Rural-urban migration

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Rural-Urban migration in Nigeria occurs with the migration of rural dwellers many of whom are young men and women seeking greener pastures in the city. The movement to the pre-colonial traditional centers, Lagos, and the cities of the South South and Eastern region of Nigeria is driven largely by wage employment opportunities, to enjoy the "good life", religious study, trade and apprentice and agriculture along the river basin regions.

The major Western and Northern urban centers in Nigeria with the exception of Kaduna, Sapele, Jos and Minna are traditional cities antedating British imperialism but most witnessed population growth during the colonial period. Due to unreliable rainfall in the North, seasonal migration is a common form of migration coupled with migration influenced by Qur'anic scholarship whereby some students on reaching the cities resort to begging to make ends meet. In the rest of Southern Nigeria and in the middle belt region of Nigeria, the developing economic activities in new cities during the colonial period was the major attraction of many rural dwellers. These centers have maintained an urban environment since the colonial period with migration increasing during the oil boom of the 1970s but the bust succeeding the boom in the 1980s led to increased urban unemployment and poverty. About 40% of the country's poor live in urban centers (1) with a resulting rise in urban congestion and spiraling slums. Also, allegations of an urban bias in resource allocation that ensured more developmental spending in urban facilities leading to rural migrants moving towards the urban cities. The economic bust of the early 1980s and the structural adjustment programs and better life for rural women project were initiatives which were thought may reverse the trend but a net reversal never occurred.

Colonial period:Urban centers

As the British authority consolidated their power by ensuring internal security and political stability with the desire to improve economic activities in the colony, the development of urban centers many of which were traditional cities especially in the West and in the North coupled with new cities in the Eastern region advanced during the colonial period. Though there were varied behavioral and structural patterns, the concentration of wage employment and government offices in the cities was the major incentive leading to increased interest of rural employees to migrate to the cities in order to seek salaried employment. Also the large number of secondary schools in Lagos, Ibadan, Calabar, Onitsha and Zaria attracted secondary age students to urban centers many of whom were susceptible to becoming inured with city life.

However, the urban center was a melting pot of sort and many salaried employees had to fore-go subsistence farming and a close relationship with traditional lineage and authorities into a more impersonal and competitive atmosphere fostering individuality and in which stratification by education and wealth was more pronounced. The center was where new values were being developed and foreign gadgets easily accessible. This situation to some has had its effect in creating new nationalist leaders but also the higher level of insecurity among rural migrants in urban centers also may have created variable and easily manipulated mass followings. Acculturation also followed, though urban dwellers were mostly far from their traditional homelands, severance of ties was not the norm, the urban dwellers maintained ties by visiting home, heading kinship associations and ethnic unions were awareness of the new values, ideas and products of the city led to increasing interest by rural dwellers to the availability of modern amenities, facilities and jobs in the cities and a desire to migrate.(2)

Oil boom and drought

During the 1970s, the oil boom and the Sahelian drought of 1972-1974 increased markedly the rural urban migration pattern. The drought brought many rural dwellers and Fulani pastoralists to urban centers in search of work, grazing land and food. Permanent migration in the Northern region doubled and cyclical or seasonal migration also increased leading to the increase in supply of itinerant traders, night guards, street traders and load carriers in Northern cities and in Lagos, jobs most seasonal migrants do. Increased inflation fueled largely by increasing government investments fueled by the oil boom drove the price of food prices, the construction boom that followed also increased the demand for labour fueling rural urban migration. However, the rise in labour supply in the informal sector also put pressure on the income levels in the sector keeping incomes low and driving a wedge between the rich and the poor. A few conflicts has been blamed as being induced by this social urban dynamic.