Operationalizing Ethics in Physical Planning at the Local Level

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Published on International Journal of Social, Politics & Humanities
Publication Date: September, 2019

Ajobiewe, T. O., Asamu, I. V. & Adeleye, I. O.
Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Ibadan
Ibadan, Nigeria

Journal Full Text PDF: Operationalizing Ethics in Physical Planning at the Local Level.

Abstract
Planning issues commonly involve a conflict of values and, often, there are large private interests at stake. These accentuate the necessity for the highest standards of fairness and honesty among all participants. Article 1, Section 3(1) of the Town Planners Registration Council of Nigeria (TORPEC) highlighted the necessity of professional integrity from all members. Similarly, Article 5 of the same states the ‘General Ethics’ required of all town planners in Nigeria. This study, an inquiry into planning ethics and its operationalization at the local level mirrored and analysed the place of ethics in planning, the legislative, institutional and procedural framework in planning authorities. In operationalizing planning ethics at the local level, the functionality of planning agencies was measured and their major planning efforts understood. The study found nineteen (19) personnel in the local planning authorities and discovered that the town has a lot of fueling stations which contravenes planning regulations and has resulted to fire disasters. The study also concluded that practitioners need to adhere to a special set of ethical requirements that must guide all who aspire to be professionals and recommended that planning laws should be implemented to the last letter and machineries saddled with the enforcement responsibility as stated in section 13 and 14 of the Town Planners Decree No 3 of 1998.

Keywords: Planning, Planning Ethics, Operationalizing, Local Planning Authorities & Interests.

1. Introduction
Planning issues commonly involve a conflict of values and, often, there are large private interests at stake. These accentuate the necessity for the highest standards of fairness and honesty among all participants. It is also striking to note that the ethical principles can be derived both from the general values of society and from the planner’s special responsibility to serve the public interest. The contention also has been that the basic values of society are often in competition with each other, so do these principles sometimes compete. In conceptualizing ethics, Akimoladun (1998) explained that it is a branch of philosophy (moral philosophy) that involves systematizing, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. Aluko (2000) added that the field of ethics, along with aesthetics, concerns matters of value, and thus comprises the branch of philosophy called axiology.
Ethics is crucial to planning practice because as opined by Campbell and Marshall (1998) moral judgments and ethical questions pervade the daily practice of planning. Furthering the authors’ narrative, Plogger (2004) added that since ethical values are constitutive to planners’ identity, choices, practices and obligations as civil servants it is therefore expedient that planning ethics be discussed unsparingly. Aluko (2011) situated his school of thought in the dire need for institutions and concluded that planning ethics is not to be waved aside, because institutional practices rely very much on taken-for-granted, a priori schemes that mark the values and obligations which shape practitioners’ views of their roles and purposes. In not over-emphasizing the need for a robust discourse on planning ethics, some planning studies recognize that planning is deeply ethical and that planners constantly struggle with ethical dilemmas related to practice and choice of solutions (Hendler, 1995). Against that succinct backdrop espoused by Hendler (1995) planning studies, however, lack conceptual and empirical research concerning questions of what ethics is as value and as frame of reference for planning. Plogger (2004) raised germane questions about the nature of ‘the good life’, ‘responsibility’, the ethic of ‘the other’ or ‘the stranger’, pluralism and liberalism versus ‘justice’ and ‘fairness’ or ‘equality’, and individuality versus community. These are all questions that represent ethical concerns with which planners in reality are confronted almost on an everyday basis.
Operationalizing ethics at every level (federal, state and local) as articulated by Kilinc, Ozgur and Gene (2009) can be a particularly precarious matter if planners support forms of advocacy planning, work for equality in society or socially just urban planning, because planners must then repeatedly make ethical choices within a political sphere where segregation, social exclusion and neglect of the rights of ‘weak voices’ are common, and where compromises on ‘what is just’ or ‘fair’, and on whom to benefit and why, are said to be politically necessary. Kilinc et al, (2009) described a vivid scenario where planners often find themselves caught in an ethical impasse, having to accept political decisions and to work within a political system where scales of class differences are ‘temporarily tolerated’ (reformism) or accepted (liberalism). Reformism or liberalism, there are many who have argued the place of politics in planning and alluded to the fact that planners may find political attitudes they have to serve that are in contrast to their own wish to defend the idea of equality. Planners constantly find themselves having to choose between the ethical principles they hold and the ethics of ‘real’ politics (Ploger, 2004).
Article 1, Section 3(1) of the Town Planners Registration Council of Nigeria (TORPEC) highlights the necessity of professional integrity from all members. So also, Article 5 of the same states the ‘General Ethics’ required of all town planners in Nigeria while for violators of the code of conduct and practice regulations, Article 2, section 6,7 states the provision for cases involving violation of regulation, investigation and prosecution of improper conduct. In this paper, an inquiry into planning ethics and its operationalization at the local level mirrored and analysed the place of ethics in planning, the legislative, institutional and procedural framework in planning authorities. The challenges and solutions to identified problems were also discussed in this piece.

2. Planning Ethics (Article 5, Section 7 of TOPREC Code of Conduct and Practice Regulations)
In practical terms, planning ethics as stated in Article 5, Section 7 of TOPREC Code of Conduct and Practice Regulations on General Ethics can be likened to the view of Seok-Eun (2005) who noted that it is the expectation of the public that officials at all levels of government will utilize public resources for the well being of the citizenry. Citizens expect efficient and effective delivery of healthcare services, education systems, and crime prevention systems from their government. It is also given that planners should be responsible for the effective delivery of goods and services that foster healthy and sustainable living and socioeconomic improvement. In essence, planning ethics is summarized according to the ethical principles (honesty, transparency, equity, accountability, public interest, accuracy, responsibility, respectfulness, not accepting gift, conservation of public goods). Figure 1 illustrates the most striking of the ethical principles as contextualized at the local level of planning in Ogbomoso, Oyo State.

Fig 1: Core Principles of Planning Ethics
Source: Authors’ Construct (2019)

3. Ethical Dilemmas in Planning
Several ethical dilemmas can be discussed, some of them more universal others are more specific to Nigeria and or low-income countries and/or rapidly urbanizing countries around the world. However, in the case of Nigeria, these issues have a certain semblance as they transcend state and local government boundaries. Decades ago, Howe and Kaufman (1979) described that a “classic dilemma found in any public service profession, including planning, is the possible conflict between what the agency, which presumably serves the public, defines as the public interest, and what the individual professional thinks the public interest is” (Howe and Kaufman, 1979). The authors found in their empirical study based on several scenarios, “many planners do seem to be influenced, at least to some extent, in what they think is ethical by the intended beneficiaries of their actions. The same tactic used on behalf of different groups is judged differently.

4. Legal Framework of Planning and Ethical Related Issue in Nigeria
Any discourse on the legal framework of planning and ethical related issue in Nigeria is incomplete without an allusion to Town Planning experience in Nigeria during the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial era, which of course has been characterized by a number of ordinances and laws. The ordinances according to Aluko (2011) have experienced series of transformation since they started in the pre-colonial, through the colonial and post -colonial eras. They have been called laws, bye-laws, edicts, acts and decrees, depending on the ruling force at each of the eras. In 1861 Lagos was ceded as an annexation of the British colony and consequently the 1863 Town Improvement Ordinance to control development and urban sanitation was promulgated. The colonial government during the period of their ten years plan for development and welfare of 1946-1956, which marked the beginning of systematic development plan in Nigeria, enacted the Town and Country Planning ordinance No 4 of 1946 to provide for the planning, improvement and development of different parts of the country through planning schemes carried out by planning agencies. The 1946 Ordinance not only empowers the government to establish local planning authorities but also explicitly made development control the main activity of the authorities. The ordinance specifically prohibited carrying out of development without adequate planning permission from the planning authhority.
The scope of development control measures as contained in the 1946 ordinance is what is still widely practiced by public planning authorities in the country till date. Aluko (2011) taking up this same notion however stated that the first attempt at organizing the administration and development of land at the grassroots was the enactment of the Local Government Law (1976). Unlike the 1946 ordinance, the local government law made town and country planning a local government affair, thereby state governments created local planning authorities to control developments and initiate planning schemes at the local level. On the other hand, the Land use decree No 6 of 1978 was established to curb land speculation, ease the process of land acquisition by the government, co-ordinate and formulate land tenure modernization. There is also a narrative that experts have always brought to the fore concerning the successful implementation of the contemporary planning legislation in Nigeria, they have argued that the implementation largely depends on the workability of the controversial Land Use Act. Ten years later, Town Planning in Nigeria recorded a boost, with the promulgation of Decree No 3 of 1988 establishing the Town Planners Registration Council (TOPREC). Decree 88 of 1992 stated clearly the functions of the Federal, State and Local Planning Authorities according to their areas of jurisdiction. The Nigeria Urban and Regional Planning (Decree No. 88, 1992) is the long awaited Planning law expected to guide orderly physical development in modern Nigeria. The law was thus enacted with the intention to reinvigorate the dull and static planning activities pervading the post independent physical development in Nigeria.

5. Study Area
Ogbomoso is located on the main highway connecting the North and South West of Nigeria. The town which is the second largest in Oyo state (next to Ibadan) and lies on latitude 8º 071’ N – 8º 161’N of the equator and longitude 4º 161E – 4º301E of Greenwich meridian time. It is one of the five political regions of Oyo state, the region is made up of five distinct local government areas (Ogbomoso North, Ogbomoso South, Surulere, Ogo-Oluwa and Ori Ire LGAs). The study however selected and understudied two of the five LGAs (Ogbomoso South and Ogbomoso North) as shown in figure 2. The selected LGAs form and make up Ogbomoso Township and have their headquarters at Kinnira and Arowomole respectively. According to the National Population Commission (2006) both local government areas had a population of 198,859 and 100,379 persons respectively. Furthering that, the National Bureau of Statistics (2017) 2016 projection was 279,400 and 141,000 persons respectively.

Fig 2: Ogbomoso South and Ogbomoso North LGAs in Oyo State Context
Source: Oyo State Ministry of Lands and Housing (2009)

Fig 3: Organizational Hierarchy/Organogram of a typical Town Planning Authority
Where CTPO – Chief Town Planning Officer, ACTPO – Assistant Chief Town Planning Officer, STPO – Senior Town Planning Officer, Director, TPO – Town Planning Officer, STO – Senior Technical Officer, TO – Technical officer, PWS – Principal Works Superintendent.
Source: Ogbomoso North Local Planning Authority (2019).

Figure 3 illustrates the typical organizational hierarchy of planning authorities, while table 1 presents a summary of the available town planning personnel working in the planning authorities. From the table, in Ogbomoso North Zonal Town Planning Office, there are 2 Technical officers, 3 Senior Technical Officers, 2 Senior Town Planning Officers, 1 Principal Works Superintendent, an Assistant Chief Town Planning Officer and a Director of Town Planning. Similarly, at the Ogbomoso South Zonal Town Planning Office, there are 2 Technical officers, 2 Senior Technical Officers, 2 Senior Town Planning Officers, 1 Principal of Works Superintendent, an Assistant Chief Town Planning Officer and a Director of Town Planning.

Table 1: Distribution of Planning Personnel in the Study Area
S/N Portfolio/Designation Local Government Area
Ogbomoso North Ogbomoso South
1. Director 1 1
2 Deputy Director Nil Nil
3. Chief Town Planning Officer Nil Nil
4. Assistant Chief Town Planning Officer 1 1
5. Senior Town Planning Officer 2 2
6. Town Planning Officer Nil Nil
7. Senior Technical Officer 3 2
8. Technical Officer 2 2
9. Principal Works Superintendent 1 1
Total 10 9
Source: Authors’ Field Survey (2019)

6. Challenges in Operationalizing Planning Ethics at the Local Level
The major problem for implementing effective codes of ethics remains that no law or code will be of much value if individual civil servants lack the technical competence to recognize an ethics problem for what it is, or if they do not know what standards their organization expects of them, or (worst of all), if they consider it to be not in their interests, personally or professionally, to take a stand for integrity and against corruption. For town planners across the spectrum of planning administration in Nigeria, Article 1, Section 3(1) of TOPREC highlights the necessity of professional integrity from all members. So also, Article 5 of the same states the General ethics required of all town planners in Nigeria while for violators of the code of conduct and practice regulations, Article 2, section 6,7 states the provision for cases involving violation of regulation, investigation and prosecution of improper conduct.
Furthermore, in operationalizing planning ethics at the local level, it is important to measure the functionality of planning agencies and understand major planning efforts of the planning authorities in the area. It is in constituting a prior knowledge of these efforts that understanding the challenges inherent in operationalizing planning ethics at the local level will be further made.
From the field survey, it was gathered that over the years the planning agencies and authorities have tried in many ways to achieve a livable environment. Among other efforts are those highlighted below;
a. They monitor all the development of the land within their jurisdiction with constant report to the State planning Board
b. Give approval for any development, except if there is an overwriting interest from the state level.
c. Zoning Land
d. Providing planning Schemes
Despite these efforts, a lot of settlements in the study are still experience flooding which is as result of blocked drainages example of which is Odokoto area, Omosin area which the creation of road-side drainage channel has helped combat as well as Saanuaje and Isale-Ora where bridges have been constructed. Urban slums, and street trading are still noticeable in some core areas of Oja-Igbo, Jagun, Isale-Ora, Okeelerin and Sabo. The town has a lot of fueling stations which contravenes planning regulations and has resulted in a lot of fire incident cases. In 2018, there was a fire disaster at Musalat fuelling station that destroyed many homes and shops in the process as shown in plate 1. This occurrence has brought about the lack of trust in the planning authority as often times when the people of the neighborhood protested or wrote a petition, the fueling stations end up being built or rebuilt. In a different narrative, the dualization of major roads within the town such as the Taki – Grammar school route, Taki – Federal Government College routes has drastically reduced the hold-up that was previously usually witnessed there.

Plate 1: Musalat Fuelling Station, Ora Area, Aarada, Ogbomoso
Source: Authors’ Field Survey (2019)
Having dwelt albeit succinctly on the efforts of the planning authorities in the study area, an exposition of the challenges (from personal observation, literature and the field survey) is done under three main headings, namely;
a. The law
b. The Victim (Planners)
c. Externalities

7. The law
In entrenching planning ethics, ethical problems come up by the application of the laws concerning urban development and land use. Sometimes those laws have their unique weaknesses and therefore the sanctity of public interest is traded on the altar of their weaknesses. The lack of coordination between the authorized institutions in plan implementation processes has also been a challenge so much that for each law, there is an authorized institution. In addition, the lethargies of planning laws have constantly reminded policy makers that it is not the lack of laws that is the problem; rather it is the implementation of the law. In a manner of speaking, a very important challenge that has consistently impeded the operationalizing of planning ethics across the three levels of planning in Nigeria have been the absence of strict machineries to enforce the laws and consequently penalize offenders. It is no surprise thus, why planning laws have remained “a toothless bulldog.”

8. The Victim
In casting aspersions, the planners which this piece vividly describes as the ‘victim’ have their responsibilities cut out for them. However, in some case while discharging their duties they engage themselves in a manner that violates every modicum of morality and ethical underpinnings. There are arguments that planners who work in the planning authorities are themselves the expression of ‘unethical conduct’. The ‘victim’ themselves are also quick to wave aside disparaging sentiments from the public and most especially the academia. In their defense, the mantra they project can be seen in the light of Umemoto (2001) ‘Walking in Another’s Shoes’. In essence, the code of professional conduct is a very difficult code to live by truly and freely and thus, when the real-life politics comes to play, a position of compromise is about the easiest route to follow. Therefore, corruption/greed, nepotistic tendencies, lack of capacity to truly understand what is right and wrong and the ability to demonstrate an impeccable sense of integrity and honesty are factors that have continued to challenge planning ethics at the local level.

9. Externalities
Some factors are beyond the ‘victims’ just as the law is. In the case of Ogbomoso, some powers are given to the state government and in logical terms, such powers and rights are meant to be within the purview of the local government. For instance, the approval of fuelling station is given to the state government; however, it is local planning authority staff that is closer to such sites. The planners noted that sometimes plans are approved by the state planning boards without site inspection in real terms. There is also the place of unhealthy political interference in the operations of the planning agencies and this more often than not forces planners to compromise easily save for the fear of losing their jobs. Another yet important challenge is the lack of funding; planners in the planning authorities complain of lack of inspection vehicles, paltry remunerations, and despicable working environments. It is a fact that their working condition which they have no control over affects the way and manner they discharge their duties.

10. Conclusion
Since the planning process exists to serve the public interest, the public interest however is a question of continuous debate, both in its general principles and in its case-by-case applications, it requires a conscientiously held view of the policies and actions that best serve the entire community. Those who practice planning need to adhere to a special set of ethical requirements that must guide all who aspire to be professionals. It has also been observed that planning authorities alone cannot enforce all the planning ordinances and laws that are to be implemented to achieve a desirable environment. Having analyzed the inherent challenges facing the entrenchment of planning ethics at the local level, at this juncture it is worth mentioning that at the core of resolving this malady is for planners to build their character around ethical principles of honesty, transparency, equity, accountability, and responsibility to mention a few. Also, while this is expected to take the center stage, there needs to also be a corresponding effort on the part of government institutions to enforce and penalize erring professionals.

11. Recommendations
For a start, it is important for planning authorities to seek for team work and collaboration with other relevant fields in order to enhance capacity building to improve functionality. Planners in planning agencies often dabbles and double up into filling the gap of other professions such as Architecture, Surveying, and Engineering making the task almost burdensome . In the light of this, planning authorities should involve and employ other land related professionals. Planning laws should also be implemented to the last letter and machineries saddled with the enforcement responsibility as stated in section 13 and 14 of the Town Planners Decree No 3 of 1998 which states the penalties for unprofessional conduct as well as the offences and venue for trial should be strictly adhered to and the parastatals adequately funded to enable them discharge their duties effectively. More planners should be employed to the local planning authorities so that effective work can be done by planners. Also, there is need for provision of transportation vehicles to enable planners get to any location within the town with ease and not have to use their private means to get to the inspection sites which could make them susceptible to taking bribes. It is also recommended that planners’ remuneration be increased and made attractive; this is to discourage them from indulging in unethical practices.