Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Lagos Model City Law Compounds Federal Secretariat Crisis

New Lagos Model City Law Compounds Federal Secretariat Crisis

May 11, 2009 (Daily Independent/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) -- A bill signed into law last week by Governor Raji Babatunde Fashola of Lagos providing for the establishment of the state's Model City Development Authority (MCDA) may have delivered the death knell for the planned transformation of the Federal Secretariat Complex in Ikoyi by private developers.

Upon the movement of the federal seat of power to Abuja some decades ago, the authorities increasingly found limited uses for the sprawling blocks of offices, which finally ran down in terms of quality of facilities. In the bid to address the development, federal officials disposed the property to investors, who resorted to transforming the office spaces to residential apartments for onward sale to needy Nigerians at home as well as those in the Diaspora.

But the proposal met a brick wall as the original landowners as well as state officials kicked against the property's sale and planned change of status from institutional to residential use.

While the landowners claimed that the land upon which the property is built was surrendered decades ago on the basis of its use for overriding public interest and should rightly revert to them if such use was no longer for the public, state officials argue that federal officials and the owners of the property must to go through a certain planning and development process before the intended transformation can even be considered for approval.

But the provisions of the MCDA Law look to have closed the chapter in that regard, even though the dispute (which erupted years before the emergence of the law) is presently being argued out in a court of law.

Essentially, Section 14 of the law states, "Government institutional offices, within a model city area shall continue to be used for the public purpose for which the offices were developed and no alteration of use shall be allowed." The Federal Secretariat in Ikoyi automatically falls under the Ikoyi-Victoria Island Model City, one of the nine model cities planned for the state under fresh moves to, among other reasons, ensure better stakeholder participation in the development of their neighbourhoods.

Other areas designated as model cities are Ikeja, Lagos Mainland Central, Lagos Island, Alimosho, Apapa, Oshodi-Isolo, Agege-Ifako-Ijaiye and Kosofe. Plans for Ikoyi-VI and Ikeja Model Cities are already in place and in operation. Areas like Ikorodu, Lekki and Epe will however be covered by master plans.

The Ikoyi-VI Model City Plan that came into force some three years ago identified the Federal Secretariat as one of the numerous institutional use structures in the highbrow area, where in the past generous land allocations were made to accommodate federal institutions such as military establishments and the Police and other government bodies such as the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR), Federal Palace Hotel and the Nigeria Security and Minting Corporation.

The state Commissioner for Physical Planning, Mr. Francisco Bolaji Abosede, stated that the law is one of the four legislative planning instruments being put in place to ensure compliance with the Model City Plans that are emerging. Others are Model City Approval Order, Lagos State Building Regulations 2005, and Lagos State Physical Planning and Development Law of 2005.

Abosede, a town planner, added, "This law is not entirely new, as the provisions had already been made. It reviews existing town planning laws and creates an authority to administer model cities.

Other federal and state government bodies like the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) apply and get approval from us and the Federal Secretariat cannot be an exception. Developers of the 1004 Flats have gotten an approval and work is going on there. However, the governor recently gave an executive order that there would henceforth be no change of use. Even if there was one, a process has to be followed." Furthermore, the law has specified stern disciplinary measures for those whose ways appear to be at variance with the authorities', with incarceration, heavy fines or building demolition as reward for such effrontery.

For instance, the law states that any owner, occupier or developer who embarks on a construction, development, alteration or modification of any property in violation or contrary to the Model City plan without obtaining the necessary approval commits an offence and shall be liable to a two-year imprisonment or a N1 million fine, or both.

Similarly, any property for which an offence has been committed shall be liable to be demolished after the necessary statutory notices under the provisions of the Urban & Regional Planning and Development Law have been served on the owner/occupier or developer..

The legislation stresses that members of the new MCDA shall comprise a chairman, general manager, two representatives of the organised private sector (OPS) operating in the state as well as a representative of the ministries of Physical Planning & Urban Development, Works & Infrastructure, Justice and Local Government & Chieftaincy Affairs The further specifies that each Model City Development Area shall have a Model City Area Committee (MCAC) responsible for monitoring and reporting non-compliance with the provisions of a development plan. The MCAC is the operating arm of the MCDA and shall be responsible to it (the MCDA).

The governor, upon Abosede's recommendation, shall appoint members of both bodies.

Members of the MCAC shall comprise the chairman, executive secretary, representative of the affected local government(s), Community Development Committee (CDC) chairman, CDC secretary, two representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), District Officer in each Local Planning Authority (LPA) and a representative each from the Nigerian Institute of Architects (NIA), Nigerian Institute of Builders (NIOB), Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors & Valuers (NIESV), Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (NIQS), Nigerian Institution of Surveyors (NIS) and Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP).

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