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  The Lagos State government has recently said that about 80% of buildings in the Ibeju Lekki and Epe axes are unapproved constructions; lacking government approval. According to Dr Oluyinka Olumide, the state Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, large portions of land in these areas were being used for purposes other than has been mapped out by the government.
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Over the past few months, authorities in locations such as Lagos and the FCT have been criticized for a perceived high-handedness in their approach to what they say are illegal structures within their domains. There have been widespread demolitions, and more are scheduled for the coming weeks. In light of the losses and controversies generated by this situation, we’ve come up with suggestions about how the government can prevent building without approval in the first place. Here they are:

Strengthen Enforcement of Building Regulations

One of the primary reasons for unauthorized construction is the lack of enforcement of building regulations. The Nigerian government should invest in strengthening enforcement mechanisms by empowering relevant authorities, such as urban planning departments and building control agencies, to monitor construction activities rigorously. Regular inspections and strict penalties for non-compliance can serve as deterrents to illegal building practices.

Streamline the Approval Process

Lengthy and bureaucratic approval processes often discourage individuals from seeking proper permits for construction projects. To incentivize compliance, the government has to streamline the approval process, so that it’s more transparent, efficient, and accessible to the public. Simplifying documentation requirements, reducing processing times, and embracing digital platforms for permit applications can facilitate legal construction while reducing the prevalence of unauthorized structures.

Raise Awareness and Educate the Public

Many individuals engage in unauthorized construction due to a lack of awareness about building regulations and the importance of obtaining permits. There’s a dire need for awareness campaigns that educate citizens about the legal requirements for construction projects, the consequences of building without approval, and the benefits of adhering to urban planning guidelines. These campaigns may target both property developers and communities to inspire a culture of compliance and responsible construction practices.
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Improve Land Use Planning and Zoning Policies

Effective land use planning and zoning policies prevent haphazard development and unapproved constructions. The Nigerian government should review and update existing land use plans and zoning regulations to ensure they align with sustainable development goals and urban growth projections. Authorities can designate areas for specific types of development and restrict construction in environmentally sensitive or high-risk areas, thus minimizing the likelihood of unauthorized building activities.

Promote Community Participation and Collaboration

Engaging local communities in the urban planning process can drive a sense of ownership and responsibility for ensuring compliance with building regulations. Authorities need to encourage community participation through public consultations, town hall meetings, and collaborative decision-making processes. If residents are actively involved in identifying development priorities, addressing concerns, and monitoring construction activities, the government will create a sense of accountability and collective stewardship over the built environment.

Enhance Monitoring and Satellite Imaging Technologies

Technologies such as satellite imaging and geographic information systems (GIS) can aid in monitoring urban development patterns and detecting unapproved constructions in real-time. The government can invest in advanced monitoring systems to track changes in land use, identify illegal structures, and take timely enforcement actions. In addition, establishing a more organized, digitized and centralized database of building permits and land ownership records can improve data management and facilitate proactive enforcement efforts.
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Final Words

Preventing people from building without approval requires a multi-pronged approach that combines robust enforcement measures, streamlined regulatory processes, public education, and technological innovations. If it prioritizes these things, the Nigerian government will successfully mitigate the proliferation of unapproved constructions and create safer, more resilient communities.
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This article was first published on 10th May 2024


Ikenna Nwachukwu holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He loves to look at the world through multiple lenses- economic, political, religious and philosophical- and to write about what he observes in a witty, yet reflective style.

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