158th Inaugural - Obafemi Tasks Urban Planners On Smart Cities In Nigeria

As Nigeria's population continues to grow geometrically without corresponding improvement in urban planning and municipal services in line with the recommendations of the United Nations for an all-inclusive, safe and sustainable human settlements, Professor Andrew Obafemi of the Department of Geography and Environmental Management in the Faculty of Social Sciences, has called for the use of geospatial mapping and modern technologies to attain urban development anchored on the concept of smart cities.

He regretted that no Nigerian city has, so far attained an urban status in global ranking of habitable smart cities that can boost of modern municipal services that address the needs of the growing population of urban dwellers.

Professor Obafemi made the submission while delivering the 158th Inaugural Lecture entitled, Transiting Unhabitable Habitats to Sustainable Smart Urbans: The Place of Geospatial Mapping and Technologies at the Ebitimi Banigo Auditorium, last Thursday.

The 158th Inaugural Lecturer observed that lack of proper town planning and total neglect of public infrastructure had contributed to underdevelopment of the urban areas that have become largely uninhabitable for about 70 per cent of the global population that live in the comfort of modern cities.

Professor Obafemi called for the use of geospatial mapping and technologies to transit from poorly planned cities littered with uninhabitable habitats to sustainable smart urban areas in line with emerging global trends. He called for regular maintenance of public and private property to make them more functional and responsive to the changing needs of the people in a dynamic society.

“Like a dynamic living organism, human settlements everywhere continue to grow overtime and in the case of urbanism, as cities change and grow, the needs of the people living in cities also change. To maintain and improve the level of habitability or liveability of a city, the services and infrastructure often provided by governments and other stakeholders need to be regularly reviewed to make them more functional and responsive,” he recommended. Professor Obafemi listed the use of modern geospatial and 3D city maps as vital tools in proper decision-making at different levels of planning and execution of a 21st century compliant urban centres and cities.

The 158th Inaugural Lecturer advised the Nigerian government to align itself with the campaigns by relevant organs of the United Nations for responsible management of cities and urban centres. “There is need to fully identify and participate in the annual campaigns like the New Urban Agenda (Agenda 2030), World Habitat Day observed every first Monday in October globally and the World Cities Day marked on every 31st of October. This is because the World Cities Day, for instance, has enabled cities and communities around the world to come together on this important platform to learn and share best practices on sustainable cities and their practices,” Professor Obafemi submitted.

“Liveability which also used to connote habitability simply refers to the degree to which a place is suitable or good for living in. In other words, it is a measure of how habitable or comfortable a place is for living in or how habitable an environment is,” he disclosed. Professor Obafemi further pointed out that liveable cities were usually driven by urban planners who commit themselves to building stronger local communities that enhance the quality of life of all inhabitants.

The Professor of Geography, Geoinformation and Environmental Management explained that the liveability of a city is largely measured by objective and subjective factors. He listed climate, cost of housing, quality of the environment, infrastructure, safety and stability, access to health and education, amongst others, as objective factors, while subjective factors included personal and emotional influences such as the likes, dislikes, feelings, traditions and spiritual connections that were not easily measurable.

He disclosed that several surveys on Most Liveable Cities (MLC) and Least Liveable Cities (LLC) carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) since 2008 had shown that only Lagos met the minimum criteria for inclusion on the exclusive list of 140 cities of the world.

“In 2011 when Lagos joined the globally-ranked cities, it ranked third from the bottom for two consecutive years. The best performance so far was when it occupied the 137th position that is the fourth to the last of the worst cities in the world from 2013 to 2015. By 2016, it dropped again to the 138th position and thereafter, in the 2017 and 2018 global rankings, Lagos further dropped from the second to the last worst city at 139th position,” he explained.

Professor Obafemi recommended the adoption of the smart city concept to develop Nigerian cities to be at par with other global cities that generate revenues to the state coffers through tourism. He described a smart city as a municipality that uses Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) primarily for purposes of achieving operational efficiency, information sharing with the public to improve both the quality of government services and citizens' welfare.

He listed the predominant tools for urban planning in smart cities to include geospatial mapping and technologies, stating that “geospatial technology is a term used to describe the range of modern tools contributing to the geographic mapping and analysis of the earth and human societies.”

On his contributions to knowledge, the 158th Inaugural Lecturer disclosed that one of his studies established that noise pollution in the city of Port Harcourt varied over land use types, describing commercial land use zones as the noisiest. Such findings necessitated his recommendation for the adoption of a sustainable and holistic approach to attenuate noise impact on city dwellers.

In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ndowa Lale, agreed with the Inaugural Lecturer on the need for smart cities to evolve in Nigeria. He, however, noted that the ghetto experience had inspired some inhabitants into great creative works. Professor Lale further observed that some of the soul-lifting music of the early 1960s and mid-80s were composed and produced by musicians who experienced ghetto life.

“One thing we can take away from this lecture is that there is no smart city in Nigeria, except probably Abuja with all its distortions. So we are looking forward to such cities; certainly not the type of cities in which we no longer have recreational space, proper ventilation, access to natural vegetation and municipal services,” the Vice Chancellor stated.

He announced that Professor Sylva Kalu of the Department of Marketing in the Faculty of Management Sciences will deliver the 159th Inaugural Lecture entitled, Eke, Orie, Afo, Nkwo in Perspective: Any Lessons for Contemporary Times. The Lecture will take place at the Ebitimi Banigo Auditorium on Thursday, June 13, 2019 at 3:00pm.

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