NITP President Bemoans Dearth Of Town Planners In Building Industry

ABEOKUTA – The National President of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Nathaniel Muhammadu Atebije, has lamented severe shortage of town planning professionals in the building sector.

Atebije describing town planning as a social responsibility of the government, saying it is essential for the nation’s progress.

He lamented the lack of strategic planning under the current political administration, contrasting it with the more structured approach of previous military regimes.

He spoke at the 2024 Town Hall Meeting themed “Creating the Livable Environment We Need through Collaboration and Community Participation.”

Atebije emphasized the critical role of town planners in achieving sustainable development.

He said acting without planning hampers development.

He warned about the consequences of investing without proper planning, comparing it to going to the market without a budget.

“One of the significant challenges we face is the lack of professionals,” Atebije stated.

“We don’t have enough town planners, engineers, surveyors, quantity surveyors, or builders. In developed countries, the ratio of town planners to the population is one to three thousand. In Nigeria, it’s one to 70,000 people.

“With all due respect to the political administration, during the military regime, we saw a lot of planning, but, political administration tends to act.

“This is the problem we are facing in Nigeria. We want to develop, but we are not planning for it. When (former Head of state, Shehu) Shagari was in power, he aimed to build houses across the country, but most of them remained uninhabited because there was no plan.”

Atebije criticized the current government’s development efforts, stating that they appear to be failing due to a lack of attention to physical planning.

“Development activities seem like failures because they didn’t prioritise physical planning.

“Professionals, especially town planners, need to be utilised effectively to determine the needs of the population and build accordingly.”

He called for a collaborative approach involving not just town planners but also other professionals to address Nigeria’s planning needs.

“Professionals in business and other fields should come together to create a comprehensive development plan.

“Without proper planning, we create environments prone to health hazards like malaria and cholera, and problems like flooding due to poor drainage systems.”

Atebije continued “We need environments where we can enjoy fresh air, easily access our neighbours, and have good communication systems. A lack of planning leads to unhealthy living conditions and failed development projects.”

The 2024 Town Hall Meeting held in Abeokuta served as a platform for discussing critical issues, aiming to foster collaboration and community participation in creating sustainable and livable environments in Nigeria.

Chairman, Ogun State chapter of the NITP, Adefela Shogbesan, said the programme was held in an effort to bridge the gap between town planners and the public.

Shogbesan said the Town Hall meeting was part of the three-day programme aimed at fostering better understanding and cooperation between various stakeholders and town planning professionals.

He added that the meeting, part of the Mandatory Continuing Professional Development Program (MCPDP), brought together diverse groups, including religious organizations, artisans, professional bodies, and government representatives.

According to him, the primary objective was to discuss critical issues and to gather feedback on the activities of town planners.

He said “we’ve been here since morning for the town hall meeting, which is the beginning of a true two-day programme that we have,” Shogbesan said.

“This meeting is crucial for us to understand the feelings of different stakeholders.

“That’s why we invited almost every group, including religious groups, artisans, professional groups, and even some government officials.”

“One of the key issues highlighted was the public’s misconception about the role of town planners.”

Shogbesan acknowledged that while some enlightened individuals understand the importance of town planners, many still view them negatively, often associating them with demolition and destruction.

“I will say yes and no. Yes, in the sense that some people who are enlightened are forced to engage town planners because they have no choice. But the larger percentage of the populace has a different mindset.

“They see us as demolishers, but what we actually do is bring order to the living environment,” he explained.

Shogbesan expressed gratitude for the positive reactions from the artisan groups, noting that the session successfully opened their eyes to the vital role town planners play.

“Our method of sensitising the public involves organizing town hall meetings like this, even at the national level.

“Our President has been active on national television, raising awareness about our profession.

“We believe this effort, coupled with the support of journalists, will help amplify our message and change public perception,” Shogbesan stated.

The chairman also emphasized the importance of government involvement in town planning, asserting that the government is the custodian of professional standards.

He stressed that while the government employs professionals, there is a need for more proactive measures to keep pace with rapid development.

“The government should go ahead of the people in planning. Development often outpaces government efforts because people always want a roof over their heads.

“We are consulting with the government, advising them, and sending memos to ensure they stay ahead of development trends,” he added.

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