Urban Renewal and Environmental Development in Kogi State, by Abu Michael

On assumption of office as Governor, Capt Idris Wada adopted four cardinal development priorities as a platform for achieving transformation agenda objectives of his administration.

This priorities were Education, Agriculture, Health, Social Infrastructure and improvement of the environment through urban development.

Kogi Deputy Governor Yomi Awoniyi and Governor Idris Wada
Kogi Deputy Governor Yomi Awoniyi and Governor Idris Wada

Urban planning is a technical and political process concerned with the use of land and design of the urban environment, including transportation networks, to guide and ensure the orderly development of settlements and communities.

It also concerns itself with research and analysis, strategic thinking, architecture, urban design, public consultation, policy recommendations, implementation and management.

Within the last eighteen months, a sustained efforts has been made aimed at urban development as well as improving the long-term social and ecological health of cities and towns in Kogi State.
The place of Lokoja, the Kogi State Capital in Nigeria’s history cannot be under emphasized. It is a state where urban development ought to take the centre stage in terms of priority.

After all, Portharcourt, Calabar,Kaduna and Lagos just to mention but a few are cities that have some important history like Lokoja. Their pattern of development and urbanisation when compared to lokoja no doubt leaves one wondering why Lokoja still lags behind in development planning.
But the partnership between Kogi State Government and UN-Habitat that was recently strengthened with the signing of USD 1.3 million an agreement of cooperation geared towards focusing on structural plan and urban renewal scheme is a commendable development.

The agreement was signed by Prof. Oyebanji Oyeyinka on behalf of UN-Habitat and the Deputy Governor of Kogi State, Mr. Yomi Awoniyi for the Kogi State Government.

The agreement follows the Memorandum of Understanding signed in August 2013 between Kogi State and UN-Habitat. Specifically, the funds provided will be used to support the following structural and urban plan for Kogi State: Develop City Structure Plans for selected cities that draws on and strengthens the state’s on-going successful urban renewal progarmme; develop Urban Legislation and Urban Laws Programme, a collection of policies, laws, and practices that govern the management and development of the urban environment and citizens’ behavior.

Under the agreement, the UN agency will also establish the Kogi State Urban Observatory (a unique monitoring system developed by UN-Habitat) that builds indicator systems through data collection, analysis, monitoring and reporting on sustainable urbanization; developing an Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan, a holistic, strategic and systematic approach to solid waste management based on the Waste Management Hierarchy Model: Avoid, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover and Dispose.

As part of the agreement too, an Early Warning System for Climate-related extreme events such as floods and droughts will also be developed. A prototype in the form of a guidance tool that provides guidance on managing extreme events from the back end (data collection sources) to the front end (delivery of warnings to vulnerable people); while a construct model Public Spaces that focuses on bridging the urban divide and promoting socio-economic inclusiveness is to be provided.
The partnership will also address social inclusion, improved integration, mobility and connectivity, better basic service delivery. This fourth project will be partly supported by UN-Habitat.

The signing of the state government and UN-Habitat agreement considered the fastest ever by the UN agency once again shows the strong commitment of the Capt Idris Wada’s administration in delivering the promises made to its people in the area of urban renewal.
Weeks ago,the State Governor also signed into law the bill establishing the Kogi State Sanitation and Waste Management Board.

The State Town Planning and Development Board, Ministy’s of Land and Physical Development,that of Environment, Housing and Transport have under the present administration also being empowered towards achieving contemporary urban renewal and development.
The agreement entered into by the State Government and the UN-Habitat is no doubt a major event for the state as the effort marks a major paradigm shift in the way cities and towns will be planned and operated.

Kogi State was one of the State that was worst affected by last year’s flood. The devastation done to the State in 2012 remains unimaginable as it left an indelible scar in the lives of the people despite government efforts and huge intervention.
Proper urban planning is therefore seen as the most sustainable solution to the state flooding challenge.

Building on water ways,water channels. flood plains and without government plan approval amongst others constitute some major impediments to urbanisation in the state.

The Capt. Idris Wada’s new partnership initiatives at environmental planning with the UN-Habitat is therefore seen as the process of facilitating decision making to carry out development with due consideration given to the natural environment, social, political, economic and governance factors as well as provide a holistic frame work to achieve sustainable outcomes.

An important dimension of Kogi State demographic change as a result of the agreement is therefore rapid urbanisation.
And one of the notable aspect of urbanisation the State lacks is that it has not been accompanied by improvements in basic living standards. Unlike in some of the other regions, Kogi’s urbanisation is driven by the “push” factors of environmental overload and degradation, resource scarcity and conflict in rural areas, rather than “pull” factors that result from economic opportunities in the cities.

Kogi State with Lokoja its Capital is rated as one of the fastest growing cities in the world. The state has however experienced little or no industrial growth to support this rapid growth of cities, and many of its urban towns are imploding due to non existing or infrastructure overload. The State’s urbanisation thus runs counter to the general theory that urbanisation provides greater access to jobs, basic services, and social safety nets.

As Kogi State become more concerned with urbanisation, environmental planning geared towards developing well structured cities in the state has become increasingly critical. The ultimate goal of this environmental planning and urbanization will therefore determine how environmentalism affects the designs of cities in towns.

With the present agreement, urban planning now in the state is strictly going to focus on how communities can achieve sustainable development and use resources in a way that is good for the ecosystem and the general population.