By Kemi Olatunde
The phenomena of illegal structures around the world represents serious contradiction to contemporary urban planning whose primary goal is preservation of natural environment and improvement of sustainable development. Even though there are several examples of illegal building suppression in the world, its presence does not fade away, mostly in undeveloped and developing countries including Nigeria.
Taking a look at the global threat posed by illegal building, it is observed that urban areas in developing countries are collapsing due to population explosion, which results in anarchy as public services are unable to keep pace with the demands put upon them.
Due to rapid and uncontrolled growth, millions of cities’ inhabitants live in slums. It is common for between 30 and 60 percent of an entire city’s population to live in houses and neighborhoods that have been developed illegally. It is very rare for governments to furnish infrastructure and services essential for health and well-being – piped water, sewers, storm drainage, all-weather roads, public transit, electricity, health care – to those who build illegally.
Housing in squatter settlements is illegal in two senses; first, land is occupied illegally and the site is developed without regard for zoning and subdivision regulations (i.e., concerning the permitted use of the land, permitted density, water supply, drainage, and access roads). Secondly, many individuals and businesses profit from the development of illegal communities or the needs of their inhabitants. Landowners, land developers, and businesses make money from buying and selling land illegally and, in some cases, extensive and highly profitable landlordism has developed.
A tolerant but passive reaction by the government has serious disadvantages. These include: absence of public services normally associated with housing, like water and sanitation, the inhabitants’ ineligibility for loans to buy, build, or improve their illegal structure or to expand their business situated in it, since the structure is not accepted as collateral; and the scattering of illegal structures all over, making it very expensive to extend water, sewers, roads, and public transit.
The rapid population growth has skyrocketed the demand for accommodations. It has led to a rise in building construction. While there are legally constructed buildings in every city, some also turn out to be illegal. These illegal buildings are made without following the regulations of the concerned authorities. Moreover, they are often built on lands or plots that aren’t registered. Further, they don’t even have legal documents for the same.
According to findings, poor economic condition of the country has forced many landlords in the cities to restructure and convert their houses into other uses in order to make a living. In the process, many illegal structures sprang up as many landlords were not enlightened enough on planning rules.
In Ondo State, the case is not different as a lot of illegal structures dot virtually all the town and cities which have not in anyway present the state with the best look in terms of serene environment.
During the March edition of the monthly environmental sanitation exercise last Saturday in Akure, General Manager, Ondo State Waste Management Authority, Mr Fola Omowole described illegal structures as constituting environmental nuisance in the state.
According to him, the authority is set to clamp down on illegal structures along major roads in Akure, the state capital.
He said that both illegal and abandoned structures should be removed, noting that they constitute environmental nuisance.
He explained that structures erected on drainage are not fit to see the light of the day, stating that they encourage dirty environment.
He revealed that the authority will in no time serve owners of illegal structures abetment notice failure of which attracts abetment order obtained from the court.
Omowole while addressing some residents along Cathedral in Akure, stated that it is important that they embrace healthy living by ensuring adequate cleaning of their environment both within and outside their premises.
While also addressing some other residents on Gboyegun street, he called on the people to obey environmental laws in order to prevent outbreak of diseases.
Speaking extensively with The Hope, Omowole described illegal structure as one without ideal approval particularly from the Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development.
According to him; “A structure may look okay but lacks approval, such is illegal. There are also some structures that constitute environmental nuisance especially collapsing buildings but they pose danger to those around them. They create visual hazard as they are unsightly and they impact on the psychology of the people.
Speaking on efforts of government on illegal structures, he said that there are steps taken to ensure that things are done rightly.
He said; “When we notice such structure, we find out when it was established, if it has town planning approval, construction standard, maintenance etc. When we have the report, the Authority issues abetment or structural notice either for it to be pulled down or corrected.”
He explained that most development exist without approval across the state, saying”it is a big problem.”
“There are some structures tagged as old neighborhood. In the past, most structures have approval as they follow building line. There is a kind of proper organisation of the development. In those days, people followed town planning rules and that is why people have attachment in buildings; this is rampant in communities. In most private neighborhood, most buildings don’t have town planning approval. This is one of the reasons we are having environmental challenges.”
He said that anyone who go against the abetment order issued after the abetment notice will face the wrath of the law, stating that there are provisions in relevant laws to address it.
Proffering solution to problem, he said; “don’t allow it to come up so that it will be easier. When it has been established, it becomes a major problem and that is why government interact with them through the issuance of abetment notice. If an abetment notice is given to an individual and he fails to carry out the instruction, government can take over the particular space of land for it to recover the cost of execution.”
He called on owners of illegal structures to embrace proper way of doing things, saying ”if we begin to allow illegality, it will get to a point that it gets out of hand. People should find a way to adjust to the applicable law to have a better and safer environment in place.
“A lot of people are unaware and some others feel that every space can be occupied but there is a limit to what anyone can do and that is why government has the right to every space. People should also visit the relevant agency for the development of their property and lastly, it is important that people don’t start what is not right in order not to compound their problem.
“Whatever you want to do, it is better to ask yourself, what does the law says about it? What are the guidelines involved? As residents, we have the responsibility to know the side of the law on any matter in order not to be caught in the web of the law.”
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