‘I am here until development comes’: Displacement, demolitions, and property rights in urbanizing Nigeria

A. Carl LeVan & Josiah Olubowale (2014). ‘I am here until development comes’: Displacement, demolitions, and property rights in urbanizing Nigeria, African Affairs, 113  (452):  387-408.   doi: 10.1093/afraf/adu030



Government demolitions have displaced hundreds of thousands of people in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, over the last decade. This housing insecurity is not simply the result of urbanization, population growth, or wealth disparities. We attribute it instead to a property rights regime that perpetuates discrimination by providing special land rights for the area’s early inhabitants. Laws accenting differences between “strangers” and indigenes, and migrants’ social coping mechanisms that reinforce ethnic identities, should exacerbate the conditions for conflict. However, as indigenes have been short-changed by policies to relocate and compensate them, their interests have aligned more closely with migrants seeking improved housing security. Strategies to achieve this have shifted from judicial appeals and confrontational protests to government engagement. By pursuing the shared goal of housing rights for migrants and indigenes alike, new multi-ethnic coalitions have helped defuse tensions over land that have proved to be conducive to conflict elsewhere in Nigeria.


About the authors:

Carl LeVan ([email protected]) is Assistant Professor in the School of International Service at American University, Washington, DC. Carl LeVan thanks American University for an International Faculty Travel Award, and discloses that he made financial donations to one of the HTAs mentioned here.

Josiah Olubowale ([email protected]) is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Humanities and Education, University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad. Comments were gratefully received at a Johns Hopkins University presentation; at the 2012 International Studies Association Annual meeting; and from David Laitin, Jibrin Ibrahim, Dolores Koenig, Laura Thaut, Christina Cielo, and two anonymous reviewers.


For the article in full, see the African Affairs journal page.


Publication Type Journal Article
Publisher Oxford University Press
Year 2014
Author(s) A. Carl LeVan and Josiah Olubowale
DOI 10.1093/afraf/adu030
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