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Urban land, planning and governance systems in Nigeria

Lamond, Jessica; Awuah, Kwasi Baffour; Lewis, Emma; Bloch, Robin; Falade, Johnson B

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Jessica Lamond
College Dean for Research & Enterprise

Kwasi Baffour Awuah

Emma Lewis

Robin Bloch

Johnson B Falade


The narrative of rapid urbanisation in relation to inadequate planning, governance and management regimes in Nigeria is well-rehearsed. The combination of customary and colonial practices, outdated policies and plans and entrenched attitudes is typically regarded as a problem without clear or universal solutions. The aim of this report is to elucidate the urban land administration and planning debate in the country by examining the issues based on literature review and views of key urban sector stakeholders from six cities obtained through interviews.
The historical development of land administration, planning and governance regimes in Nigeria is seen to contribute to the failure of the current development system because of an evolution from two distinct paradigms. This leads to confusion and a lack of engagement with formal systems thereby limiting the potential for well-conceived national and state urban development goals from being realised within cities that are not observing the planning frameworks. Colonial segregational policies have been superseded by a succession of policies that increasingly recognise, but cannot enforce, participation, equity, sustainability and climate change adaptation.
Simultaneously, massively-scaled urban development continues under a variety of guises to meet the demand for space for urban accommodation, business and services from a diverse population with huge division between the wealthy and the urban poor. There is a growing need to categorise and understand this diversity of development in order to develop policies that adopt the positive aspects of informal development while pursuing national and state development goals and providing healthy and economically viable urban environments for all.
It is shown that new development forms such as new towns, developer-built estates and owner built housing are large factors in the foregoing regard as they are in other sub-Saharan African urban areas. In addition, large scale infrastructural development has also led to ribbon and satellite development that takes advantage of the massive investment in national assets. These development forms are far superior to the slum conditions traditionally associated with the term “informal” and they may benefit from some of the “legal” attributes of formal planned developments such as ownership rights and even locally-prepared plans.
The advantages of such developments in the vacuum created by the inadequacies of the formal planning system seem self-evident. However, it is apparent that these developments suffer from deficiencies in the provision of infrastructure and services and may also put an intolerable strain on nearby infrastructure and services designed to cope with the much smaller population anticipated by formal planning. Equally, the increasing commodification of lands especially those delivered through the informal system in the face of rapid urbanisation and rising demand are driving land and rental prices to unsustainable levels and out of the reach of essential key workers and the urban poor. This, coupled with the
tendency for the governance arrangements under the informal system to crumble in the face of urbanisation, could potentially displace people that would be considered entitled under the urban land administration and planning system in Nigeria. Furthermore, lack of formal governance and management of housing developments can place people at risk from unhealthy and overcrowded living conditions. This could also empower unscrupulous land owners and developers to prescribe their own governance and management framework, which may result in exploitation of innocent purchasers.
The report also examines recent initiatives at national, state and local levels. It concludes that some initiatives have been met with a measure of success and that these are typified by a flexibility that applies global principles at a local level and that canvas the needs and observes the contexts of local populations.


Lamond, J., Awuah, K. B., Lewis, E., Bloch, R., & Falade, J. B. (2015). Urban land, planning and governance systems in Nigeria

Report Type Project Report
Publication Date Jul 1, 2015
Deposit Date Mar 16, 2017
Publicly Available Date Mar 16, 2017
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords urbanisation, Nigeria, land use planning, governance
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