreaks, gas spillage, untrained children, unemployment, selfishness and greed among others.”
Speaking on market centres which are major to human sustenance, Omole said “the existence of market centres in most towns and cities has given shape and form to the morphology of these cities. Human settlements are made up of parts which function together as a system. A major part of the system is the market whose functionality is found to be influenced by some factors such as mode of transport, occupation, market distance, locations and available commodities.”
To address the above, the don recommended production of village maps, town maps and regional maps among others. He added that market centres are traditionally growth centres and therefore said functional market centres at spatial locations should be encouraged to bring about the spread of development into the regions. He opined that some levels of financial investments should be devoted to these important growth centres in terms of infrastructural facilities, the building of administrative offices for the maintenance and record keeping for each location and the central location so that relevant data can be sought for developmental purposes.
Omole also called on governments to consider urgently the issue of road networking. He said “appreciating the symbiotic relationship between the urban centres and the market centres, particularly the rural market centres where bulk of what we eat comes from, government should adopt a running policy of rehabilitating some percentages of its rural roads yearly until all the rural roads are worked on. This will make every state and region self-sustained in terms of connectivity and linkages and allow for local economic development.”
Considering job creation, the don called for the establishment of Agro Processing Industries which will also reduce post-harvest loss experienced by farmers. “Quite a reasonable percentage of products coming from the market centres, particularly those from the rural market centres are perishable goods. Policies should be in place to add value to these products. This can be done by the establishment of Agro-processing industries which in turn will create job opportunities and reduce unemployment”, he added.
The don emphasized the importance of planning in terms of urban renewal and regeneration to a better environment and healthy living. He said scholars in the past and contemporary time agree that urban renewal is deliberate efforts to change mode of living to the new needs, adding that urban renewal in its broadest meaning is a process by which old, outdated structures and environments or areas designed as slums or blight or squalor are altered and replaced.
Omole, who said that urban decay is not only in developing countries of the world, commended efforts made in the past by the Nigerian government in addressing the menace but faulted the implementation. He said “the experience of urban renewal cuts across many states in Nigeria which raises one’s curiosity. Findings revealed that old age buildings, poor construction materials, poor maintenance, low income of residents, neglect of the area by successive government among others were responsible for the derelict building and shabby appearance.”
To embark on urban renewal, Professor Omole citing other scholars in the built industry said the location of the property to be renewed; the amount of loss that may occur during reconstruction/renovation/rehabilitation; the inconveniences during the project; government policy; general value of property in the area among others are critical.
Professor Omole, a Registered Town Planner and Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners who has also served in various committees of the university, called on state governments to develop a database that can be georeferenced and internet enabled. He said this will market the states and their different products and services and attract industrial investors and people who want to buy such products in large quantities.
The Vice Chancellor, Professor Adenike Oladiji, who chaired the occasion, commended the excellent delivery by the lecturer. She said the lecture has come at a right time to further educate government and professionals in the relevant areas of regional planning to wake up to their responsibilities on how to make life easy for the masses through providing conducive environment.