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Urban Research in Nigeria

 | 
Adepoju Onibokun
, 
Adetoye Faniran

Chapter Five

The future prospects of urban research in Nigeria

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5.1 Introduction

1In spite of the significant roles cities play as engines of national development, and in spite of the increasing magnitude of problems in the urban centres generally, the urban sector has continued to suffer neglect and to lack adequate attention. In the last two decades, the urban sector, in particular, has been accorded very low priority by both government and donor agencies. Consequently the various institutions engaged in urban research cannot conduct effective research due largely to non funding or underfunding. Prevailing harsh economic conditions have further worsened the situation.

2Perhaps the most important conclusion that can be drawn from the discussion above, is that every effort should be made to encourage research and publication in the urban sector. After a peak was reached in the 1980s, a decline seems to have set in, which should not be allowed to continue for many reasons. Foremost among these is the continued increase in the rate of urbanization. As in other parts of the world, Nigeria is becoming more and more urban and alongside this process, problems of all types are multiplying. The solution is more and better research to influence policy.

5.2 Ameliorating the Research Environment

3As explained in chapter one, the exploding urban centres have brought in focus great challenges which call for pragmatic and purposeful action, policies and ameliorating programmes. Such interventions must of necessity be based on a good understanding of the metabolism of the urban systems, the people running and shaping the systems, and the consequences of their action or inaction. This calls for continuous, meaningful research that will take a rational look at the urban centres in Nigeria, and particularly at the relationship between the urban centres and their host environment. If the exploding urbanization taking place in Nigeria is not to destroy the people, we must pursue urban research aimed at understanding the ecology of settlements in Nigeria.

4Unfortunately, as explained in chapter four, the present research environment is bad and, as it is, cannot produce the much needed data and ideas which form the basis of sound policy intervention. There are institutions that can carry out urban research in Nigeria — these include the universities, the research institutes and the up and coming NGOs. Chapter three and appendix VI also reveal that there has been a steady rise in the quantity of urban literature, a factor attesting to the willingness of urban researchers to engage in research if given a conducive environment, i.e., the material and financial resources needed to prosecute research in a meaningful way.

5The first place to start, therefore, is to improve the research environment. We suggest below some of the steps that must be taken :

  • The Nigerian government and its agencies must be educated through advocacy and reasoned arguments on the value of research and the place of research in development. The role of educating the government should be performed by the researchers themselves, the United Nations agencies and the bilateral and multilateral agencies who already know the value of research.
  • Donor agencies need to accord greater priority to the urban sector. The notion among many donor agencies is that the majority of the people live in rural areas and an emphasis on rural development will stem rural-urban migration. Four decades of research done by agencies on the rural sector has shown, however, that resources poured into the rural areas do not slow the rate of urbanization. At present, 40 per cent of the population of Nigeria are in cities, compared with only 20 per cent three decades ago. By the year 2020, it is estimated that over 60 per cent of Nigeria's 250 million population will be in urban centres. The reality is that urban centres have come to stay ; the only choice we have is to accept this reality and plan to accommodate cities and ameliorate the urban challenges. The donor agencies need to act now on the urban issues and challenges in Nigeria, else the urban crisis will cripple the development of the country. The goal is to promote urban sustainability through research and intervention programmes.
  • Donor agencies such as USAID, IDRC, the Ford Foundation, IFRA, the bilateral agencies, the UN system, the multilateral agencies, the World Bank, etc., should support and promote urban research at a much higher tempo — through capacity building of the NGOs and the institutions (a few of them to start with) which have an existing capacity for urban research.
  • There is a need for urgent action to stem the brain drain from the universities and the research institutes. Very few of the academics who are left are carrying out meaningful research, while the rest drift into academic and professional obscurity. The country is gradually moving back to the pre-independence period when, as a result of the shortage of qualified Nigerians, foreigners dominated research and the academic scene and what was known about Nigeria was from the perspective of foreigners.
  • The Federal Government of Nigeria can and should resuscitate the higher institutions. This will require a demonstrated commitment to improve the conditions of service and the research environment in these institutions. With reference to the urban sector, in particular, institutions such as the Urban Development Bank Limited, the Federal Mortgage Bank Limited and the Federal Housing Authority should be strengthened to enable them boost urban research in Nigeria through the provision of grants to universities, research institutes and NGOs.
  • At the national level, it is essential to institutionalize urban research so as to create a consensus on the focus and trend of the research effort. The current situation of individuals and donors dictating the course and emphasis of urban research in the country is not good enough. It is in this connection that bodies such as the professional associations, especially the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners, and agencies such as the Urban Development Bank, or any other national body set up for this purpose, become relevant. One special advantage of bodies such as these is the prospect of mobilizing the much needed funding for urban research, thus facilitating integration and a comprehensive approach to research. This approach will itself generate good ideas, discussion and agreement on research priorities, methodologies and the application of research findings. The co-ordinated approach will also assist in the reorientation of research from the erstwhile short-term, ad-hoc type to those which have medium to long-term perspectives on problems and solutions. By implication, the envisaged approach will be more multidisciplinary and require movement from cross-sectional to longitudinal studies which call for sophisticated methods and techniques, including those of urban modelling

5.3 Issues for Future Research

6In terms of focus for future research, the sixteen topical areas analysed in chapter three are sufficiently indicative. There are critical issues under each area that call for research. Some of these issues are listed below under topical headings.

5.3.1 Urban poverty and quality of life

  • Dimensions, characteristics and indicators of urban poverty
  • Evaluation of the impact of public policy on urban poverty and its alleviation
  • Link between urban governance and urban poverty
  • Impact of globalization on urban economic and social structures
  • Poverty and environment interface
  • Evaluation of national urban poverty alleviation strategies and health linkages
  • Impact of poverty on the knowledge, attitude and practices of family planning
  • Population distribution, over-crowding and the impact on health

5.3.2 Urban environment

  • Indicators of urban environmental quality
  • Socio-economic dimension of environmental protection and management
  • Major polluters in urban centres
  • Industries and environmental damage in major cities
  • Functioning of the biosphere and the impact of pollution
  • Metabolism of major Nigerian cities
  • Management of solid waste in Nigerian towns and implications for technology, knowledge transfer and urban management
  • Ecological implications of oil exploitation in the riverine areas of Nigeria
  • Institutional framework for environmental management in Nigeria - implications for environmental policy
  • Preparation of environmental profiles for cities
  • Street trading and Nigerian urban environment
  • Toxic waste management in Nigerian towns

5.3.3 Urban spatial structure and functions

  • Analysis of the changing structure, order and distribution of Nigerian cities
  • Urban innovations and the internal dynamics of cities in Nigeria
  • Social factors in the functioning of Nigerian cities
  • Urban hierarchies and urban ecology in Nigeria
  • Intra-city and inter-city migration
  • Urban metabolism in Nigeria
  • The future of Nigerian cities — A scenario and policy implications

5.3.4 Urban land and urban management

  • Impact of the Land Use Decree and Land policies on the pattern of urban development
  • Longitudinal study of the land market in major towns
  • The changing phases of property/land ownership
  • Urban land data including the application of cadastral and geographical information systems
  • Municipal administration in Nigeria
  • Relative effectiveness of town planning laws
  • Grassroots involvement in urban management

5.3.5 Urban-rural linkages

  • The changing phases of rural-urban migration in Nigeria
  • Impact of urbanization on agricultural levels
  • Urban food supply pattern
  • Urban waste and agricultural development
  • Urban gardening — Incidence, impact and policy implications for urban land management
  • The role of the urban centres in rural development

5.3.6 Urban infrastructure

  • Evaluation of urban infrastructure needs
  • Urban infrastructure prioritization and funding
  • Development implications of urban infrastructure
  • Urban infrastructure maintenance
  • Cost recovery in urban infrastructure
  • Acceptable minimum standard of urban infrastructure for Nigeria
  • The role of the three levels of government in urban infrastructure development and management
  • Urban transportation issues and problems
  • Why the taps are dry in Nigerian cities
  • Urban sewage treatment problems
  • The problem of long distance haulage
  • Energy cost of urban sprawl in Nigeria
  • Transportation of hazardous gases

5.3.7 Urban housing

  • Housing affordability in major Nigerian towns
  • The impact of public policy on private sector housing
  • Housing finance mechanisms in Nigeria — Structure and functioning
  • Inflation and housing supply
  • Local building materials as a solution to affordable housing — The myth, the realities and the lessons of experience
  • Cooperative housing — Lessons from past and current experiences
  • Relative achievement of the Nigerian Housing Policy
  • Impact of the primary mortgage institutions on housing provision in Nigerian urban centres
  • Evaluation of public sector housing delivery
  • Homelessness in urban Nigeria — Scope, dimension, causes and implications
  • Tenants' rights and the housing eviction process
  • Urban upgrading methods and potentials

5.3.8 Urban violence and social disorder

  • Longitudinal study of urban violence in major cities
  • Sociological and cultural dimension of urban violence
  • Impact of the structural adjustment programme on violence and social order
  • Evaluation of crime prevention mechanisms, strategies and penal codes
  • Women and urban violence
  • Poverty and urban violence
  • Marriage stability and social order
  • Impact of the media on urban social disorder
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Problem of street children in Nigerian urban centres
  • Youth gangs and area boys — Implications for social order and the urban economy

5.3.9 Urban economy and urban finance

  • Impact of SAP on urban productivity
  • Urban productivity and income distribution
  • Impact of urban infrastructure on productivity
  • Unemployment and job creation patterns in urban centres
  • Debt servicing
  • Integration of the urban informal sector into the national economy
  • Sociology of the urban informal sector in Nigeria
  • Evaluation of the performance of the indigenization policy
  • Role of financial institutions in urban development
  • Factors leading to the failure of financial institutions

5.3.10 Women in urban development

  • The role of women in the economy
  • Factors impeding the leadership of women
  • Women in urban agriculture, urban economy and urban politics
  • The changing role of women in the process of urbanization
  • Women and urban poverty
  • The impact of SAP on marriage stability

5.4 Conclusion

7The list of issues for research is endless. Priorities must therefore be set. Who should set priorities ? The answer is not simple. Different donor agencies have their own areas of concentration. Researchers have their areas of specialization and interest. Public policies and programmes also dictate research needs. The combination of and consultation among the three interest groups should set the urban research agenda.

8What appears most critical is the challenge of convincing, persuading and motivating the donor agencies and the public authorities to realize that the urban sector now deserves special attention, that urban research is now a priority and that a positive change in the urban research environment is imperative. Such a change will benefit urban researchers, urban research institutions and NGOs.

© IFRA-Nigeria, 1995

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