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Impediments to Development: A Cursory View of Nigeria

OlusegunOgunleye14 October 2015

What is development?

Source: Sun.Star http://gallery.sunstar.com.ph/Editorial-Cartoons/i-hWjMJP8

 

There is no universally accepted definition of development. Different definitions and measurements have been proffered over the decades. These range from the use of indicators of economic affluence, such as GDP and poverty line, to use of social variables encompassing rights, education, and freedom, such as the Human Development Index. Nonetheless, no matter the approach adopted, a generally consensus is that many countries in the developing world, including Nigeria, are at the lower end of the development trajectory.

Why are developing countries not developing?

Source: SMART Technologies http://exchange.smarttech.com/details?id=88de0e47-b103-491c-ab9b-401d9554f440

 

“Corruption is one of the top three issues facing Nigeria, along with insecurity and unemployment. We must act to kill corruption or corruption will kill Nigeria”. [1]
Many issues have been attributed for the slow pace or lack of development in developing countries such as Nigeria, with a lot of emphasis laid on corruption. This is buttressed in Nigeria by the fact that successive governments have prioritised tackling corruption. Corruption, especially in its endemic state, has a negative impact on development. Such negative impacts include negatively impacting on the business environment, a decrease in funds available for developmental projects, increasing cost and time of transacting private and public business, etc. Such impacts, which affect the day to day living of citizens, has resulted in a hegemonic narrative that if corruption could be tackled then Nigeria would be on the highway to development.[2]

Hegemonic narrative overshadows other impediments to development.

“The fight against corruption is a full time job that the Federal Government will carry with sustained resolve. I have always maintained zero tolerance for corruption. I am even more committed to fighting this number one enemy decisively because I am convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that the much needed impetus for our country’s survival is held back by corruption”. [3]
This hegemonic view has resulted in the relegation of other substantive issues hindering development to the background. Furthermore, by focusing so much attention on tackling corruption, policy makers lose sight of the fact that corruption could be directly or indirectly tacked by focusing on other substantive issues. One such substantive issue that is not being given adequate attention in Nigeria is urban development planning and management.

Urbanisation and development

It is widely agreed that urbanisation is a necessary condition to achieve development beyond a modest level of income. This is because urban centres are important drivers of development and poverty reduction, as they concentrate much of the national economic activities, and provide crucial links with rural areas, between cities, and across international borders. According to the World Bank, more than 80 percent of global GDP are generated in cities. [4]

Why are cities/urban centres critical to development?

The answer can be seen in the fact that cities, right before the creation of nation states in the 16th century, have existed to perform crucial functions which allow development to flourish and these functions are still germane today. These include: presence of thick markets around multiple workplaces and division of labour; shared infrastructure and service providers resulting in the dynamics of backward and forward inter-linkage of firms in industrial systems; and the emergence of localised relational assets promoting learning from knowledge spill-overs and innovation effects. [5] These functions are enhanced as productive cities tend to have a high concentration of support services; from high end legal and accounting services, financial and management consulting, repair and logistics, advertising, to public services like education and policing.

Nigeria’s experience

Findings indicate that successive Nigerian governments have not come to terms with the critical roles of cities/urban centres. This is based on the fact that with the exception of Abuja and Lagos, urban governance structures are lacking or non-existence in Nigerian cities.[6] This is despite the fact that Nigeria’s urban population was estimated at 47% of her total population as at 2014 and it is predicted to rise to 67% by 2050.
The above fact is further nuanced when the functions of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) saddled with urban development issues are examined, as well as, the coordination of urban issues amongst the national, state and local levels of government. Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is responsible for urban development initiatives at the federal level. At the state level, Ministries of Physical Planning and Urban Development exist in some state, although they may bear different nomenclature. While planning for local government areas are undertaking by state MDAs in most states in Nigeria.
A deeper look at the activities of these MDAs reveals that while at the federal level the focus is geared towards housing related issues such as provision, state MDAs focus on physical planning, mainly designing of master plans and enforcement of planning laws and regulations, which many states see as a tool for revenue generation through development permit. Coordination of urban development issues amongst the national, state, and local levels of government can be said to be non-existence, despite provisions made to this regard in the 1992 Nigerian Urban and Regional Planning Law, decree No. 88 as amended in 1999.

Realisation

If the preceding facts are correlated with the conclusion arrived at by Cities Alliance that “no country has ever attained middle-incomes without urbanising, and none has reached high income without vibrant cities that are centers of innovation, entrepreneurship and culture”,[7] then the situation in Nigeria and other developing countries, where policy makers are yet to come to terms with the need to create structures and systems to effectively manage cities/urban centres, is a cause for concern. This is because when corruption is eventually tackled in these countries there will be a realisation that attaining development is still a mirage.

 

References
1. A Statement by the President of Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari. Source Punch Newspaper http://www.punchng.com/news/buhari-to-split-nnpc-into-two-plans-fresh-bid-round-for-oil-blocks/
2. Editor Punch Nigeria Limited, 2015. PUNCH. [Online]
Available at: http://www.punchng.com/editorials/corruption-let-the-war-begin-in-earnest/
[Accessed 3 August 2015].
3. Statement by the President of Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari at the US Institute for Peace on 22nd July 2015. Source: Punch Newspaper http://www.punchng.com/news/buharis-speech-at-us-institute-for-peace/
4. http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/urbandevelopment/overview
5. Miller, H., 2014. What are the features of urbanisation and cities that promote productivity, employment and salaries?. s.l.:EPS-PEAKS.
6. Well-being and citizenship in urban Nigeria (2015) Forthcoming publication by Andrea Rigon et al.
7. Knowledge platform: Urbanization. http://www.citiesalliance.org/sites/citiesalliance.org/files/7%20-%20WB%20Urbanization%20KP%20Full%20Document.pdf

Tags: Development, Urban development planning and management, urbanisation, corruption, cities/urban centres


 

Olusegun Ogunleye is a development practitioner with several years working experience in the field of town planning in Nigeria. He has also taken part in urban-based research in Nigeria, London and, Dar es Salaam. His passion lies in the area of urban governance as he sees it as a veritable tool to ensure and enhance the wellbeing of citizens. He also believes in the potential inherent in community-led development as a means of ensuring sustainable development. Olusegun graduated from the MSc Urban Development Planning in 2014.

The Meaning of Solidarity

Étiennevon Bertrab13 March 2015

Protestors outside Downing Street in London, February 2015. Image: Étienne von Bertrab

Protestors outside Downing Street in London, March 2015. Image: Étienne von Bertrab

For me, the most significant definition of solidarity is expressed in the words of Eduardo Galeano’s, the  extraordinary yet humble Uruguayan writer:

“Charity humiliates because it is practiced vertically and from above; solidarity is horizontal and implies mutual respect”

This is what many of us, upset about the state visit of Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto last week to the UK, found not only in the streets, but in lecture theatres in UCL, LSE, SOAS, Queen Mary University, and several other public spaces.

The other pleasant surprise was the discovery, at least for me, of Jeremy Corbyn, MP, who was the most outspoken about this state visit (the Queen has two of these per year) in light of the ongoing human rights crisis in Mexico, which the Mexican state has been contributing towards in a significant manner.

The two videos featured in this post say a lot. The first (in English), about the protest on the first day of Peña Nieto’s visit; the second (mixed English and Spanish), about the extraordinary discussions held in universities in the space of just one week.

Finally, while the bilateral Dual Year Mexico-UK insists on focusing on trade and investment – and yes, also a bit of education, culture, and nice arts and yummy food – a growing number of people, including 44 members of the UK Parliament, insist that without addressing the pressing issues that affect Mexican society, this initiative is at best misguided, and at worst a slap in the face to Mexican society at large.

In Mexico traditional media is highly controlled or pro-government (supporting whoever is in power). In the UK, Mexico has been afforded very little attention in the media, though this is changing.

For this reason, we have created this site with meaningful, trustworthy information of what really goes on in Mexico, all in English, with the hope of educating and increasing awareness: www.ukmx2015.org

I invite you all to visit the pages and simply to watch and read some of the content, in solidarity.


Étienne von Bertrab is a Teaching Fellow at the DPU and a guest lecturer in universities in Mexico. He also works as a consultant in the UK and in Mexico, where he has been a social activist for ten years. Twitter: @etiennista

Mexico: Where does hope reside? (Part II)

Étiennevon Bertrab10 February 2015

Just one week on

To understand the depth of the socio-political crisis in Mexico it might be illustrative to go through events that occurred since Part I was posted a week ago: a mayor in the State of Mexico authorised police to shoot those who protest against the dispossession of their communal water system; a newspaper editor in Matamoros was abducted, beaten and left with a death threat: “no more reporting on violence along the border”; and as if it was a horror film, 61 bodies were found in an abandoned crematory in the outskirts of Acapulco, a famous tourist destination in the State of Guerrero (where the disappearance of the 43 teacher training students took place four months ago).

No caption needed. Image: Colectivo Lapiztola

Much to the disappointment of those in power, what happens in Mexico can no longer be kept within the country’s borders. The prestigious Hay Festival, which would take place later this year in Xalapa, was cancelled after hundreds of Mexican writers and journalists signed a petition in protest. “We recognise that the killing of Moisés Sánchez, the 15th journalist to have been murdered or disappeared in Veracruz since 2010, has caused unbearable pain and rage” – reads the organisers’ official statement.

In Geneva – in the same week – the UN Committee of Enforced Disappearances (CED) identified ‘prominent discrepancy between words and deeds’ while for Amnesty International the hearings evidenced the failure of the Mexican State in its international responsibilities. Furthermore, The New York Times revealed over the weekend that amongst the secret buyers using shell companies to grab the most expensive real estate in New York is an ex-governor of Oaxaca and father of the current director of INFONAVIT – Mexico’s social housing agency.

Elections: opportunity or distraction?

While it is almost a consensus that the party system is rotten beyond repair, what to do during the elections is always a divisive issue: to back the least worst party or candidates, or to boycott the elections altogether? As a result of a recent political reform it will now be possible – for the first time in Mexican history – for citizens to be elected without affiliation to a political party. For many this is a double-edged sword, but there are glimpses of hope: Wikipolítica, a group of young student-activists, could give Jalisco its first independent legislator – without using any public resources but rather dozens of creative and enthusiastic volunteers.

Intentions of a long journey Image: Colectivo Lapiztola

Beyond these more localised opportunities there is an increasing recognition that our social contract has been broken: the Mexican Constitution of 1917 (often referred to as the most progressive of the early 20th century) has been subject to almost 500 reforms, mostly to facilitate capital accumulation in detriment of rights and communal and public ownership of natural resources.

A call for the formation of a constitutional assembly with the aim of refunding the State is gaining traction, reinvigorated by the very circumstances and by the vocal support of progressive and highly respectable public figures such as bishop Raúl Vera, the last prominent priest of the Theology of Liberation in Mexico, who since the Zapatista uprising has made his cause the voices of the poor. His mission: “to listen to everyone’s feelings and aspirations, particularly those of the poor and marginalised”. However, it is undoubtedly a long-term social and democratic endeavour that no living Mexican has ever experienced. For many, including myself, it might be the only way to avoid a violent revolution.

In this emotive video, Omar García, survivor of the attack, expresses how the case of Ayotzinapa has awaken millions throughout the country.

 

Part III on the role of journalism and new media, and on why it’s important to focus on the (non-urban) territory and those who defend it, will be published next week.

All images are courtesy of Colectivo Lapiztola, a street art collective that emerged in the suppressed social movement in Oaxaca in 2006. Part of their work is exhibited in Rich Mix, London, until 28 February.

Opening the wings. Image: Colectivo Lapiztola

Étienne von Bertrab is a Teaching Fellow at the DPU and a guest lecturer in universities in Mexico. He also works as a consultant in the UK and in Mexico, where he has been a social activist for ten years. Twitter: @etiennista

Mexico: Where does hope reside? (Part I)

Étiennevon Bertrab2 February 2015

They want a different future, Yucatán. Image: Étienne von Bertrab

They want a different future, Yucatán. Image: Étienne von Bertrab

Mexico is going through turbulent times and its future looks, if not pitch black, then highly uncertain and complex. This is a personal attempt to make sense of recent developments and to share some reflections on causes, implications, and sources of hope.

The recent wave of high-level corruption scandals and particularly the forced disappearance of the 43 rural students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, have been, for a majority of Mexicans, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Studies over the last few years had already shown a steady decline in levels of trust in State institutions; however, trust has reached an all time low and there are calls to ignore and boycott the mid-term elections this summer. Although most attention is placed on the machinery of corruption and impunity of PRI (the infamous political party that ruled Mexico for 70 years and came back to power in 2012), people are losing trust in all political parties.

Mexico has the worst political class in decades” concluded a recent panel on democracy and elections held at IBERO University. Internationally, only a year ago mainstream media made reference to ‘the time of Mexico’ and Time magazine portrayed president Peña Nieto as saviour. The Economist, which had praised his constitutional reforms – particularly the juicy energy reform that allows the privatisation of oil – has now referred to him as “a president who doesn’t get that he doesn’t get it”. For The New Yorker, the President himself is the clearest example of corruption in the country.

Protest street art, Guadalajara. Image: Étienne von Bertrab

Protest street art, Guadalajara. Image: Étienne von Bertrab

But corruption and impunity have been there for a while and the distance between the political class and ordinary people has been widely perceived and commented upon. Why are so many Mexicans in the streets over and over again, shouting ‘enough is enough’ and getting engaged in the public sphere in ways never seen before? Behind the Ayotzinapa case are around 100,000 deaths and more than 23,000 disappearances since 2006 (according to official figures), plus 150,000 displaced people according to Freedom House. Unsurprisingly, those affected the most are the poor and the marginalised amongst Mexican society.

More than two decades of neoliberal restructuring and particularly the culture of capitalist cronyism built by those in power, have benefitted only a few while too many women and men continue to live in poverty. Not to mention indigenous groups who for centuries have been victims of oppression and dispossession (for most, little has changed since colonial times). Across the country over 7 million young people can’t find opportunities to study or work and thus are unable to imagine a future in their own country. Apart from the negative effects on human development the country is losing its ‘demographic bonus’.

‘Where those above destroy, below we flourish’. Image: Creative Commons

‘Where those above destroy, below we flourish’

There is simply too much suffering in so many families and communities, and too few provisions to deal with the repercussions of eight years of crude violence on top of the generalised sense of injustice. The situation of human rights in Mexico, according to Amnesty International, is now the worst in the American continent.

In the latest developments, while the federal government declared the official investigation on the 43 disappeared students ‘closed’ last week, a new journalistic investigation revealed that most of the government’s ‘evidence’ was obtained through torture. The federal government will surely defend its version (referred to as the ‘historical truth’ by the attorney general) with full force, and repression to protestors is likely to escalate. These practices should also not come as a surprise: according to Human Rights Watch, there have been over 9,000 complaints of abuse by the army since 2006.

For an audio account of the investigation that proved that the authorities at the national level were involved in the disappearances, you can listen to Steve Fisher, one of the authors of the original article in Proceso magazine, here. Channel 4 News has also produced an informative video entitled ‘Are Mexico’s disappeared students victims of drug war?’ – available on its website.

 

Part II, on hope, solidarity and opportunities for research that can make a difference will be published on the DPU blog next week.

Étienne von Bertrab is a Teaching Fellow at the DPU and a guest lecturer in universities in Mexico. He also works as a consultant in the UK and in Mexico, where he has been a social activist for ten years. Twitter: @etiennista