Though Nigeria has a couple of urban cities that attract foreigners, visitors and investors, these cities rapid rate of urbanization does come with its challenges. There are indeed grey areas that need to be looked into for major Nigerian cities such as Port Harcourt, Abuja, Lagos, Calabar and Enugu to attain their full potentials. A critical assessment of the bottlenecks will also serve as a panacea towards improving environmental standards within urban settings.
A thriving urban city without affordable housing, portable water supply, energy, transportation, security, sewage disposal and drainage is like a ship without a rudder. And the enormity of efforts of governments, at all levels, to address the myriad of challenges of the urban dwellers in Nigeria is simply overwhelming.
Majority of people in Nigeria live in urban cities where a greater portion of the generated resources of the state is consumed. Despite the huge expenditure by State governments to sustain the urban sector, they still struggle with enormous human growth rates and immigration.
Major Nigerian cities also have to face opposite challenges of negative growth. Many old industries have closed down and foreign investors are relocating to neighbouring countries as a result of the harsh economic environment we are presently in, and the continuous epileptic power supply.
These have led to high production costs, corruption from high places and insecurity from the area boys. A closer look at various urban center settings has shown glaring urban inequality and class segregation across income levels. That is the reason why we have some high brow area in Lagos state specifically for the high and mighty in the society, while other places with slum-like, shanty or low-cost housing structures clearly for the low income or no income earners.
The traditional setting of general collective living across residential neighbourhood before Nigeria got her independence in 1960 has given way to residential segregation and subsequently unsustainable residential neighbourhood developments through the introduction of low, medium and high-income residential estates, on the one part and the massive introduction of imported building materials, the cost of which has sidelined the poor within the society. Through the land zoning approach of Federal and State governments, cities and towns compete with each other trying to woo investors who can afford to acquire large tracks of land around the fringes of such cities or towns.
It’s indeed sad that the poverty level in Nigeria contradicts the country’s immense wealth. Among other things, the country is enormously endowed with human, agricultural, petroleum, gas, and large untapped solid mineral resources. Although renewed militancy in the Niger-Delta region of the country is mitigating against our major source of revenue which is crude oil.
The housing crisis that arises from the rapid urbanization in major urban cities is really a stumbling block to true urbanization; a problem the major urban cities have tackled for decades. There are five powerful factors involved in the housing crisis, which are, no doubt, beyond an individual’s control. They are, population growth, rapid urbanization, natural disasters, political upheaval, economic regression and persistent poverty. Another problem facing urbanization in Nigeria is the persistent rise in the unemployment rate in Nigeria. This has led an army of angry and desperate unemployed youths prowling cities and the unending influx of youth into the urban areas which has now posed further threat to an already precarious state of national security. There is no doubt that the rapid rise in the country’s unemployment rate has become a major source of concern.
It is high time government at all levels encourage both employers and employees in the informal sector through funding and infrastructural facilities so as to reduce the cost of doing business in Nigeria. The state of insecurity should also be addressed so as to attract potential investors to open industries in the country. The monumental corruption that exists at almost every aspect of our national lives should not be tackled with kid gloves. Notably, the lack of infrastructure to a large extent especially road and electricity, constitute the major cause of undue pressure on urban facilities and increase in the cost of housing acquisition in the country. Government must embark on realistic land reform agenda in the country with a view to making land accessibility to every Nigerians less cumbersome as well as commit itself to making substantial financial investment in infrastructure with a view to lessening the eventual cost of new homes, reduce the cost of land and encourage people to live outside the cities.