One minute your favourite store or eatery is open for business, the next minute you hear that it’s been demolished. Well, maybe not literally one minute but everything seems to happen so fast. Why are buildings demolished? What are the valid reasons for demolishing buildings in Nigeria? Are there instances where provisions will be made to protect the owners or occupants of demolished buildings? Any form of compensation? These questions are addressed in the Urban and Regional Planning Act 1992. The Act has been adapted by states across the federation as the Urban and Regional Planning Laws of those states.
Why are buildings demolished?
Where a structure erected is found to be defective as to constitute danger or a nuisance to the occupier and the public, the Control Department (responsible for matters relating to development control and implementation of physical development plans) has the power to serve a demolition notice on a developer of such structure. The Notice given shall contain a date which should not be later than twenty-one days on which the Control Department shall then take necessary steps to effect the demolition.
After the expiration of the time specified in the notice, the control department takes necessary action to effect the demolition. The developer of the building/structure has a duty to reimburse the Control Department for all expenses reasonably incurred in the demolition.
Any protection for owners and occupiers of demolished buildings?
The Urban and Regional Planning Act made no provision for compensation to owners or occupiers of buildings that were demolished due to being defective. But provisions for compensation are made for residents of areas proposed to be improved by the National Urban and Regional Planning Commission (Federal Level) or the State Urban and Regional Planning Board (State Level) or the Local Planning Authority. So, where any of these authorities believes that the rehabilitation, renovation and upgrade of the physical environment, social facilities and infrastructure of a particular area is possible, it then declares such area as an improvement area.
However, the relevant authority declares such an area as an improvement area only after:
- the residents of the area have been informed about: the purposes and contents of the proposed improvement, the powers vested in the relevant authority, the facilities that will be provided in the area and the benefits to be derived from the improvement;
- meetings have been held with the local government of the area or any other associations in the area to know the views of the residents in the area concerning the proposed improvement and also to set up committees to monitor the progress of the rehabilitation, renovation and upgrade;
- informing other relevant statutory authorities of the proposed improvement and taking their views; and
- Taking into account the views and comments about the proposed improvement.
Furthermore, the National Urban and Regional Planning Commission (Federal Level) or the State Urban and Regional Planning Board (State Level) or the Local Planning Authority are also empowered to demolish or order the demolition of a building, improve, repair or renovate a building and pay compensation promptly where appropriate to a person that suffers loss or damage as a result of the activities of the relevant authority in the area.
The powers of the relevant authorities to demolish buildings for the purpose of improvement are not absolute. They are restricted to instances where:
- The building is far below the standard of other buildings in the area such that it is or it is likely to become dangerous to the health of its occupiers or occupiers of adjacent buildings.
- The building is in such a state of disrepair that it is dangerous to public safety and will not be cost-effective to repair.
- Two or more buildings are so congested that an improvement in the area will not be possible without the demolition of one or more of the buildings.
- The demolition is in connection with providing infrastructural facilities in the area.
Furthermore, before ordering a repair, demolition or renovation of a building, the relevant authority should:
- Affix on a conspicuous part of the building, the proposed order;
- Appoint a committee to consider representations that may be made by the occupier or owner of the building to be repaired, renovated or demolished; and
- In the case of a demolition, prepare the estimate of the compensation payable to the owner or occupier of the building.
It is important to note that opportunity is also given to the owner or occupier of a building to be demolished for improvement purposes to appeal against the proposed order. This appeal may be made to the Planning Tribunal and further to the High Court of the State or of the Federal Capital Territory where the building is located.