New report chronicles Nigeria migration

A new report by the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC offers a broad analysis of the internal migration and cross-border trends affecting Nigeria.  Entitled “Nigeria: Multiple Forms of Mobility in Africa’s Demographic Giant,” the report gives a historical overview of the major post-independence trends, ranging from unsettled claims from the Biafran Civil War to current problems raised by human trafficking and the significant displacement triggered by the expansion of Shari’a in the northern states starting after the transition to democracy in 1999.

During a trip to Nigeria in 2008, I was struck by the first billboard I saw on the airport road in Abuja, highlighting the problem of human trafficking. According to government agencies, at least 10,000 people are trafficked from Nigeria each year.  The report also mentions how the state of Akwa Ibom in particular is apparently a source for people eventually forced into domestic servitude.

Religious violence in Plateau and Kaduna states regularly gets international attention.  The Biafran question, by contrast, remains one of at least three migration issues lurking in the background.  A prominent Igbo politician told me during a 2006 interview that compensation for property seized during the war remains a source of great resentment in the southeast; many cases are still stuck in the courts.  Worse, he said, the ruling People’s Democratic Party has neglected the issue entirely, and he further complained about under-representation of the east in the Federal government’s civil service and military ranks (which has possibly been addressed a bit more since then).

Second, like the human rights report I co-authored with Patrick Ukata, the MPI report also mentions the problem of discrimination against people from other states.  Discrimination against Nigerians treated as “strangers” in their own country is behind much of the recent violence in Plateau – the religious overtones were present but arguably shallow by causal comparison.  For an interesting theoretical framework for these issues, check out David Laitin’s classic Culture and Hegemony.

A third issue not discussed in the report, but one which will may become another flash point in the near future, is the displacement of people who migrated to Abuja, especially after the democratic transition.  Tens of thousands of people were displaced first during beautification campaigns (my favorite bars in Zone 4 are gone, and my favorite bukkas in Wuse 2 were destroyed to make way for Bill Clinton’s visit in 2000).    More recently demolitions have been part of efforts to ensure that the city of Abuja conforms as much as possible to its original plan. I am working to obtain funding for a collaborative research project with the University of Ibadan in the summer of 2011 to interview those affected – and those profiting from this destruction.   I took this picture (below) near Idu in March 2010.  During meetings with Ibgo self-help organizations, members told me stories of how they rented property from chiefs belonging Abuja’s indigenes, then when their homes and businesses were destroyed by the government’s Ministry for the Federal Capital Territory, the migrants discovered they had no recourse because either the chiefs did not have the authority to rent to them in the first place, or their properties did not have building permits.

Resentment is building, and it is impossible for these working class families to afford housing within the city itself; traffic was non-existent when I lived in Abuja and now it takes upwards of an hour to commute into the city each morning for most of the people who clean the floors and answer the phones.  Thanks to MPI for providing excellent background on migration issues generally, and I hope to provide more insights into the Abuja question after I have had a chance to do more research in the city’s informal settlements.

3 thoughts on “New report chronicles Nigeria migration

  1. Kirin Kalia

    Thanks for your thoughtful response to the Nigeria profile. Most discussions of internal displacement focus on those uprooted due to conflict, general violence, and manmade or natural disasters. I would categorize the displacement of people in Abuja you describe under the “violation of human rights” part of the IDP definition (more on that in an this Source article: How is what happened in Abuja similar/different from other urban displacement cases in Nigeria? As migrants rather than indigenes, I can imagine that the people who were forced out for Abuja’s “beautification” are more vulnerable than some of the country’s other IDPs.

  2. Claudia E. Anyaso

    Carl: My husband’s law office was on Addis Ababa Crescent in Abuja, not far from the Sheraton. His whole block was demolished (all the offices, restaurants, and shops) under the Obasanjo regime. The businesses retained a lawyer who is attempting to get restitution. All the occupants had certificates of occupancy and other documentation to prove ownership. The Federal Capital Terrirory government ignored all that, and the demlolition was seen as a “land grab.” So the Abuja situation has a number of different situations and the claim of returning to the original plan, has no credibility. v/r Claudia

  3. Josiah Olubowale

    I honestly think the most important dimension to IDP issue is those that result from vertically inititiated policies (government to the people) and not those from horizontal contests (various ethnic or sectarian) — Just as Prof. LeVan pointed out above.
    This week, AI released their report on P/Harcourt:
    The point, therefore is that the discussion at this stage should not be restricted to Abuja. All the state governments have all fashioned out their reasons for land grabs and the Federal Government is keeping out of the way (never mind Goodluck Jonathan’s wife open confrontation with the Rivers State governor over one of series of demolition in P/Harcourt).
    My take on it genrally is that the FG is trying very hard not to follow the path of the court to solve any of the difficult cases (one would think they will be showing a good example for the state governments).
    It somehow leads back to the whole idea of Abuja itself: if the idea was initiated as a result of an ill-managed infrastructure, sanitation system and the environment — a move away from LAGOS and continued to be executed as such — that’s what we’ll continue to get.

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