He has been described as the doyen of town planning, a familiar face on TV and newspapers when it comes to the issue of town planning in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja and indeed throughout thecountry. As ALHAJI SAKA OLAJIDE, who is a member of Town Planners Registration Council since 1990, marks his 70th birthday tomorrow, PAUL UWADIMA writes on some of his contributions to the practice of Urban and Regional Planning in Nigeria for over 40 years.
The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja is without doubt the only truly planned city in Nigeria. Most Nigerian towns and cities developed organically but Abuja was deliberately developed throughwell laid out plan, otherwise known as the Abuja Master Plan.
The Abuja Master Plan is the blueprint that guides town planners and policy makers on the processes of allocation of resources including the distribution of physical, social and economic infrastructure.One of the town planners who put to effective application the Master Plan of Abuja, is the former chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) Abuja and a Fellow of the Institute, Alhaji Saka Olajide, who turns 70 years old on Saturday, August 12, 2017.
The Kwara State born Town Planner knows the Abuja Master Plan like the backs of his hands. Little wonder he is the darling of the media, be it electronic or print when it comes to the issue of the Abuja Master Plan and its alleged distortions by politicians and elected officials.
This retired Director at the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) under the Ministry of the Federal Capital Territory (MFCT) is> among the few town planners who are not media shy and has made several media interventions on how the Federal Capital Territory, and indeed Nigerian Urban and Regional Centres can be made habitable for all
classes of Nigerians.
The Ahmadu Bello University trained town planner, who is also the Chairman/CEO of Fola Konsult Ltd, a firm of Urban and Regional Planners and Development Consultants, has continued to lend his wealthof knowledge and experience even after leaving civil service to take Abuja to the next level of development. He has lent his knowledge to several ministers of the Federal Capital Territory in their formulation of land use policies including the Land Swap Policy of the FCT Administration. He has also been appointed member of the FCT Land
Allocation Committee during the administrations of Dr Aliyu Modibbo Umar and Alhaji Adamu Aliero as Ministers of the Federal Capital Territory, respectively. The commit¬tee’s responsibility was amongothers to identify land available for possible allocation within the
territory, process requests and advise the FCT Minister.
It also advises the Minister on matters connected with the management of land,resettlement of persons affected by the revocation of Rights of Occupancy, as well as determine disputes as to the amount of compensation payable for improvement on land. The committee also ensures equity, transparency and due process in all land allocation in
the Federal Capital Territory.
At a point Olajide was like the lonely voice in the wilderness shouting himself hoarse that Nigerian government should review the Abuja Master Plan because it is long overdue. This is what he told LEADERSHIP recently on the review of the Abuja Master Plan, “The time
to review Abuja Master Plan has come. It is fully mature for review.
In fact by my own submission it is long over-due. As I said earlier,all the parameters used in the design of the Abuja Master Plan have been overtaken by events, both by the problem of finance, technical know-how, change in technology, and global space that has changed to
virtual space. The needs of the people have changed over the years.
Besides, when we did the plan, Abuja was a virgin land, now we have human beings living there in the past 25 years, so they should have input in the future development of the city, so that it can meet their needs and aspirations. Moreover there had been subsequent detailed designs carried out in the districts over the years.
But those detailed designs are still based on the same principles of the Master Plan. And if you see the trend of development all over the world, the private sector are getting more involved in development programmes instead of the government. Initially everything was based on government, but government can no longer fulfill that role today.”
He has also made intervention on the protracted problem of delay in allocation of land to applicants even as he harped on the importance of land swapping in addressing land allocation challenges in Abuja.
“It is not possible to allocate land to all Nigerians who need it in
Abuja. Initially government wanted to allocate land to Nigerians based
on state of origin, and through FCT Land Use and Allocation Committee.
The other factor is that they introduced other programmes into the FCT
called mass housing, through what they called land swap management.
All these kind of issues make Abuja lands a little bit specialised. It is no longer allocated just to anybody. You have to have the ability to pay for the land, because of infrastructural cost which governmentcan no longer provide. Because of that any individual that wants land
or wants to buy property can go through the estate developers underthe land swap programme because it is no longer feasible to give land to every Nigerian that applies for it.
It is not even practicable because government has not been able to collect enough revenue from individuals to provide necessary infrastructure on a continuous basisand that is why they have to involve the private sector to provide the infrastructure. And when the private sector provides the infrastructure they would give the houses to whoever can afford to
He also provided solution to housing shortage in the Federal Capital Territory. He suggested that the only way the infrastructural and housing deficits could be addressed is by partnership between the government and the private sector saying that the previous government’s Land Swap policy which was a partnership between the FCT Administration and private developers is the way to go if the infrastructural and housingdeficits are to be addressed in the interest of the country.
He therefore advised President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration notto discard the policy as it holds the key to accelerated developmentof the city. He advised rather that the land swap policy should be reviewed by the administration in such a way that it would be
beneficial to the investors, government and ordinary Nigerians living in Abuja.
Aside the FCT, Alhaji Olajide who started his town planning practice
in 1977 after obtaining his MSc Urban and Regional Planning from the
prestigious Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) has extended his
professional practice to many other towns in the country where he had
been commissioned by state governments to design Master Plans and
Urban Renewal Projects that have contributed to organized built
environment in Nigeria.
The Doyen of Town Planning who is also member Town Planners Registration Council since 1990, became a Fellow of NITP in August 1995. He is happily married with highly successful children. He is also a devote Muslim and Philanthropist who never shied away from helping the needy in the society. Tomorrow, family, friends, professional colleagues in the town planning profession and indeed the Built Environment professionals will gather at the Glam Hall Maitama, Abuja to celebrate his life as he marks his 70th birthday on Planet Earth.