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WIEF Commends Obi Administration on City Plans Initiative
 - Makes Important Recommendations


Dr. Odili Ojukwu, Executive Director, WIEF Nigeria 


The Structure City Plans for Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi have been described by WIEF as "one of the best things that have happened to Anambra state since it was created on August 27, 1991". In a statement detailing its position and recommendations for vetting, amending and prepping the UN HABITAT Report before implementation, WIEF commended the Obi administration for "taking the crucial step to recognize the importance of planning and orderly development of Anambra state".

Continuing, the foundation's release expressed regret "that with the enormous skilled human capital in the state and Diaspora, Anambra State Government had to seek outside help to do need assessment to determine that the state is beset with serious rural and urban ills and massive development maladjustment; and to prepare the plan". The WIEF's position document on the UN HABITAT report is of the view that Anambra government would miss "a prime opportunity for a coordinated planning initiative that would build partnerships between the state, local and federal governments and the private sector" unless it is  carefully revised and amended in very crucial aspects.

"While WIEF believes that the preparation of the Structure Plans for major urban centers is a step in the right direction, we submit that the project missed a major opportunity for holistic approach to retract the disorganized and uncoordinated growth and development in Anambra State. There are several deficiencies in the plan and it is WIEF's position that if the plans are implemented based on its current format and structure, the effort would create a lot of confusion, discourage coordinated and integrated planning between state and local governments, neglect rural and sensitive areas in terms of development-environmental protection, neglect the need for transportation choices and development of effective and efficient transportation system; fail to recognize fishing and agriculture as major sectors of the economy, deemphasize professional local government governance and administration, transparency and accountability, and make flexibility extremely impossible. In practice, any city plan that has no room for flexibility and not grassroots-based cannot accomplish its goals", said the WIEF document on UN HABITAT city structure plans for Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi.

Commercial city of Onitsha is the epitome of planlessness in an urban setting.





Absence of a city plan results in urban chaos depicted in this photo of a major commercial area in Onitsha. Buildings on the right are used for both residential and commercial purposes. Traders display their goods even on  the street




In a quest to assist the Anambra state government in realizing the real benefit that planning can offer, the WIEF statement proffered specific suggestions which shall be very helpful in revising relevant aspects of the UN HABITAT Report with the goal to address crucial aspects that were either completely omitted or glossed over in the official city plan document. Suggestions made by the foundation's experts include:

  • Revise the plan and make it a Statewide Growth Management Plan to include major considerations for agriculture and fishing, reevaluation of solid waste management and environmental provisions, and framework for local government planning.
  • Mandate a comprehensive plan development by all the local governments. Each local government plan must be consistent with the minimum planning elements established by the state "Enabling Legislation". Integrated growth, orderly development and a quality sustainable livable environment rest not only on legislative reform but on grassroots approach to the planning process.

  • Reform the local government and professionalize the management of local council administrations. The legislation to reform planning and local government system should address challenging community problems and aspirations by giving local government greater local control over the planning and development process as well as governance. This is based on the belief that planning and the development of major urban centers and rural areas can best be accomplished by the people who live at the local level. All problem solving are best done locally.

  • Work to actualize development of Onitsha as a seaport. Collaborate with Delta state and other impacted parties in pursuit of the goal of developing Onitsha as a seaport.

  • Develop strategies to preserve designated "greenbelts" agricultural lands and geotechnical sensitive areas like marshlands, historic and cultural sites, wetlands, forests, wild life habitats, aquifer or groundwater recharge areas and river systems. These areas should be identified, mapped, and legislation enacted to protect them and establish the conditions under which development can occur in or close to these areas.

  • Establish a Conservation and Environmental Protection Trust Fund. The initial fund can be raised through a grant application to the federal government with matching money from the state. Thereafter, part of state end of year fund balance can be earmarked for the trust fund. About 1 or 2% of the state annual budget can be set aside annually for the trust fund. This funding mechanism should not be done through policy initiative or Executive Order; it must be created through legislative process and the legislation must be clear in terms of what the fund can be used for (i.e. acquisition of erosion-prone lands, environmental disaster compensation and public education/studies on environmental protection etc). The legislation must be statutory in mandating that no governor can use the funds for any other purpose other than for which it was created.

  • and many more ........

WIEF position is that urban slum "condition devalues human dignity" and therefore, the goal of Anambra state government ought not to be to upgrade urban squalor, as contained in the UN HABITAT Report, but instead the objective should be to redevelop the affected areas and to make them habitable. To accomplish this,"a dedicated local authority must be created to oversee the redevelopment efforts", stated the WIEF statement.







No professionally engineered landfill site exists in the entirety of Anambra state. Solid wastes from major urban centers of Onitsha, Awka and Nnewi are usually dumped in any available open spaces and often set ablaze as only disposal means available.

These refuse dumps burn year-round, even in the rainy season. Toxic smoke is continuously belched from a mixture of burning household and industrial waste and distributed over a wide area. Local residents inhale the polluted air. Rainfall washes the byproducts of these dump site fires downstream to nearby springs, streams, lakes and rivers which serve the populace as the main fresh water sources. Leachate from these dumps, which contain some cancer-causing agents and other toxins, soak into the soil and contaminate the groundwater from where potable water is obtained by many urban dwellers.






A view of refuse burning in outskirts of Nnewi

WIEF remarked that "the UN HABITAT report showed that Anambra State does not have adequate and qualified staff to implement the cities' structure plans and therefore, recommended that the state should hire an International Chief Technical Adviser to oversee the implementation process. WIEF advocates that Anambra State should hire Anambra professionals in the Diaspora with the training, education, skills, talents and experience to help the state implement the plan as well as to assist the local governments in developing capacity building and strength necessary to plan accordingly and implement the plans well. It makes little sense, if at all, for Anambra state to hire foreign experts where there are many capable indigenes with the needed expertise and experience".

The foundation's review document "is confident that the structure plan, WIEF recommendations and proposed reforms would not only lay the foundation for innovation in the planning process in Anambra State, but they would also help the state, local governments and town unions to achieve many of the environmental, socioeconomic and community development goals of Ndi Anambra".





The crucial natural drainage corridor, Otumoye Creek, has been turned into the most celebrated solid waste dump in Onitsha metropolis. Storm water carries this refuse into the River Niger on continuous basis.



This tributary of the River Niger is choked up by illegally dumped solid waste




The statement reaffirms, in conclusion, that "it is WIEF's mission to collaborate closely with the government and civil society in building a safe, clean and healthy living space for all citizens of Anambra state and elsewhere throughout the foundation's primary target area".

Random quarrying, as shown in picture, engenders widespread soil erosion and gully formation downstream 





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