Urban Poverty in Lagos Nigeria Abstract

This research highlights several concepts that relate to urban poverty. A general overview of the situation in Lagos shows that it is one of the poorest nations in the world and that Lagos has extremely high levels of poverty. Through a definition of urban poverty, it becomes easier to relate the same to Lagos. The research discusses the causes and the consequences of urban poverty in Lagos, the roles played by governments, communities and NGOs in mitigating the problem, the social and economic impacts of urban poverty in Lagos plus the factors that led to urban poverty in Lagos.
Urban Poverty in Lagos Nigeria
Africa is one of the poorest nations in the world. While poverty is wide spread across different nations and location, urban poverty is currently more in the limelight. Discussions on the same dwell on the major cities one of them being Lagos. Urban poverty according to the World Bank (2011) encompasses several issues and therefore passes as a multidimensional concept. The World Bank (2011) states that urban poverty refers to urban livelihoods that are characterized by various challenges including high unemployment rates, insecure and inadequate housing, unhealthy and violent environments, inadequate social protection and limited access to education and health care. The same is echoed by Masika (1997). Urban poverty according to Masika (1997) cannot be defines in one sentence because it encompasses several concepts. Masika (1997) states that urban poverty is interpreted using anthropological and economic concepts and as such, it covers concepts such as infant mortality, life expectancy, nutrition, people`s daily budgets, rates of school enrolment, literacy, access to drinking water and other aspects.
Masika (1997) and the World Bank (2011) agree on the fact that not only is urban poverty a collection of various characteristics it also spells out conditions of susceptibility/ vulnerability. The World Bank (2011) states that currently, more than 50% of the world`s total population live in urban areas. The World Bank (2011) also states that 90% of urban growth occurs in developing nations and that each year sees more than 70 million people shift to urban areas. The highest contributors to these statistics are the biggest cities in Africa such as Lagos.
Osnibu (2003) further sheds light on the levels of poverty in Lagos. Osnibu (2003) states that in Nigeria there has been a steady decrease in poverty levels in rural areas and the same has been on the rise in urban areas especially in Lagos. Osnibu (2003) claims that between the years of 1985 and 1992, the number of the rural poor decreased from 26.4 million people to 22.8 million. On the other hand, the urban poor increased from 9.7 million to 11.9 million. These trends are on a steady increase according to Osnibu (2003). Osnibu (2003) also states that the severity of poverty in urban areas is steadily increasing and that the severity of urban poverty levels in urban areas has multiplied more than seven times.
Causes of Urban Poverty in Nigeria
There are several causes of urban poverty in Nigeria according to Taibat (2012). Taibat (2012) claims Nigeria is ranked the 24[th] poorest country in the world and that more than 70% of its total population lives below the poverty line. Taibat (2012) states that one of the reasons for increased urban poverty is rural unemployment. As established earlier on through the statistics outlined by Osnibu (2003), poverty was more prevalent in the rural areas than it was in the urban areas. Rural areas in Nigeria do not host establishments in the forms of companies, businesses and industries that can employ people. People leave rural areas for urban areas in search of employment and better lives. People believe that Lagos, which is the largest capital city in Nigeria, has more and better opportunities for them and therefore they go to all extents to relocate to the city.
When people move to Lagos, they have to settle in slums and other areas with deplorable conditions where they can afford to sustain their livelihoods as they search for jobs. While some people many get jobs, there are those who may not get the same and therefore they get stuck in poverty. Those who do not get jobs, mostly opt to stay within the city and opt for odd jobs and other forms of informal employment to sustain themselves.
There are also those people who move to the city not necessarily for employment but because they generally feel that the city life is better for them than life in the rural areas. There has therefore been a high influx of people to Lagos. People who do not want the rural lifestyle and prefer the urban lifestyle relocate there. Others also move to Lagos for other personal reasons. These people may not necessarily have any plan and therefore when they get to the city they wind up living in the slums and leading lives overridden by poverty without clear direction about their lives. Such people may contribute to social ills such as crime as explained later on.
The second cause of urban poverty is the absence of wage control in Lagos. Though people go to Lagos for employment as explained above, when they secure the same they may not be as beneficial as people had expected or as they should be. Minimal wages are low as of now and most of the people do not get paid as stipulated by the wage bills. As a result, workers in Lagos must find settlement areas that suit their salaries and lead lifestyles that they can afford. Most people end up living hand to mouth considering the expensive city lifestyles that they have to lead. Taibat (2012) states that out of a cohort that was studied to establish adherence to the minimum wages law, it was established that more that 21% of people in Lagos earn lower than the national minimum wage which is 7,500 Naira.
Those who are employed by the state government are not paid the minimum national wage even though the same is stipulated by the constitution. On the other hand, Taibat (2012) states that even those who are engaged in private enterprises do not always earn more than the minimum wage. In cases when people earn the minimum wages or slightly higher than that they are still forced to lead miserable lives because they can barely afford good housing, shelter, clothing, food and other daily needs that determine people`s livelihoods.
Minimum wage has been a heated debate in the state both in the yesteryears and in the recent past. A report by Jewel (2012) shows that the state has been a logger heads with its workers because as they demand for minimum wages, the state claims that it will pay them what it can afford and not what is proposed by the constitution. This means that as long as the state pleases, it will not pay its workers the minimum wage and above the same even though the amount is low.
Another cause of urban poverty is high costs of living. This is related to wages because when people do not earn what they should be earning according to the constitution and in line with the work that they do, they are forced to live in poverty. Even so, urban poverty can still be linked to the exorbitant price tags for goods and expensive housing. The little that people earn cannot be saved or used to build their lives but can only be used for survival. Osinubi (2003) states that earnings are low for Lagos residents yet they have to cope with extensive money needs including food, rent, school fees, medical care, clothing and other needs.
The next cause of urban poverty in Lagos is lack of education. Osinubi (2003) states that people do not always get the same opportunities receive education and for this reason, they cannot compete at the same levels when seeking for jobs. Part of receiving education is pegged on being able to get the money to pay for school fees. Since most people in Lagos live below the poverty line as stated by Taibat (2012) they cannot afford quality education.
Inability to afford school fees leads to high dropout rates in Lagos. People`s abilities to compete for better paying jobs are diminished by lack of knowledge and skills needed for desired positions. Low levels of education means that people have to settle or unskilled labor. Jobs that require unskilled labor are not stable and therefore they provide unstable and low income. This leads to unending cycles in that these people cannot afford school fees for their children who end up dropping out of school, the development of an informal market that people do not benefit from greatly and other related consequences. This point remains closely knit to wages.
The next reason for urban poverty is large family sizes according to Osnibu (2003). He states that in Lagos, many families have not adopted family planning methods extensively and as such, many of them have members whose needs surpass their incomes. Osninbu (2003) states that “the larger the family size the more grave its poverty levels” and this is evident in Lagos. According to Osnibu (2003), a large family size reduces per capita income and thereby increasing poverty levels.
Consequences of Urban Poverty
Osnibu (2003) highlights some f the consequences of urban poverty. People in Lagos are forced to lead sorry lives as a result of urban poverty. They have to live in pathetic and dilapidated households whose rents they can at least afford. This means that they are virtually confined to living in slums where they can find houses that suit their incomes.
Another consequence of urban poverty is that people are forced to consume dirty water since they have no access to clean water and may not afford the same. Osnibu (2003) states that apart from consuming dirty water, the urban poor have to make do with either lack of toilet facilities or those that are in poor states which are mostly in sorry states. As mentioned earlier, the urban poor cannot afford education, or when they do, it is of low quality. This affects their futures and clouds their hopes of getting out of poverty. Being in environments such as slums predisposes the urban poor to other secondary consequences including ailments and insecurity among others.
Governments`, Communities` and NGOs Responses to Urban Poverty in Lagos
The government is fully aware of the levels or urban poverty in Lagos. For this reason, the government is working closely with Non Governmental Organizations and Community Based Organizations to establish sectors that can be used to reduce poverty and how this can be achieved. The government is for instance lenient to people who engage in small enterprises and those who take interest in the transport system. Wegelin & Borgman (1995) states that the local council in Lagos has taken transport as a solution or the urban poor. Wegelin & Borgman (1995) claims that the urban poor for instance use motorcycles to transport people within the city and this assists them by bringing in money for their daily upkeep. Wegelin & Borgman (1995) states that governments, including the Nigerian government, do not have clear alternatives for the looming problem of urban poverty and therefore they accept these unregulated, unregistered and unconventional solutions
Taibat & Olanrewaju (2012) and Ogundele (2004) also claim that informal sectors in urban areas and Lagos in specific is important in ensuring that the people`s demands for jobs, services and goods are met and that they meet their daily needs. Taibat & Olanrewaju (2012) claim that in the Lagos metropolis, community members have established home based enterprises which assist them to meet their daily needs and uplift them economically. Social and economic developments are in these instances determined by communities that embrace enterprise and self employment within the city according to Tipple (2005). Taibat & Olanrewaju (2012) also state that as part of supporting these enterprises, the government is trying to come up with city improvement policies that consider home based enterprises as viable businesses that assist the city to develop sustainably.
NGOs are on the forefront in ensuring that the urban poor in Lagos get better housing and other basic amenities which are in good conditions as stated by Wegen & Borgman (1995). These scholars state that NGOs have made it their business to provide medical care, sponsoring the education of the less fortunate so that they can secure better futures and in other ways that they can.
Even with the steps taken by the government, it is still perceived as a reluctant player in the efforts targeted at alleviating urban poverty in Lagos. As Jewel (2012) states, the government does not want to adhere to the constitution by giving its workers in Lagos the recommended minimum wage. The government is a front runner in the quest to alleviate poverty and therefore if it not as wiling as it should be to alleviate poverty, other organs that play roles in the same may not do what they are expected to do. Irin & UN-Habitat (2012) also state that the government has failed to give proper guidance and to come up with good plans both for the city and for alleviating urban poverty.
Social and Economic Impact of Urban Poverty in Lagos
There are various social impacts of urban poverty outlined by Irin & UN-Habitat (2012). Irin & UN-Habitat (2012) claim that Lagos is one of the dirtiest cities in the world. Most of the urban poor live in slums that are close to the city and these are characterized by poor sanitation and dilapidated environments. Irin & UN-Habitat (2012) state that the cropping up of slums due to an influx of more than 600,000 people per year into the city of Lagos has worsened the situation of an already poorly managed city.
Poor sanitation also means that there are more people who fall sick and this is social problem because it affects families at personal levels. Families have to deal with illnesses regularly and so do other members of the society since they get affected. Irin & UN-Habitat (2012) state that landfills and other wastes contaminate drinking water both at the surface and underground levels leading to the spread of diseases.
Irin & UN-Habitat (2012) state that shelter and housing are also affected by urban poverty. Slums are social problems and they crop up as a result of inadequate and expensive housing. Since Lagos is the industrial city of Nigeria, it is bound to have influxes of people and with a slowly growing real estate sector whose end products are quite expensive to rent, people opt to live in the slums. Irin & UN-Habitat (2012) state that the estimated population in Lagos metropolitan is 1,308 per square Km but in other areas with higher population densities, the population can go up to 20,000 per square Km. Slums pose a present and future challenge because they hamper future development plans. They themselves are however the results of poor planning in the first place.
Rise in crime and prostitution are also results of urban poverty. Women who cannot fend for themselves may resort to engage in social ills such as prostitution to make ends meet. On the other hand, the youth may end up forming gangs through which they commit crime as their way to fend for themselves and their families.
Urban poverty in Lagos has had several social and economic impacts. Osnibu (2003) states that the city and the country at large cannot develop as desired because people do not earn enough to survive and to invest. Osnibu (2003) states that per capita income is extremely low in Lagos. Urban poverty reduces productivity to a great extent because people do not get the chances to be as productive as they would in better circumstances. Economic output is therefore crippled by urban poverty.
Crime is a social ill but it also has economic impacts and it is highly prevalent in Lagos due to urban poverty. Investors dread investing in crime-prone cities because they fear losses. On the other hand, crime can also lead to the direct loss of income and other investments that target uplifting the economy.
To add to this, healthcare expenditures increase both for the people and for the government. While the urban poor have to diverge some of their earnings to treat frequent ailments, the government has to set aside huge budgetary allocations to cater for communicable diseases and other ailments that are highly prevalent in slums. Other challenges that have economic implications include unemployment and low educational achievement.
Factors that Led to Urban Poverty in Lagos
Urban poverty in Lagos according to Irin & UN-Habitat (2012) has resulted from a steady influx of 600,000 people who move from rural areas to the city each year. These people move there for different reasons that were identified earlier on in this research. Irin & UN-Habitat (2012) identify Lagos as the industrial city of the nation and therefore people believe that it is the job hub. People relocate to the city in search of jobs and better livelihoods. As identified earlier on, companies and organizations in Lagos do not adhere to the minimum wage policy and neither do they employ all the people who wish to work in them.
Many people are left hanging outside the working class while those who are in it do not necessarily lead good lives. There are other factors which were discussed earlier on including unemployment in the rural areas, high costs of living and unaffordable education and high school dropout rates.
From the above discussions, it is clear that urban poverty is a grave problem in Lagos Nigeria. This research has highlighted several concepts that relate to urban poverty. A general overview of the situation in Lagos shows that it is one of the poorest nations in the world and that Lagos has extremely high levels of poverty. Through a definition of urban poverty, it becomes easier to relate the same to Lagos. The research discusses the causes and the consequences of urban poverty in Lagos, the roles played by governments, communities and NGOs in mitigating the problem, the social and economic impacts of urban poverty in Lagos plus the factors that led to urban poverty in Lagos.
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