ATOPCON President, Olaide Adeyemi Afolabi

 Amid the shocking fact that cities in West Africa sub-region will host an additional 69 million urban populations during the 2020/30 decades, one of the major headaches city managers may have is lack of adequate parking spaces for city dwellers.
The Guardian’s investigation has revealed that a comprehensive new policy strategies are needed to turn around cities urbanisation to contend with projections by United Nations Urban Settlement Programme (UNHABITAT) that West African cities will still have to accommodate an additional 79 million until 2950, and another 84 million between 2040 and 2060.

Major cities in Nigeria such as Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kaduna, which were once the cynosure of commercial activities in Nigeria, daily pose greater parking problems and traffic management issues that lead to time delays and traffic congestion due to inadequate parking space and poor parking design standards.

Specifically, most new developments such as hotels, event centres, eateries, churches, shopping malls, corporate offices, multi-storey residential and commercial outlets, expected to toe the line of land use development and planning regulations have all run foul of the law, with town planning officials ‘unofficially’ backing such illegality.Town planners have laid the blame on the doorsteps of planning permit authorities and Ministry of Physical Planning for their failure to monitor and enforce the law.

The town planning regulation is clear on the provision of parking spaces in any development. For instance, in Lagos, the law stipulates a car park per 60 square metres in a commercial building, while a residential   building requires a minimum of two car parks for a unit or flat. Developers of place of worship are required under the law to provide a car park per 10 square metres or one car park for every 10 worshippers.  Eateries and such outlets are also required to provide a car park for 35 square metres.

“When the structures are designed, provisions are made but after the issuance of planning permit, the developers deviate. It appears developers are finding it difficult to meet the requirement because of the need to maximise the use of their land and high number of vehicle ownership/usage, “ according to Moses Ogunleye, the immediate past president, Association of Town Planning Consultants of Nigeria (ATOPCON).

He said the big challenge in parking is non-adherence to the parking requirements of the State by developers or property owners.  Only very few developers of shopping centres, banks, hotels and schools comply to the town planning authority requirements on parking.

For Ogunleye, “the problem with parking, particularly in public and semi-public places in Lagos is typical of the expected scenario in most cities of the world. That of Lagos has become most astonishing because of the high dependence of computers on cars to fulfil their travel needs. The unorganised pattern of public transport in Lagos brought about another dimension. The city also has very limited park and pay facilities.”

He said: “There should be conscious effort to create parking facilities. Let our roads particularly the arterial or major ones be designed to have dedicated parking lanes. Let us have more public car park where people can park and pay. This has eased the problem in Marina and part of the Central Business District in Alausa Ikeja.”Another town planner, and ATOPCON President, Olaide Adeyemi Afolabi, collaborated Ogunleye views, the major reasons why we have buildings without adequate parking space in most Nigerian cities like Lagos is because citizens have failed to adhere to the urban and regional planning laws and regulation, thereby contravening what is provided in the law.

Afolabi, who is also a Fellow Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, said there are master plans and model city plans for different areas; the approval order within these plans guide the direction and mode of development within the areas.

According to him, planning is centred on the law. “These laws provide the framework with which we practice. When a law is passed, the public is well enlightened and enforcement of the law is carried out, that law would thrive. “On the other hand, if there is no proper enforcement of a law, the law would never achieve the purpose for which it was enacted.  Planning laws in Nigeria have played their roles and will keep keeping playing those roles if the enforcement agencies and departments will live up to the onus placed on them for better enforcement,” Afolabi said.

He called for the review of some sections of the urban and regional planning laws.  “These changes have to be incorporated so as to meet the planning needs of the people and also be at par with contemporary developments in planning.

For instance, the Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Decree No 88 of 1992 and respective States urban and regional planning and development laws as domesticated are quite explicit on space standards, parking spaces, greenery and setbacks for different land uses and heights of building.

The major reasons why we have buildings without adequate parking space in most Nigerian cities like Lagos is because citizens has failed to adhere to the urban and regional planning laws and regulation thereby contravening the provisions in the law.

But an associate professor Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Lagos, Dr Taibat Lawanson, saw it as more of building code than town planning law.

According to her, while, it is regrettable that many people do not adhere to these codes, the onus lies on each state government to ensure compliance of their codes.

Reacting to the development, Permanent Secretary in the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban development, Mrs. Boladele Aderemi Dapo- Thomas, said permits are given to developers according to zones and units.According to her, there is no blanket requirement for all, as each zone and unit are considered separately.

She however said that the Ministry normally conducts traffic impact assessment in collaboration with the State’s Traffic Management Authority LASTMA and the Ministry of Transportation to determine effects of projects on traffic before issuing permits to developers.

According to her, many of the buildings in the state have parking spaces, especially the multi-level buildings, which have car parks on their base line.

A director in state’s ministry of physical planning and urban development told The Guardian the government is poised to ensure that defaulters comply with the relevant provisions of the law.

He stressed that the ministry is drafting engineers in some of the structures in order to find technical solutions to the challenges.He however stressed that no new structures will be allowed without complying with the regulations.On why the ministry was not monitoring compliance in the past, he said with the rate of development in Lagos, it was difficult to monitor all in the past but that the ministry has  developed a new strategy to ensure compliance of its laws.

He also said the state has contracted some people under franchise to run private parks in order to accommodate companies and buildings without car parks.

• The Guardian