Most countries particularly the developing ones like Nigeria are faced with the enormous challenges of urban planning problems which in turn affects the economic development. Urban growth for instance has a number of impacts on the environment and human well-being. Apart from the few impacts, almost all major cities of the country are increasingly plagued by environmental problems. In other words, there is a great threat to health and safety in most Nigerian cities (Egunjobi, 2000 and Kessides, 2006) courtesy of unguided urbanization and ineffective planning (Mabogunje, 2001; Ogunsanya, 2002 and Egunjobi, 2000). There are several schools of thoughts and insights into the causal factors, and government's attempts tame towards alleviating the situation. One of such factors is overlapping of professional practices that greatly affect the functionality of our environment and the society at large. For Instance, in Nigeria, overlapping of professional practice per-se is not the only factor affecting effective functionality of the society.
The paper argued that, much as professional overlaps might be an issue in most developing countries, lack of adequate focus on planning as a profession, and the actions of quacks have contributed significantly to the worsening urban problems. Specifically, this paper espouses on professionalism, and highlights the responsibilities of planning to different segments of the society as it emphasises the need for proficiency among planners through continuous training and re-training programmes, such as seminars, workshops and refreshers courses.It suffices to ask the question as to who is a professional Urban and Regional Planner? What are their responsibilities to sustainable livelihoods and development of a nation? The underlying motivations of this paper relates to the dynamic nature of professionalism as a concept, and the essence of competent practitioners in our society. This is more pertinent as technological revolution is impacting on diverse facets of human endeavour. In addition, geographical zoning has tended to vary the practice of Urban and Regional Planning from nation to nation.
Based on this premise, this paper attempts to contribute to growing academic literatures by discussing who a professional Urban and Regional Planner is in the Nigerian context.
Professional Urban and Regional Planner
Professionalism is an inclusive term covering a variety of activities in different field of study. Oni, (2007), buttressed this point by emphasising the fact that professional activity would encompass a particular level of systematic knowledge and proficiency. Thus, planning education is a systematic process aimed at developing knowledge, skills, and other capabilities within individuals. It includes training and re-training exercise in an institution of higher learning approved by the Ministry of Education and the Town Planners Registration Council of Nigeria (TOPREC). Precisely, a professional Town Planner is identified here as a person who has gained mastery or proficiency in planning and related fields of knowledge and skills; and can effectively help local officials to alleviate social, economic, and environmental problems through delineation for roads paths, schools location and other infrastructure designation; and suggesting zoning regulations for private properties within a locality. The Nigerian Institute of Town Planners views a professional Town Planner as a person who possesses any of the following academic/professional qualifications:(i) A degree in Urban and Regional Planning/Town Planning;(ii)A Professional Diploma in Urban and Regional Planning/Town Planning;(iii)A pass in the final stage of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners/Town Planners Registration Council Examination;(iv)Attainment of 2 years post qualification supervised experience.It should be noted that, courses leading to the award of the specified qualification (i) and (ii) above must be from any institution recognised and accredited by the Town Planners Registration Council (TOPREC) (NITP, 1991).It can be deduced from the above that, a Master's Degree from an accredited planning institution provides the best training for a wide range of planning positions.
However, various degrees in urban and regional planning from notable institutions aims to provide planners with ;
(i) A broad understanding of the forces and processes shaping cities, regions and built and natural environment;
(ii)To keep a breast with the physical, economic, social and environmental factors that strongly influence the practice of the profession;
(iii)The knowledge and confidence to question and, where necessary to challenge current planning wisdom, and the creativity to develop alternative planning proposals and;
(iv)To engender in planners the respect and commitment necessary to make effective community consultation and interdisciplinary collaboration crucial to planning practice.
Above all, professional Planners must be able to think in terms of spatial relationships and visualize the effects of their plans and designs. They should also be flexible to reconcile different view points and make constructive policy recommendations. Professional Planners should however be able to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing, as this is necessary and can never be divulge from individuals that are interested in the Urban and Regional Planning profession.Agbola et al (2004) perceived planning as a purposeful action. In other words, it involves taking decisions or making appropriate arrangements before hand to influence the course of action on a particularly developmental need. They went further to explain that, planning consists of making suitable choices among several options which appear open for the future and then advice the concern government on how to deploy necessary resources to implement the adopted alternative. This definition, which is one among several views (Oyesiku, 1998; Adeniji, Egunjobi, 2001) of purposeful planning, show or view planning as;
(i) General approach to decision making;
(ii) A future oriented exercise;
(iii)An activity with many alternatives;
(iv)The choice of one alternative among several others, depending on facts based on past experience, present situation, the anticipated future and the resources (human and materials) available at that point in time and/or expected to be available at the time of implementation (Agbola et al, 2004 and Agbola, 2007).
It is worth mentioning that, the professional Town Planner's primary responsibility is to serve the public interest. However, the definition of the public interest is formulated through continuous debates; a planner owes allegiance to a conscientiously attained concept of the public interest, which requires special obligations. In actual fact, public interest refers to the common good of society at large. It also entails the "common well-being" or general "welfare". Accordingly, public interest is central to policy debates and professional practice. Thus professional planners have valuable responsibilities to the public, clients and employers, to the professional and colleagues and planner's self-responsibility. For effective practice, planners requires the use of theories and techniques of planning (Agola, 2001 and Ayeni, 1998) that informs and structures debate, facilitate communication and foster understanding. Interestingly, professional Planners are expected to:
(i)Practice in a manner that respects the diversity needs, values and aspirations of the public and encourages discussion on these matters;
(ii) Provide full, clear and accurate information on planning matters to decision makers and members of the public;
(iii) Acknowledge the inter-related nature of planning decisions and their consequences for individuals, the natural and built environment, and the broader public interest; and
(iv) Identify and promote opportunities for meaningful participation in the planning process to all interested parties.Apart from the stated responsibilities of professional planners to the public, the vitality and credibility of the planning profession and of the institute are reflective of the quality of the membership. To further the profession, members will be expected to attain and maintain a high standard of professional competence and conduct, which extends to their relationship with other members.They are also expected to encourage healthy and constructive criticism about theory and practice of planning among colleagues and share the results of experience and research output that contribute to the evolving body of planning knowledge.Moreso, maintenance of appropriate awareness of contemporary planning philosophy, theory, and practice by seeking and receiving professional education throughout a planning career. Much discussion in developing countries particularly Nigeria today surrounds the relationship between that section of the society concerned with the development of long- and short-term plans for the use of land and the growth and revitalization of urban, sub-urban and rural communities and the region in which they are located and the world of work.
The discussion has tried to focus on such issues as; the increase in building collapse in cities; rapid urbanization and population growth that create a big challenge for state and municipal governments in terms of infrastructure and services provision.The scale and complexity of the above mentioned facts are intensifying in Nigeria. Building collapse, traffic congestion and accidents, unemployment, urban violence and crime and a host of others are recognised problems in Nigerian cities. They however have dramatic impact on social fabric of cities, threaten the reform process and erode the ability of the poor to build assets and participate in urban development. They also create stigmatised neighbourhoods and causes loss of investment, as well as uncontrollable spontaneous reactions such as gang and mob justice. Government at all levels alone cannot tackle these challenges. In other words professional planners and other cognate discipline have key roles to play towards achieving a sustainable development. In order to remedy the situation, professional Planners and policy makers in Nigeria have been confronted with the need to provide appropriate manpower that will facilitate economic and social progress.To meet these challenging responsibilities, aspiring professional Planners must achieve competence in a broad range of fields. In fact, it has been argued that the foremost ethical requirement of professionals is to practice competently (Hepworth, et al; 1986). The logic behind this assertion is persuasive because much is at stake for consumers of professional planners services. It is therefore important to divulge the "quacks" planners from the competent and professional planners. The term competent can simply be viewed as "fitting, suitable for the purpose; adequate; properly qualified; having legal capacity and qualifications (Oxford Dictionary, 2000). To assess professional competency in practice encompasses knowledge, values, skills, and attitudes essential to fulfil one's professional role skilfully (Hepworth, et al; 1986). It should be impressed that, a professional Planner may thus be competent in providing certain types of services or performing certain responsibilities or functions, and not in others. The elements of competent practice put in another sense in various professional fields are in a constant state of flux as a result of expanding knowledge, emerging skills, and changing demands of practice. Thus, competency must be viewed within a temporal context, based on the fact that, a professional planner may achieve competence at one point in time only to suffer steady erosion of that competence by failing to keep abreast of over-expanding planning knowledge and skills.Interestingly, urban and regional planners focus on one or more areas of specialization. Among the most common are community development and redevelopment and land-use or code enforcement. While planners may specialise in areas such as transportation planning or urban design, they are also required to keep the bigger picture in mind, and do what's best for the community as a whole. To make judicious choices and to implement chosen interventions skilfully requires extensive knowledge of numerous practice theories and techniques and a rigorous approach to selecting those that are most appropriate for a given client. Systematic eclecticism, as advocated by Beutler (1983), Fisher (1978); Siporin; (1979) and Thorne (1973), is such a rigorous approach to practice. Simply, a systematic eclectic practitioner adheres exclusively to no single theory but rather selects models and theories that best match a given problem situation and accords highest priority to techniques that have been empirically demonstrated to be effective and efficient. Systematic eclecticism is thus most demanding, requiring the planners to keep abreast of emerging theories and research findings.
Above all, this approach to professional practice holds the highest promise of being efficacious with a broad range of clients and problems. It can therefore be rightly affirmed that, knowledge is a perishable commodity and becomes obsolete with the passage of time. Thus, it has to be re-affirmed, re-learnt, re-practiced at all times. Skill renewal through continuous formal training is therefore, inevitable. In response to the dynamics and increasing complexities of the political, economic, social and technological environment in which planning is done or practice, the need to keep professionals abreast of development has come to the fore.
Contributing to Sustainable Development
Sustainable development has become a catchword for discussion and action because it seems to capture widespread feelings that the state of the earth is precarious (Mannion, 1991). On one hand, we see around us evidence of progressive deforestation, growing volumes of waste, landuse mix used and incessant traffic externalities that we are unprepared to handle. The concept is commonly understood through the definition introduced by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in its report "Our Common Future" (1987). According to the report, achieving sustainable development requires economic and social justices focusing, in particular, on the fulfilment of the needs of the poor. The concept of sustainable development has been an integral part of international development discourse for over two decades. It has been linked to contemporary discourses on urban development particularly after the Habitat II Conference in Istanbul (1996). In this paper the inquiry about the concept's founding discourse focuses particularly on the sustainable development concept as defined by the World Commission of Environment and Development (WCED); known also as the Brundtland Commission). The ambiguity or contested nature of the concept (Barraclough, 2001) were not the focus of this section, instead, the focus is on the analysis of the social content of sustainable development and the ways to involve professional planners to operationalised it.
The concept of sustainable development according to Sumalee, et al; (2008) has gradually become a focus of attention in urban planning in recent years. This can be attributed to wave of concerns over the intensifying urban problems in most cities. The Brundtland report defines sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The concept is generally constructed through the three dimensions introduced by Agenda 21 in Rio (1992): environmental, economic and social (and cultural) dimensions that target the preservation of the overall environment (Elliot, 1998; and Vurtimo, 1994). Meanwhile, the key driving force of traditional planning practice has mainly been limited to economics development without a full consideration of social and environmental aspects. As a result urban and regional planning outcomes have not being able to curtail the rearranging nature or trend of urban problems in most Nigerian cities. It has also been found that life style and urban development practice inmost developing countries, are not sufficiently sustainable (Kuvaja, 2007), Kessides, 2006). This implies that planning education was given the onerous responsibilities of not only producing professional planners, but also of ensuring that sustainable livelihoods of individuals remain intact. It also means that, every planner needs to contribute his quota to the development of the society. Thus the view about sustainable development as noted by Satterwaite, (1999b) is of great use to this paper. He exemplified the fact that sustainable development seeks to "meet human needs in settlements of all sizes without depleting environmental capital. This means seeking the institutional and regulatory framework in which democratic and accountable city and municipal authorities ensure that the needs of the people within their boundaries are addressed while minimizing and transferring of environment costs to other people and ecosystems or into the future".Here, sustainable development refers particularly to laws and policies implementing sustainable development while putting the processes of governance and city authorities into its centre (Hardoy, et al; 2007). It is however disheartening to note that despite the importance and frequent debates on the need for sustainable livelihoods in our society, Nigeria environment particularly the cities are still in state of disorderliness (Egunjobi, 1999; 2001). There has been a phenomenal growth of urbanization resulting in our major cities growing and expanding in an unplanned manner (Aluko, 2000). He stressed further that, the central parts or core areas of most Nigerian cities are decaying while sections are increasingly becoming slums. He also noted that, despite the existence of local planning authorities whose responsibilities include development control of urban land use, protecting ecologically sensitive regions, many buildings have been and are being constructed without approved layouts.Compounding and more disturbing fact or problem is the incessant collapse of buildings in notable Nigerian cities (Abuja, Lagos, Port-Harcourt and Ibadan). Collapse of buildings has been a recurring decimal that has led to the decimation of lives.
As this pathetic incidence happened, one of the questions on the lips of many Nigerians was; why was a building control measure not adopted to ensure that substandard building was discontinued at a stage? There was also question as to who approved the construction of the building and monitored its implementation in the first instance? These questions were often laid to rest, but in professional practice particularly Urban and Regional Planning, they are disturbing circumstances that need to be effectively addressed if the concept or aim of sustainable development is to be achieved. The town planners are supposed to be equipped with different tools and techniques of development control; yet a lot of accusations are still being made against urban planners. This often turns to abuses and insults. For instance, a one-time Governor of Oyo State, Alh. Lam Adesina (1999) states that "the state's Town Planners were planning nothing except disaster for the people. They have sacrificed their professionalism at the altar of money; all potential zones of disaster in Ibadan have been approved for building of houses and other structures..." These statements were made during a courtesy visit by the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) president and members to the governor. This exposure and open confrontation as noted by Aluko, (2000) reveals that those who know the planning law best and are supposed to be planning the environment are now the culprits. Thus, the accusers have turned the accused.In view of the above claims, it should be reiterated that professional planning education consists of three components: training, education and advancement of knowledge (Harris, 1983). In other words, it differs from other types of tertiary education, where the main goal may be education or the advancement of knowledge or a combination of the two, but where the level of direct training for a particular job is minimal. It should be mentioned that, planning is a genuine and distinct profession and have attained to itself a significant corpus of theory, knowledge, skill and technique. Though, parts of each of these aspects are shared with other professions and other more traditionally recognised disciplines, but the essence of urban planning is that it combines them into a coherent whole (Harris, 1983). It is this fact that makes planning singular. Moreover, it deals with issues affecting the whole of the physical, social and administrative environment. It is therefore holistic and integrative in nature, unavoidably ideologically-driven (Harris, 1983). It involves conflict resolution and is often influenced or directed by political forces. More importantly and being a public profession, planners must necessarily be accountable for their work. In other words, they must be technically skilled and procedurally rigorous. A professional planner can contribute towards sustainable development of our nation by addressing an array of problems associated with population growth, especially in poor or developing and rapidly expanding communities. For instance, new housing developments require roads, sewer systems, fire stations, schools, libraries and recreation facilities that must be planned for within budgetary constraints. It is worth mentioning that the fastest job growth for urban and regional planners will occur in the private sector (Agbola, 2004), primarily in the professional, scientific and technical services industries. Here, planners will be employed by firms to help design security measures that are effective but also subtle and able to blend with the surrounding area. Apart from this, planners promote the best use of a community's land and resources for residential, commercial, institutional and recreational purposes. They are also charged with the responsibility of addressing environmental, economic, and social health issues of our community as it grows and changes over time. They should be concerned with formulation of plans relating to the construction of new school, buildings public housing or other kinds of infrastructure. Planners may also help to make decisions about developing resources and protecting ecologically sensitive regions. They should be effectively involved in environmental issues including pollution control, wetland preservation, forest conservation, and the location of new landfills. They should also be involved in drafting legislation on environmental, social and economical issues, such as planning new parks, sheltering the homeless, or making the region more attractive to business activities.In addition to the aforementioned responsibilities which should be executed by a professional planners, he/ she is also expected to and particularly before preparing approach plans for community and individual property development, study and report on the current use of land for residential, business and community purposes. They should be interested to give information on the location and capacity of streets, highways, airports, water and sewer lines, schools, libraries, cultural and recreational sites. They need to provide data on the types and activities of industries in the community, the characteristics of the population, employment and economic trends of the country on the concerned areas.
Though this information, along with community involvement or input from citizens, planners try to optimise land use for different activities. They need to examine and inspect regularly features of land as well as building materials under consideration for development or regulation. This needs to be done, to ensure that these facilities will meet the needs of a growing or changing population. They should keep abreast of economic and legal issues involved in zoning codes, building codes, and environmental regulations and ensure that builders and developers follow these codes and regulations.
Recommendations for Future Professional Planners
Professional planners' future depends on the effective implementation of the facts showcased in the context of this paper. In other words, the most obvious lesson to be drawn from this overview centres on the ability of planners to make judicious choices and implement chosen interventions skilfully through an examination of extensive knowledge of numerous practice theories and techniques and a rigorous approach of adopting those that are most appropriate for a given client. The paper also emphasised that professional planners who do commit themselves to only one practice theory do a disservice to themselves and to many of their clients, for they limit their range of effectiveness by attempting to fit all clients and problems into their chosen model. Planners however, need to bear in mind that logic dictates that the opposite should be the case. Professional Planners should select interventions and techniques that best fit certain types of problems and clients.More importantly, planners need to be equipped with a number of technical tools which are becoming widely used as part of effective urban planning approaches.
Amongst others, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are gaining increasing importance as a tool for decision-making in planning. The essence of this is to link together different data sets and present them clearly and concisely in a variety of ways. Also, land market assessments provides accurate and up-to date information on land prices, supply of services land, present and future land projects, housing typologies, and other aspects of urban planning market, and thus is used to support government planning and decision making. Generally, professional planners should aggressively adopt the use of computers to record and analyse information and to prepare reports and recommendations for government executives and others. They need to focus on one or more areas of specialization. Among the common are community development and redevelopment, land use or code enforcement, housing and environmental planning and management and a host of others. Professional planners may also specialise in areas such as transportation planning and management or urban design, they are however required to keep the bigger picture in mind, and what's best for the profession and the community as a whole.It is pertinent to wrap-up this discourse by emphasising the fact that professional urban planner's future depends on the effective funding of urban regional planning programmes by the government at all levels (Federal, State and Local). It also requires training and re-training of planners along side with adequate motivation and incentives. Furthermore, development and re-development of appropriate urban and regional planning curriculum in our tertiary institutions is highly necessary. Above all, provision of good and contemporary planning education training for students with the availability of proper equipment and adequate facilities in our planning institutions needs to be enforced through the various bodies (TOPREC) responsible for monitoring of our planning institution.
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