Strategies For Implementing Physical Development Plans In The FCT

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Professor Adamu Ahmed FNITP --

Cities in nearly all countries are responsible for a large share of global economic growth and job creation. Their contribution to global wealth has variously been documented (World Bank, 2010).

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But, cities can also be liabilities, presenting endless problems of inefficiencies, squalor, inequality and crime. The planning of cities has taken dramatic turn in recent years,informed by the need to improve economic competitiveness. But beyond plans, cities need implementation strategy. While well prepared urban development plans are necessary, careful implementation is what is required to make them functional, sustainable and productive (Ingram,1980).

Abuja, conceived as a show piece of elegance, has failed to deliver during implementation. Delayed delivery of the city raises questions regarding adequacy of the implementation strategy for the plan, in addition to the urgency for corrective action through innovative strategies. These are also issues shared with other development plans in the FCT. What went wrong; why is there urgency to correct the
shortcomings; what is the context within which this can be addressed?

And how else can this be achieved? The paper addresses these issues and sets general context within which subsisting challenges can be resolved with particular reference to the experience of the Federal Capital City, Abuja.

Economic growth and job creation is accounted for by cities in nearly all countries across the world. Cities are important loci for transformational change by bringing together the potential of many people, businesses and new forms of mobilization.

Their contribution to global wealth has variously been documented (World Bank, 2010) in addition to the opportunities they offer for improved health care, housing and safety. But, cities can also be liabilities, presenting endless problems of inefficiencies,
squalor, inequality and crime.

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Urban planning which seeks to reconcile these conflicting and often contending issues has variously been viewed as the making of orderly sequence of actions that can lead to the achievement of some specified or stated goals (Nathaliga, 2015). It provides framework that helps urban leaders and the administration to transform their stated vision of livability, prosperity and equity into reality (Cirolia, 2017).

According to (UN- Habitat, 2014), the outcome of the planning process
culminates in development of the comprehensive master plan, a document that estimates the city’s future population, socio economic conditions and infrastructure needs alongside the design of land use for future development. Faludi (1973) views planning as having concern for legislation and policy, statutes, regulations, rules, and codes to influence land use. It deals with the type, location, and amount of land needed to carry out different functions of the city. Master plans generally envision a
future state for a given space, and what it will take to achieve that vision.

The rigidity of the comprehensive land use plan and its overtly overbearing
focus on spatial order has been its major drawback.

In recent years, Strategic Planning has come to be seen by practitioners as essential requirement in planning the modern city, arguing that the traditional master plan alone, initially viewed as silver bullet to a city’s success can, and in many cases does actually deter growth and prosperity.

As an action-oriented process, Strategic Planning determines the direction of development of a city not in spatial form, but in the context of its current profile of strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. By providing the larger picture, strategic planning pulls all the necessary levers that support economic growth thereby helping cities become more strategic about investments and growth, and helping them
harness the economic potentials of urbanization rather than just preparing
to accommodate the process.

When prepared, the City Development Strategy (CDS), the product of strategic planning helps the city allocate resources strategically, and to attract capital and discipline its use, in addition to clarifying the vision for the city’s future, building necessary partnerships, anticipating future shocks, and planning for growth.

Dubai is an exceptionally successful city, reaching growth rates in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at unheard of rates and for the most part flexibly developed outside the constraint of the rigidity of a master plan.

Well prepared urban development plans are necessary, but careful implementation is required to deliver functional, sustainable and productive cities (Ingram, 1980).

Implementation of urban development plan proposals has direct implications on the quality of urban growth and development. According to Choguill (1987) plans that do not produce tangible change represent little more than a waste of planning resources.

And where resources are scarce, the choice of implementation strategy becomes the most crucial issue in the process of plan preparation.

The 2nd Nigeria National Development Plan (1970) acknowledges that “Implementing a plan is as important as, if not more important than, drawing up the plan”. With the best planning technique, experience has shown that there is usually a gap between plan formulation and plan implementation.

In most third world countries, poor implementation has left a landscape littered with unimplemented plans, with partially completed projects that ought to have been finished except for the flaws in implementation strategy.

Several issues define the quality of plan implementation which are existence of a vibrant, robust and well-coordinated network of institutions and information systems, legal protection of the plan, regulatory measures of land use controls (zoning and building regulations and development control), capital enhancement programmes, land and property tax policy, proposals for land resource mobilization/acquisition, and stakeholder partnerships and networking.

Plans also need translation into actionable development projects and investment programmes. The investment programme presupposes that the broad policies in connection with various proposals are fixed, and list of urgent works according to their priorities, accompanied by estimates of work have been determined accompanied with a financial programme.

Because it takes many years to complete the works contemplated in the master plan, the expected expenditure will have to be distributed over several years and with modifications. Responsibility for over sighting implementation of the master plan needs to also be clearly spelt out, and could be the local or state government or an agency or corporation with leadership of a planner and team membership of experts in engineering, architecture, etc.

That many plans fail to achieve their objectives at all or on target can be explained by many of these considerations/factors.

Many plans of new cities fail at the action or implementation stage, the point where plans are programmed to become fully realized. Examples of plans that have underachieved include Yamasukro in Code’dvoire, Dodoma in Tanzania and Eko Atlantic City, Lagos.


Building new cities comes with 3 advantages, and questions arise as to whether Abuja has earned any. First, building on unoccupied land allows for seamless implementation because special interests have not yet taken root. Second, creating new cities allows key infrastructure to be built and better urban planning practices to be employed before residents arrive, which ensures efficiency of, and lowers the cost of providing public services.

Third, a blank slate approach to governance offers an opportunity to establish new flexible administrative, regulatory and governance structures from the scratch, without importing cumbersome bureaucratic practices and policies of existing planning institutions elsewhere.

What then are the implementation failures of the Abuja master plan that shortchange the advantages of its establishment? What also are the indicators of failure? And under what circumstances did Abuja loose those advantages?

First, land speculation and the agitation by indigenous populations in the FCT region have become deeply entrenched in the politics of land acquisition and development, a situation explained by inconsistencies in the implementation of compensation and resettlement programmes.

Squatter settlements continue to emerge and are expanding as a result. The slow pace of implementation is what allowed special interests to take root. Second, contrary to expectation, key infrastructure and services proposed in the plan were not implemented early ahead of population movement into the City.

Because of the catch-up the city had to do early in its development, infrastructure fell behind and became poorly delivered.

Housing delivery was affected the same way as social services including waste management and water supply. Under pressure from population growth, the provision of services similarly became fragmented and uncoordinated contrary to the provisions of the plan.

There were also resulting challenges of disorganized, inefficient and poor transportation system. Third, the catch-up development programmes did not allow for better urban planning practices to be curated into the planning and implementation process from the beginning.

The outcomes of this expectedly, were inefficient land management and development control practices, leading to arbitrary land use conversions, encroachments into green areas, spawl and leap frog developments, and the creation of certain districts unknown to the plan.


The shortcomings of implementation of the Abuja master plan can generally be linked directly with failure of implementation strategies; and indirectly with the technical inadequacies of the master plan that the implementation strategy was meant to address.

Determinants linked to Implementation Strategies

The Land Question

Generally, an important requirement of development plan implementation is the timely reservation of land for the road system, open spaces, and public amenities, which cannot be provided for at a later date, but this has not been the case.

The approach employed for land acquisition has never been sufficiently addressed except on the assumption that the entire territory has been reserved and gazetted for development of the Federal Capital City.

Keeping an area, the size of the FCT under control without formal ‘land banking’ strategy has been a technical challenge for the oversight functions of the URP and the Development Control Departments. Inability to implement a transparent compensation and resettlement programme is an added constraint. Both of these provided the background to encroachments into planned corridors meant for critical infrastructure.

Weak Governance Institutions for coordinating Implementation. The role and responsibilities of stakeholders in implementation were never clearly spelt out, but perhaps it is the creation of a local government within the capital city to share in the responsibility of developing Abuja that takes the city many years back into the past.

Institutional and staff alignment including collaboration between different stakeholder groups has been a major challenge as a result. In 2004, the AMMC was created to address this by providing a centralized platform for coordination and management, but this has not been sustainably implemented.

Absence of Implementation Strategy An obvious shortcoming of the plan implementation process has been the absence of an implementation strategy beyond what is described in the master plan.

The assumption that a separate, more detailed strategy will be developed to support the master plan did not materialize. Creating a plan with a high chance of implementation requires a strategy early on, that can hold all the moving parts/complexities together, and that clearly delegates and assigns responsibilities.

An important requirement here is the need to view the larger plan as something that can be broken down into smaller achievable goals and targets.

Priority classification of projects in the master plan was also not done in any sufficient detail by phases and by responsibility to implementation agencies (including private and corporate sectors).

Having an implementation strategy means creating achievable actions that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound (SMART).

When plans are not operationalized, that’s when the classic case “document on a shelf” arises.

Lack of Data for Monitoring and Evaluation Successful implementation requires the collection, analysis, and interpretation of large amounts of information to inform the decision process.

Without adequate and relevant data, it has been generally difficult to measure specific progress, identify areas for improvement, and make informed decisions. Except for academic studies (Jibrin, 2012; Mubidiyu (2014); Bello (2012); Kanu (2012); Madu (2014) and Isiyaku (2012), the level of implementation of the master plan has been merely speculative.

Inadequate Finance The assumption that the plan would be financed wholly by the public sector was a decision made in error. Internal revenue was not considered of any sufficient importance, the same way that private sector finance, market borrowing, institutional finance and grants and aids were downplayed.

Determinants Linked to Shortcomings of Planning

The question as to whether the Abuja master plan was implementable has not often been asked but needs to. Africa has a history of building new capital cities, mostly primarily to serve administrative functions and as a show case of national prestige. With similarity to other cities before it, Abuja was conceived to serve the bureaucratic needs of government and to be funded mainly by the public sector.

There was little role left for the private sector and much less for civil society. The assumption that there would be sufficient government funding for the plan did not happen, and with the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the World Bank well in place in the Mid-80s, the initial development pace and enthusiasm for implementing the plan faded.

With hindsight therefore, the criticism can be linked to the plan’s lack of sustainability, inclusion and affordability, situations that also raise the concern as to whether the plan was indeed citizen centered and sufficiently rigorous in its prediction of medium and long-term events with potential of affecting implementation.

Without the review of the master plan, many of these technical shortcomings were responded to spontaneously and in a way that affected the quality of implementation. There are also the related shortcomings of economic strategy for the new City.

The economic role and function of the City generally was not defined in the plan leading to the description of it as a city without economic purpose.

Although the plan is an excellent representation of urban design, today’s new generation cities are established with economic purpose and strategy to have any meaningful chance of implementation.

They are established to accommodate an expanding technology ecosystem and offering opportunities that incentivize private investment and productivity.

To be continued…

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