By ISAAC OLUSESI
IN Nigeria, Mallam Kabir Yari, the United Nations (UN) Habitat Programme Manager has not missed the point, asking for legal backing for the State of Osun Structure Plans programme to ensure effective implementation. He reasoned that the legal teeth will profusely help the state and local governments as well as other stakeholders in the physical planning sector harness the requisite resources.
True, the legislation will enable the government invoke its power of eminent domain and condemnation to handle the problem of urbanization in future and its accompanying effects of indiscriminate waste disposal, unplanned development, urban sprawl, slums and inadequate infrastructural facilities. The land use policy and legislative reforms contained in the structure plans will assist the state to realize sustainable economic development, social growth and healthy living among Osun residents, according to the governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
Both the governor and the UN chieftain spoke recently on the state’s Structure Plans in Osogbo, the state capital. The structure plans for Osun, packaged to span over twenty (20) years, is programmed to complement the state’s urban re-development initiative, aimed at making life in the state city centres profitable and enjoyable.
Comparatively, Mallam Yari noted that Osun is the only state in Nigeria that has incorporated nine (9) cities in a single project. The city centres, with glaring evidence of deterioration in waste disposal and infrastructural facilities, and characterized by air pollution from shanties and other impurities, are divided into three (3) clusters for the effective implementation of the structure plans, in collaboration with the UN Habitat Programme.
The unplanned development of the nine city centres that gave spur to Aregbesola’s Structure Plans for the state, had produced just a common effect- the drab, filthy, ugly, blighted, unsightly, and sufficiently unattractive city outlook. There were no good roads; no pedestrian walkways and no vehicle packing facilities; palaces, unenhanced in architecture; shopping malls, unattractive, and mass markets, spilling contents on the roads and causing vehicular congestion; blocks of classrooms in public schools, on the verge of collapse; health institutions, prostrate, and waterways un-channeled; houses, mostly dilapidated, and obstructive to the right of way; and such other indexes of obsolescent social and physical appearance.
Hear Aregbesola on assumption of office as governor, “Looking at our environment in Osun, there is little to be proud of. Filth abounds everywhere. It seems there is a consensus that everywhere is (and must be) a refuse dump. The abuses make our environment look uniform in ugliness, without pattern or rhythm. No people should be proud of this, and as a government, we are ashamed of it. We are therefore determined to put an end to it.’’
In other words, the Osun city centres had no structure plans, particularly in terms of beauty, dignity, candour and socio-economic benefits to the state. The lack of structure came about as a result of years of unguided and unguarded processes of urban growth that invariably made the cities evolve haphazardly, and entirely to wallow in abject under-development.
Empirically today, Aregbesola’s government has turned the dull and drab city centres in the state into areas of economic vitality and social cohesion. The cities have now been re-designed and improved in their physical, socio-economic and environmental outlook, and the slums cleared and replaced with better houses under public ownership.
And across the states, unplanned market stores, unplanned shopping malls, unplanned churches and unplanned mosques were demolished and gave way to free vehicular movements. In summation, public infrastructure and services like schools, roads, security, health centres, markets and transportation system in Osun city centres have been re-built, expanded and adapted, meeting the current and future needs of the state, improving the physical outlook of the city centres in the state, and solving the problem of deep concern to most of the people of the state by making the city centres attractive to investors and businesses for socio-economic growth and good living.
Good! The 20-year Osun Structure Plans programme has the capacity to expand the urban territory by eventually increasing the number of the city centres in the state. How? The urbanization objective of the programme will transform the highly de-populated city fringes into dense concentration of people, characterized by the expansion of population from the existing highly populated city centres and migration of people from other areas in a sub-urbanization process.
Specifically, as the implementation of the structure plans gets underway. the number of run-down areas of Osun will get reduced; the slums and blighted areas, get modernized; dilapidated public structures, get rehabilitated under government ownership; shanty areas, get cleared for expansion of public infrastructure; existing streets and roads, get widen and new ones, constructed with traffic furniture; parks, relaxation outlets and such open air facilities, get built; while community values, social networks, as well as buildings having cultural, historical and techno-architectural imports will get preserved.
The Osun Structure Plans programme, aimed at improving the quality of life and living in Osun, is a powerful tool for attracting investors and businesses for socio-economic growth of the state.
Olusesi writes from Osogbo