Determined to engender a coordinated socio-economic and physical development in Edo State, the governor, Godwin Obaseki, has said that the new 30-year development plan will guide infrastructure delivery in the state to enhance the quality of life of residents.
Titled: “Edo State Development and Physical Plan”, reviewed recently by stakeholders in the built and allied industries, in Benin City, the state capital, the plan was conceived to put an end to the haphazard physical development in parts of the state and restore order in the built industry while better harnessing the gains of growing socio-economic activities.
Experts described the plan as timely amid a booming real estate sector driven largely by foreign remittances from the huge Edo Diaspora community, and the growing spend by residents on account of the series of Obaseki-led economic reforms that have broadened space for businesses in line with his development vision encapsulated in the Making Edo Great Again (MEGA) Manifesto.
Speaking at a recent workshop during the overview of the Edo State Development and Physical Plan, put together by the ministry of physical planning /urban development and the state ministry of budget and economic planning, Obaseki explained that the newly launched 30-year development plan is a comprehensive and all-encompassing document to drive sustainable socio-economic growth and development in the state over the next three decades.
Welcoming guests to the overview workshop, held in Government House, the governor “said the 30-year development plan is a very comprehensive and all-encompassing plan, which not only looks at our socio-economic development plans over the next 30 years but also deals with the physical development plans.
“It is a very unique process in planning where we bring all stakeholders that make up for development to work on the plan. What I also didn’t emphasize during the inauguration was the fact that this exercise of creating a plan for our state and our future is not an exercise to produce a document.
“It is a process which we had commenced to change the way we organise ourselves and do things in Edo. It is a process whereby all stakeholders are brought together and tools deployed to activate and animate the planning exercise.”
He added: “That process starts now and that is why we are here. It also involves consultants, academia, estate managers amongst others, as well as all those who are involved in the process of transforming economic and social planning in the state.”
On his expectations from the experts working on the implementation of the plan, Obaseki said: “What I expect this afternoon is that you, the experts, will help us look at an overview of what we are trying to do. Where do we want to be in the next 30 years within the context of Nigeria? We may not able to determine where Nigeria will be but we want to have a bit more certainty about where Nigeria will be, we want to have a bit more certainty about where Edo will be”.
Obaseki further projected a strong economic outlook for the state, on an irreversible nexus between physical planning and economic growth.
According to the project manager, Edo 2050, Dr. Francis Ntamu, the three main process phases in the development plan include; stakeholders consultations, communications and focus on risk management.
Isoken Omo, the commissioner for Physical Planning and urban development, in her notes on the exercise, said “the existing Benin City master plan which was prepared about three decades ago is no longer relevant in view of the changing socio-economic and geopolitical realities of the city in particular and Edo State in general.
“This has consequences on the infrastructure, quality of the environment and it has therefore become necessary to prepare new development plans which will guide future development decisions.
“The advantages to be derived when a new master plan and state regional development plan are prepared and put in place for use in the state are numerous, such as; secure and orderly arrangement of the environment to enhance its aesthetics and functionalities by making it a more conducive place for working, living, movement, recreation and carrying out of all commercial activities.
“Prevent haphazard developments and unplanned growth (chaotic sprawls); secure the health, safety and comfort of people and communities as well as ensure sustainable development; create spatial structure (distribution and hierarchy) of urban settlements which are centres of population, employments, public utilities and social infrastructure amongst others.”
Omo added “the intention of our engagements with all stakeholders is to make the designing process participatory and produce a living document that resonates with the populace to encourage buy-in, which will help in the implementation of the plan in the over thirty years period.”
Recall that Edo State, particularly Benin City, the capital, has always been referenced severally as one of the best planned cities in Nigeria, thanks to the visionary leadership of former political leaders of the state, such as the late Dr. Samuel Osaigbovo Ogbemudia, whose impactful leadership touched on virtually all aspects of the state, including a robust physical plan for the built industry in the state.
However, historians say that Dr. Ogbemudia also built on the age-old legacy of Edo people and their kings, who are celebrated for their ingenious skills, arts and culture.
This legacy of a coordinated society is under threat from the illegal activities of some developers, land grabbers and some government officials who collude with them to compromise standards.
According to physical planning experts; Ayo Olajuyigbe and Olukayode Rotowa, “Physical planning attempts to achieve an optimal spatial coordination of different human activities for the enhancement of quality of life.”
They added that physical planning involves the reconciliation of land uses, provision of the right site for the right use, control of development, provision of facilities, services and public goods, preservation, protection and conservation of resources, preservation of heritage among others.