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Urban Research in Nigeria

Adepoju Onibokun
Adetoye Faniran

Chapter Two

Urbanization and urban problems in Nigeria

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2.1 Introduction

1Available data reveal that the population of Nigeria has been increasing at an alarming rate. Our towns and cities are growing rapidly. In 1921, the population of Nigeria was only 18.72 million (table 2.1). In 1952, it rose to 30.4 million and in 1963 to 55.67 million. The preliminary census data for 1991 (although the 1991 census figure is still controversial) indicated a population of 80.5 million while the projection for the year 2000 AD suggests a doubling of the population within a period of 20-25 years.

2In 1931, less than 7 per cent of Nigerians lived in urban centres, that is settlements with populations of 20,000 and above. The proportion rose to 10 per cent in 1952 and to 19.2 per cent in 1963 (see tables 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3).

3Reliable estimates put the 1984 and 1991 urban population at 33 and 42 per cent. At present (i.e., in 1995), there are seven cities with populations of over one million people ; 18 cities with over 500,000 people ; 36 with over 200,000 people ; 78 cities with over 100,000 people ; and 5,050 towns with over 20,000 people (see Onibokun, 1987a ; 1989 ; 1990a).

Table 2.1 Population of Nigeria, 1921-2020

Table 2.1 Population of Nigeria, 1921-2020

Source : Federal Office of Statistics (1952, 1963) and projections by Onibokun based on 5 % annual growth rate for urban areas, 2.5 % for rural areas, and 10 % for state capitals.

Table 2.2 Nigeria's Rural and Urban Population, 1950-2025

Table 2.2 Nigeria's Rural and Urban Population, 1950-2025

Source : Modified by the authors from UN (1986)

4Over a period of 30 years (1952-1982), the population in most major towns has increased five-fold (see table 2.4). Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri, Kaduna, Jos and Ilorin had over 1000 per cent increases over three decades. Ibadan rose from 625,000 in 1963 to 2.84 million in 1982 ; Enugu rose from 174,000 in 1963 to 850,000 in 1982 ; Lagos rose from less than 1 million in 1963 to over 4 million in 1982 (see Onibokun, 1987a).

5These population increases account, in part, for the rapid physical expansion of these cities. For example, the physical extent of Enugu was 72.52 square kilometres in 1963. By 1975, it had more than doubled to 180 square kilometres and by 1985, had more than tripled to 204 square kilometres. This gives an average annual physical expansion rate of 5.98 square kilometres between 1963 and 1983.

Table 2.3 Percentage of Population Residing in Urban Areas in the World, Africa and Nigeria, 1950-2025

Table 2.3 Percentage of Population Residing in Urban Areas in the World, Africa and Nigeria, 1950-2025

Source : UN (1991)

6The growth of Ibadan is another classical example of urban sprawl in Nigeria. In 1951, the population of Ibadan had reached 100,000 and buildings occupied an area of about 36 square kilometres, while ditches and walls surrounding the town were more than 25 kilometres in circumference. Studies based on aerial photography at scale 1:25,000 show that by 1973, the total land area had increased to about 112 square kilometres (Adediran, 1984 ; Onibokun, 1988a). All farmlands, fallow lands and river flood plains within the city had been built upon. By 1981 a total land area of about 136 square kilometres had been developed. This increased to 176 square kilometres in 1984, and 214 square kilometres in 1988 ; a spatial increase of over 84 per cent in seven years (see table 2.5). By the year 2000, it is estimated that Ibadan will cover over 400 square kilometres, considering the rate at which the city's population is growing and the trend of growth from 1981 (Onibokun, 1988a). If the present rate of expansion of the city is not curbed, surrounding towns, such as Ajoda new town on Ife Road, Onidundu village and Idi Ayunre to the south, Omi Adio on Abeokuta Road, and Lalupon-Ejioku on Iwo Road will be linked by physical development. Ibadan will then be an octopus of a city. Many Nigerian cities are exhibiting a similar growth pattern (Stren, 1985 ; Mschlia, 1986 ; Ema, 1986 ; Onibokun, 1987 ; Mabogunje, 1992).

Table 2.4 Population of Some Nigerian Cities, 1972-2000 AD, (in millions)

Table 2.4 Population of Some Nigerian Cities, 1972-2000 AD, (in millions)

Note * : Nigerian Population Census, 1952 and 1963
Note ** : Onibokun (1987a), p.98, 1952-1982

Table 2.5 Spatial Growth of Ibadan at Different Time Periods, 1931-1988

Table 2.5 Spatial Growth of Ibadan at Different Time Periods, 1931-1988

Source : Onibokun, 1988a

2.2 The Urban Sector : Problems and challenges

7The problems and challenges posed by the rapid urban growth in Nigeria are immense. More easily observable and perhaps very frightening are the general human and environmental poverty, the declining quality of life and the underutilized as well as the untapped wealth of human resources. Housing and associated facilities (such as water, electricity, waste disposal) are grossly inadequate. Millions live in substandard environments called slums, plagued by squalor and grossly inadequate social amenities, such as, a shortage of schools, poor health facilities and lack of opportunities for recreation among others. Juvenile delinquency and crime have become endemic in urban areas as a result of the gradual decline of traditional social values and the breakdown of family cohesiveness and community spirit. Moreover, the capacity of law enforcement institutions to prevent crime is increasingly hampered by technological and resource limitations.

8Lack of infrastructure is one of the most pressing problems in Nigerian cities (see Lee, 1989b ; Lee and Anas, 1989 ; 1990 ; Linn, 1982 ; Mschelia, 1986 ; Verma et al., 1991). Significant proportions of the houses in major towns and cities have no access to electricity, pipe-borne water or hygienic toilet facilities. The proportion of existing urban housing stock that is dilapidated or is in need of major repairs is estimated at 22.3 per cent nationwide, while about 3 million housing units are required to meet the backlog of housing needs and the replacement of substandard ones (Onibokun, 1987). In many Nigerian cities, the city centres are decaying without any programme of rehabilitation while new urban peripheries develop without planning or the necessary infrastructure.

9Intra-city mobility is greatly hampered by poor planning and inefficient land use. The network capacity of the transportation system is grossly inefficient and structurally defective. The urban economy is characterized by low and marginal productivity and high rates of unemployment and underemployment. The low capacity utilization in the industrial sector also continuously worsens the employment-generating capacity of the urban economy.

10The World Bank recently carried out a study of the infrastructure situation in Lagos and its impact on productivity. The findings are revealing (see Anas and Lee, 1988 ; Lee and Anas, 1989 ; 1990). The failure of the Nigerian government to respond adequately to the increasing demand for urban infrastructural services has had the following consequences :

  1. The productivity of the economy of Lagos, and of Nigeria in general, has been seriously affected.

  2. The quality of life in the city has deteriorated ; conditions of living have worsened.

  3. The inadequate provision of infrastructural services has affected most business firms, as they spend over 20 per cent of their capital outlay on providing their own infrastructure — electricity, water supply, transport, telecommunications, and waste disposal — which, under normal circumstances, should have been provided by the municipal authorities.

11The World Bank study revealed that the capital value of electric power generating facilities alone was about 10 per cent of the total value of machinery and equipment of most of the large firms operating in Lagos. For the small firms it was worse ; about 25 per cent of their total value was committed to electricity generation. The same study also shows that the average cost of producing a firm's own power was N4.61 per kmh, about 9 times the cost in developed countries. The high cost of producing power and other infrastructural services are passed on to the consumers in the form of higher prices.

12Another aspect which the study revealed was that many small firms and enterprises which could not afford the cost of providing their own basic infrastructure became marginalized, with very low productivity. This situation is consistent with the 'incubator hypothesis' which shows that the location of small firms (employing less than 20 people) is influenced by the availability of utilities and other essential services (see Linn, 1982 ; Lee, 1989 ; Verma et al., 1991). This means that a country such as Nigeria, with its poor infrastructure, does not offer a conducive environment for small-scale enterprises which are important to the development of the economy. Those enterprises that have already been established cannot grow at a rate that would generate enough employment opportunities to meet the demand of the growing population, while fewer and fewer new ones are able to get started (CASSAD, 1993b). Since industrial growth and employment generation in a country depend heavily on the extent to which small firms and enterprises can grow and succeed, it should not be a surprise to policy makers that Nigeria continues to have a high rate of unemployment and underemployment. Poverty is also becoming more endemic in our urban centres and will become still more so unless the infrastructure problems, which contribute significantly to the breeding of poverty, are seriously addressed.

13One study of urban problems in 38 Nigerian cities and another on urban infrastructure in three major cities were recently conducted (Onibokun, 1987). The surveys showed the declining quality and gross inadequacy of urban infrastructure. Specifically, they revealed that a significant proportion (up to 34 % in some cities) of the housing units had no access to electricity, pipe-borne water and safe liquid waste disposal systems.

14With reference to housing, high rates of overcrowding, substandard buildings and infrastructural inadequacies have been reported in all the urban centres in Nigeria (Adedibu, 1985 ; Onibokun, 1987). Access to land, mortgage loans and building materials at affordable prices have become increasingly difficult and have limited the ability of most people to build their own houses. This has resulted in overcrowding, excessive house rents, poor or total absence of infrastructural facilities, and unwholesome and unhygienic environments generally. The proportion of urban housing (i.e., existing housing stock) that was either in need of major repair or was dilapidated in the different states of the Federation was put at between 20 and 35 per cent. It was estimated that about 3 million housing units were needed to meet the backlog and replace substandard houses in Nigeria.

Table 2.6 Condition of Urban Housing in Nigeria, by State, 1987

Table 2.6 Condition of Urban Housing in Nigeria, by State, 1987

Source : Onibokun, 1987

15With respect to water supply, the research reports revealed that the average daily output and the average per capita output were ridiculously low. In Ibadan, for example, the main water scheme had a design capacity of 120 million litres per day. However, at the time of the survey, it was pumping out only 36 million litres per day. The scheme was also designed to have 6 pumps, but only three had been installed, one of which had broken down. Investigation revealed that, due to financial constraints, the remaining three pumps could not be installed and repairs on the one that had broken down could not be carried out. In addition, a scheme meant for a population of half a million now serves over 3 million people. The situation has since worsened (see Faniran, 1991a ; 1991b). In many parts of Ibadan, water flows for one or two hours a week, while in others, water has not flowed at all for months. The situation is the same in most towns in Nigeria : the regular supply of water is a luxury (see Faniran, 1987 ; 1988 ; 1991a ; 1991b).

16With respect to solid waste disposal, the surveys revealed the problem of indiscriminate dumping in open spaces, along streets and in streams. This practice was resorted to either when waste in state depots was not collected and when the depots were overflowing or when they were not easily accessible. In one of the cities studied (a city of over 1 million people) there were only 14 trucks and one loader for waste management. The equipment needed for waste management in most Nigerian urban centres was not available in the quantity and quality required (see Faniran, 1982 ; Onibokun, 1989).

17With reference to education, the average number of pupils per teacher, which has also been used as a proxy for education quality, was high and ranged between 35 and 45 in many Nigerian cities. Research has revealed that there has been a decline in the quality of education and educational services in Nigeria. The same was observed for health services. The quality of health services was generally poor, in spite of the fact that the best that the state had to offer was concentrated in cities. The number of people per hospital bed in 1986 was about 200 in Enugu, 600 in Ibadan, and 256 in Kaduna. The number of people per maternity home bed in 1986 was about 270 in Enugu, and about 3,000 in Ibadan. The number of persons per doctor was over 3,000 in most communities. Of course, the figures were higher in the rural areas where the average was over 200,000 per doctor (Onokerhoraye, 1976 ; Olatunbosun, 1976 ; Adeyemo, 1987).

18Finally, a study conducted by CASSAD on the impact of the structural adjustment programme in major Nigerian towns confirmed the declining standard of life in these cities, especially in the areas of investment on housing, environmental development, quality of life and urban productivity (CASSAD, 1993b). The picture is indeed bleak. All available surveys seem to present the same pathetic picture of a high rate of unemployment, a high dependency rate, low income earnings and a subsistence living standard in most urban areas in Nigeria.

2.3 Conclusion

19Many research findings show that while cities in Nigeria, as in other developing countries, have been growing at a very rapid rate, there has been no commensurable growth in the rate at which social services and infrastructural amenities are provided. The result has been a gradual decline in the quality of the environment and in the quality of life. Educational facilities such as primary and secondary schools, have not been able to accommodate the sharp increase in the number of pupils ; the ratio of population to health facilities such as dispensaries, maternity homes and hospitals is unfavourable, health facilities are neither well staffed nor adequately equipped. The same findings apply to housing, employment opportunities and crime prevention facilities.

20The pattern, trend and characteristics of urbanization in Nigeria call for measures aimed at : (a) stemming the growth of the cities ; (b) controlling the rate of rural-urban migration ; and (c) improving the quality of life in both urban and rural areas.

21Taking appropriate measures calls for a thorough understanding of the urban sector. Research is therefore inevitable. Later in this book, we shall examine research that has been carried out on the urban sector in Nigeria with a view to identifying the gaps in knowledge, as a guide to future research needs.



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Table des illustrations

Titre Table 2.1 Population of Nigeria, 1921-2020
Légende Source : Federal Office of Statistics (1952, 1963) and projections by Onibokun based on 5 % annual growth rate for urban areas, 2.5 % for rural areas, and 10 % for state capitals.
Fichier image/jpeg, 248k
Titre Table 2.2 Nigeria's Rural and Urban Population, 1950-2025
Légende Source : Modified by the authors from UN (1986)
Fichier image/jpeg, 356k
Titre Table 2.3 Percentage of Population Residing in Urban Areas in the World, Africa and Nigeria, 1950-2025
Légende Source : UN (1991)
Fichier image/jpeg, 332k
Titre Table 2.4 Population of Some Nigerian Cities, 1972-2000 AD, (in millions)
Légende Note * : Nigerian Population Census, 1952 and 1963Note ** : Onibokun (1987a), p.98, 1952-1982
Fichier image/jpeg, 492k
Titre Table 2.5 Spatial Growth of Ibadan at Different Time Periods, 1931-1988
Légende Source : Onibokun, 1988a
Fichier image/jpeg, 348k
Titre Table 2.6 Condition of Urban Housing in Nigeria, by State, 1987
Légende Source : Onibokun, 1987
Fichier image/jpeg, 403k

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