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The Architecture of Fear

Tunde Agbola


Tunde Agbola

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1In 1993, when some scholars from the University of Ibadan made a proposal to the Institut Français de Recherche en Afrique (IFRA) — French Institute for Research in Africa, to study the increasing spate of urban violence in Africa, it was not anticipated that the scope of the study would increase at such a fast pace in the following years. The Institute agreed to fund the project and an international symposium was organized in Nigeria in 1994, with the aim of focusing attention on the issue of urban violence and determining its impact on the different segments of the society.

2Since 1994, however, urban violence in Nigeria took on a renewed ferocity with a dramatic increase in the loss of life and property. In Nigeria today, there is little security of life and property; urban residents live in perpetual fear of the morrow. They are wary in the day and terrified at night. One of Nigeria’s foremost scholars of the urban milieu has observed that, despite the existence of the Nigerian Police Force, armed robbers and burglars have the run of our cities. Hired assassins move across the urban domain with impunity. In addition to this pervasive insecurity of life and property is the constant struggle against poverty and deprivation.

3How have Nigerians reacted to this situation? This research, which is a follow-up to the 1994 Urban Violence Symposium addresses this question. Various researchers have responded to other challenges such as violence and children, and violence and women, but none has examined the effects of violence on the physical environment. This pilot study focuses on the architecture offear in Nigeria’s foremost city, Lagos.

4The residents of Lagos, like their counterparts in other cities in Nigeria, have responded in a desperate manner. They often take the law into their own hands and attempt to mete out instant justice to any offender. This study analyses the adjustmen mechanisms of Lagos residents using various elements of the crime prevention method known as Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED). The time period was six months of intensive research work and the results of the study are presented in this book.

5This challenging research is expected to be replicated in other African cities in order to put the architectural response to urban violence into proper prospective. Urban violence is not likely to abate until all its contributing factors are minimized or considerably reduced. The more Nigeria (and indeed Africa) becomes urbanized, and the more knowledge we have of the nature, context and consequences of this vexing social malaise, the better for the future of Nigerian and African cities, and their citizens.

6Ibadan 1997

© IFRA-Nigeria, 1997

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