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  • Writer's pictureEnyenaweh Research

Development Induced Displacement and its Impact on Women

The Lagos state government in dealing with the dilemma of rapid urbanization, increasing population and poor infrastructure usually resort to the use of forced eviction in clearing informal settlements in a bid to manage this dilemma in a sustainable way. Lagos has a history of forced relocations dating back to 1934, when the Lagos Executive development Board cleared slums due to the outbreak of the Bubonic plague[1], it is estimated that over 2 million people have been rendered homeless has a result of forced evictions in the state.[2] Unintended consequences of government led forced evictions includes homelessness, which has detrimental consequences for the evicted. Thus even as the state adopt policies to strategically respond to challenges of rapid urbanization and exploit its opportunities, negative externalities of the policy making and execution process generate contradictions within the system that defeats the goals of those policies as regards its impact on material and human development.

Among these range of impacts, women suffer disproportionately especially in the African society, where they are doubly marginalized by culture and traditional law. Customary law in most parts of Nigeria vests the right to own and inherit property in the hands of the man. Igbo and Edo culture-are cases in point. Where the law is not discriminatory against women, death rituals in practice often strips widows of the property and material processions of the families. This effect is especially potent where the widow has no male children or in instances where the male children are minors. The weaknesses of the formal legal system, justiciability of international human rights treaties and covenants, slow court processes, limited access to legal redress for the poor as a group and corruption within the police means that even where appropriate common law exists the system in effect offers no respite for women and their wards.

Women rendered homeless as a result of forced evictions in urban centers face double jeopardy: having fled the poverty in rural areas and thrust into wage labor in the city, they lose social connections and networks that had served as a form of safety net in urban poverty. These women and their children-often young and many-deal with loss of what meager income they possessed, face starvation and are sometimes unable to return to their points of origin. While informal safety nets provided by their rural settings did not shield them from deprivation, it at least provides a form of comfort in times of extreme need. Women in urban slums already encumbered with fending for children, when suddenly thrust out of their homes most times resort to worse living conditions than the slums. They and their children are exposed to abuse and exploitation. Such exploitation takes the form of physical, psychological and sexual abuse. Children are exposed to criminal influences and sub-cultures which in the long run decimate national security and compound already high youth unemployment rates. Usually, their abodes become relocated to refuse dumps under pedestrian bridges, at the beach fronts and other open spaces with the Lagos metropolis. Moreover, due to the beautification programs of the Lagos State government there are no pedestrian bridges to sleep under or refuse dump to scavenge from. This fact those not detract from the huge benefits of urban beautification and landscaping projects…yet it provokes a question: except in event of a proper relocation plan for evicted persons, to where do or should they go? Back to the village where there is biting poverty, from which they sought refuge in the city or to other communities at the fringes of the city, which soon develops into another slum community and suffers the same fate they barely survived?

The Multi-Hub Model: A Policy Framework to address mono-centric rapid urbanization

An inclusive framework for urban governance must be such that is sensitive to gender roles and needs, which will expand access to economic, social and political goods to women and other vulnerable groups. Any policy framework to address the challenges of rapid urbanization must take into cognizance the following: 1) protection of vulnerable groups especially women and children 2) promote equal development in different regions of the country and 3) adoption of participatory process that includes women, so as to capture emerging issues facing women transiting from a rural/traditional society and its norms to urban living. To explore this triad of concerns, the multi-hub model is proposed.

The multi hub model based on the idea of Febi Mutiara et al (1994)[3] proposes a multiplication of economic centers around the country. Under this model, a “hub’ refers to “ a geographic point surrounded by rural areas whose relative economic prosperity relative to the latter allows it to be a suitable end market for rural products and the beneficiary of fiscal advantage and regulatory attention. It serves as a catalyst to the development of the peripheral rural communities, alleviating the pressure exerted by push factors that drive rural dwellers towards big cities”[4].

While Mutiara et al, proposes the design of hub-satellite clusters, the Nigerian federal state and geo-political divide creates natural hub-satellites clusters, whose main cities can become the “pull-hub” for rural-urban and opportunity migrants within the region. This does not presuppose fresh political arrangement; rather what is important in the creation of multiple hubs around the country is a focus on leveraging on natural resources and opportunity within each geo-political region to create an economic hub for that region. The multiplicity of economic hubs has two advantages: it will ease the pressure on Lagos territory and infrastructure and redistribute available opportunities. Moreover, by proximity to rural areas from which migrants move from, hubs will retain some measure of communal social networks and safety nets in the rural area. Moreover, this proximity has the potential to reduce rural-urban migration by its substitution with rural-urban commuting.

However, this model is an ideal type that can only be implemented in consonance with development of primary infrastructure within geo-political regions, which must include efficient networks of transportation and communication, as well as a more coherent operation of the Nigerian federation. This paper concludes with an assertion that proliferation of urban slums is not an anomaly, it reflects structural dissensus within the governance system, in which women and children are the chief victims. Thus, the most effective policy framework to address challenges of rapid urbanization and urban poverty will be that which embraces a holistic cocktail of strategies, impacts, consequences and goals.

[1]Ibid. check 5 [2]Ruban Selvanayagam, July 18th 2011,” Lagos Super Slums”. Habitation for the Planet. accessed June 21 2012) [3]Febi Mutiara, et al ( 1994) “Managing Asia’s Rapid Urbanization for Social Progress’. 6th Hitachi Young Leaders Initiative. [4] Ibid, check 11

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