THE FUTURE OF PLANNING PROFESSION IN NIGERIA
By Waheed A. Kadiri
This contribution is based on many assumptions, the most paramount of which being that since such contributions were made to earlier NITP at 25 and NITP at 30 publications it should not be difficult to project beyond 2006 and our 40th anniversary and see what the future holds. The other assumption is that globalization, with all its implications, is here and planning profession cannot be immune from it.
Be that as it may, this contribution is based on the fact that planning cannot thrive without being seen and driven as part of the “purpose and scope of state and government”. It should also be seen realistically as cutting across the boundaries between “those matters that properly lie in the sphere of government responsibility and those which are seen to either wholly or partly be the concern of non-public institutions and private individuals”. We can therefore conclude that planning will thrive better when there is collaboration between the private and public section of the nation. Unfortunately the non-acceptance of this fact had led to a situation where planning had been seen as not being successful or fulfilling peoples” expectation either as a profession or as a process. The tendency is to see planning (at least in this country) as being absolutely a government tool, which is used to determine the expectation of government and not that of the governed. This position had generated a lot of negative attitude from the populace towards planning. This attitude will get worse in the near future but fortunately it could lead to a rebirth of planning profession and process. Reaction to the existing situation will determine the future.
A future where, as had been agitated by me over the years. Planning and all development efforts shall have MAN as its main focus because development cannot be said to have been attained in any area/environment unless the individuals making up that area are positively impact upon. A future where development would not be related solely to some indices of physical attributes like length of roads, number of schools e.t.c without asking the question how much have we improved the living of the people or how much are their needs being met?
I am therefore seeing a future of planning profession in this country being determined by the people and enabled by government through the nation’s high urbanization rate and globalization. How will this be? We may ask.
Urbanization with its highly unprecedented rate had changed the face of our built environment and also our socio political attitude too. More people now live in more towns than in recent past. While the total number of people living in towns is growing the total number of towns is also increasing.
It is not likely that rate of urbanization in the country will decrease because of the tendency of all government actions and policies to be urban centered and the push of the rural areas from where” immigrants exchange misery without hope (rural living)…. For misery with hope (urban living)” (Adepoju. 1989)
It May be difficult to stem the high rate of urbanization in the foreseeable future if the continued neglect of the rural areas persists. It will be necessary to move away from seeing agricultural improvement as the panacea for rural development. When this is appreciated government will move away from seeing agricultural development as being the same as rural development. Moreover because urbanization and economic growth are well correlated although the causal relationship is hard to prove (Bairoch, 1988; Monkyr, 1995) not much interest is shown in stemming it.
Our recently found urge to attract foreign investments will have tremendous effect on the profession in the nearest future. For sure NITP; TOPREC and ATOPCON will be more alive to their responsibilities and challenge “imported planning solutions”. It is this challenge that will bring change in the way planning is being practiced both in the public and private sectors, Nigeria planners will have to meet and respond to international best practices. This may in the nearest future lead to a change in planning practice in the private sector. More consultancy outfits are likely to fuse to be able to handle bigger and more challenging projects. The alternative to this, which is very feasible, is for Nigeria planning firms to work in association with foreign groups as have been established in the advertising and public relation practices in Nigeria. The formation of consortia or partnership with foreign firms will lead to higher investment in information and communication technology tools. This is the only way to make multiple offices work as one and also enhance quick responses to client’s demands.
With this in place, the profession will be expected to deliver more than planning solution. Planning will be challenged in the areas of project management, facility management, marketing and project analysis. The need to meet these new demands will lead to the emergence of a new crop of planners who will train others in these new areas. Human resources development in the planning profession will become an attraction and area of concentration for few planners who can blaze the trail. It is obvious from all these that planning practice will have to change from being physical to being holistic. This will surely affect the demands, of the market or industry, from new entrants leading to a restructuring of the curriculum of the training institutions. The enhanced recognition of the NITP/TOPREC. Examinations will lead to the emergence of private training centers that would be more responsive to the emerging specializations. These centers will likely concentrate on capability improvement of qualified planners, giving mid-career training and/or reorientation in response to emerging demands.
More consultancy works will be advertised more openly in the spirit of due process and transparency. Planners will earn their commissions through capability and capacity more than hitherto. This will lead us into practice and persons becoming specialized in different areas of planning. The professions foresee a future of some planning consultancy firms being mainly research oriented and providing base data for others, in other words, there will be outsourcing by government agencies and private consultants.
To achieve planning led development for the citizen, the private and public-sector planners will have to cooperate more than they do now. There will definitely be cross-fertilization of ideas within the two sectors to enhance the products of their efforts. The futures foresee challenges of planning decisions by the people, as have been started by Victoria Island Ikoyi Residents Association (VIIRA). Planning will become more pro-poor in its approach to issue than before now. As was envisaged ten years ago “the success of planning lies in it’s collaborating with the people to find solutions to existing and anticipated problems rather than in dictating professional (technical) stands”.
The regulatory and professional bodies of the profession – TOPREC, NITP, ATOPCON will have to work together more closely to dictate the standard and enforce discipline amongst the practitioners private, public and academic, for any improvement or response to challenges to be sustainable.
Waheed A. Kadiri FNITP, RTP, MNIM, MCILT
Ashiru Olugbenga O. is a registered Town Planner with NITP & TOPREC and founder of Voice of a Town Planner - aimed towards projecting & advocating for the Town Planning Profession in Nigeria.