20 June 2012

Nigeria: Guide to Building Plan Approval Submissions

Revolved around a concept more out of empirical studies of the spatial organization of Nigerian cities rather than any specific theory of urban structure, the neighbourhood concept was adopted for the development of the Abuja capital city.

Being a capital city for the most populous African country designed to accommodate not only administrative and residential, but also commercial, industrial and recreational functions, the design and implementation of such a project in an area hitherto a wilderness is by all means a difficult task.

To implement the ambitious plan with a minimal error margin and to retrace in the case of derailment, there must be guidelines for control of the development. Among the key institutional activities highlighted by the master plan in planning for continuing operations include the adoption of the design and development (D&D) manual to serve as repository of all standards and regulations underlying the physical development of the Federal Capital. It was also adopted that development emanating from any source (public, quasi-public, or private) should be reviewed to conform with the officially adopted plans and the D&D manual before FCDA grants its approval for construction of any kind. This manual is the one known today as the Development Control Standards and regulation.

The zoning of land uses for conducive interaction in the urban and regional areas is an important principle of urban and regional planning. Thus the zoning of land uses in the city of Abuja is the rule rather than exception. The implementation department is the Development Control. Since it is one with the tools to enforce the will of the authority by approving and allowing developments of allocated or reallocated plots in areas earmarked for them, preventing the developments in areas not allowed by the plan or areas that are revoked. The department has two basic functions; the granting of building plans permissions in line with the development guidelines and the actual control of the development to make sure that buildings are constructed in accordance with the approved plans; without any deviation.

The drive for acquisition of building plans approval by both the public and private organizations and individuals exert heavy pressures on the approving authority. The city is continuously expanding so also are the developers participating in its project. However, while the procedure for the acquisition of the building plans approval is purely technical, the individuals involved in the submission and interaction with the authority include not only the relevant professionals from within the built environment but also those outside who lack the knowledge of the technicalities involved. On the other hand, in order to maintain standard, the authority ensures that all the regulations are complied with by communicating to developers to effect corrections in their submissions whenever the need arises. Many submissions for building plans approval encounter comments before the final approval, largely because they were designed by those professionals that lack the knowledge of building regulations in Abuja or even designed outside the country without the involvement of Nigerian registered firms.

The first pre-requisite for submission for building plans approval is the plots allocation documents; Certificate or Right of Occupancy. It is important to note that in addition to the purpose clause in the Certificate of Occupancy, knowledge of the development requirements of the particular area ones plot is located is a necessary guide prior to the commencement of design, because in many instances Purpose Clause in the Certificate of Occupancy conflicts with the actual land use provision on the map. Due to the fact that building plans must comply with the zoning regulations, the land use requirement takes precedence. For the purpose of compatibility and in order to promote harmonious co-existence, residential building plans are not acceptable in areas earmarked for commercial or industrial developments or vise-versa. Also, high density building plans are not accepted in areas earmarked for low or medium density developments, in areas earmarked for residential uses.

These are simple guides any developer could obtain from the custodians of the various Districts and their plans at Control Department. Acquiring the manual containing the Development Control guidelines and regulations for Abuja has for long been made mandatory to all developers. Unfortunately, for many uninformed, building designs are made not only outside Abuja but also outside the country without recourse to the development requirements. Although there are other factors, this constitutes major reasons for delays in obtaining the building permission.

The design documents for submissions are those of architectural, structural and calculations, mechanical and electrical. Others are site analysis and soil test reports. Also, in compliance with the provisions of Section 28 of the Urban and Regional Planning Law and those of the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, EIA is required for estates and major commercial and industrial developments. All documents must be properly signed, sealed and stamped by relevant professionals of the built industry in order to prevent quackery.

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