This article focuses on displacement in Nigeria specific to the World Bank.
The modern world is made up of developed, developing, and underdeveloped countries. Some developed countries have been known to try and help those less developed, by assisting/funding their development. The World Bank is one organization that was established for this exact reason – to help countries in need of self-improvement through loans for development projects. However, there has been a history of mass displacement in communities where the World Bank has been involved for the implementation of such projects. In this article, I will be discussing whether the involvement of the World Bank in development projects has been detrimental to countries in which they have been implemented, by looking at a specific case – Nigeria.
Nigeria is located on the western coast of Africa (see Figure 1), and hosts a diverse geography, with ranging climates and an abundance of natural resources. As such, Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil exporter, and has the largest natural gas reserves on the continent. As well, Nigeria accounts for approximately half of West Africa’s population, with approximately 202 million people, and one of the largest youth populations in the world (World Bank, 2019).
Growth in Nigeria has been consistently too low to lift the bottom half of the population out of poverty. The weakness of the agriculture sector impacts prospects for the rural poor, while high food inflation adversely impacts the livelihoods, health, and well-being of the urban poor. Despite expansion in certain sectors, employment creation remains very low, and insufficient to mitigate the fast-growing labour force, resulting in high rates of unemployment (23% in 2018, with another 20% of the labour force under-employed). As well, since 2013, Nigeria’s poverty rate has increased exponentially, even with the help of the World Bank to implement development projects throughout the country.
While Africans make up only about 12% of the world population, as of 2006, more than 1/3 of the world’s 9.5 million refugees, and approximately half of the worlds 25 million internally displaced persons, were located in Africa (ICIJ, 2014). Therefore, the total number of displaced people in Africa approximated to around 15 million. While many of these displaced persons chose to leave their homes due to lack of safety, resources, etc., many of them have been forcibly displaced.
Displacement is a phenomenon of global significance, with far-reaching implications. During the past four decades, millions of people throughout the continent of Africa have been forced to abandon their homes and seek refuge elsewhere – often losing the few assets or possessions they owned, and suffering immense hardship in the process (Crisp, 2006). This often results in even poorer conditions, socially and economically, for those displaced.
Forced displacement refers to the “coerced movement of a person or persons away from their home or home region, and it often connotes violent coercion” (World Bank, 2016). In 2017, forced displacement rates worldwide were the highest they had been in decades. According to the UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report in 2016, an unprecedented 65.6 million people had been forced from their homes by conflict and persecution by the end of 2016 (Work Bank Group, 2017).
Across the continent of Africa, World Bank project implementation has taken precedence over the communities that inhabit these areas. Several projects have forced resettlement of millions of the continent’s inhabitants. The instability caused from these mass resettlements, in turn has made it impossible for African citizens to keep or attain jobs, or to accumulate any wealth, as in many situations they are forced to leave their communities in an instant. This has an obvious impact on the poverty rate in countries where forced displacement occurrences are high (Steffan, 2015).
In 2017 the World Bank released a study called the 2017 Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals. The Atlas’ function is to track the progress countries are making to meet the United Nations’ development goals, such as the reduction of economic inequality (Kazeem, 2017). Among the 10 most populous countries included in the study, Nigeria was the only one which recorded an increase in the number of citizens who are living in extreme poverty. The Atlas defines ‘extreme poverty’ as living on less than $1.90/day. The study also showed that 35 million more Nigerians were living in extreme poverty in 2013 than they had been in 1990 (Kazeem, 2017).
Nigeria is one of many less developed countries that was adversely impacted by the interference of the World Bank in various communities across the country. Between 2004 and 2013, there were an estimated 3.5 million people forced from their homes worldwide— depriving them of their lands, or damaging their livelihoods, purely because they lived in the path of a World Bank project (ICIJ, 2014). Specifically, in Nigeria, there have been 19 projects with confirmed or possible displacement between 2004 and 2013. This makes up 30% of all the World Bank financed projects in Nigeria. The overall estimate of people displaced in Nigeria as a direct cause of World Bank projects, is 36,173 (Kazeem, 2017).
One specific case of forced displacement in a Nigerian community because of a World Bank project, occurred in the East Badia slum in Lagos, Nigeria in 2013. The Lagos State government entered Badia East, flattening the community in order to clear land in an urban renewal zone, being financed by the World Bank (see Figure 4). The neighbourhood’s residents were thrown out without warning and without compensation— left to fend for themselves in the over-crowded and dangerous city of Lagos (Steffan, 2015). One woman from the community, Bimbo Omowole Osobe, recounts her experience of the event— explaining that on that February day, over 100 police poured into the slum, cracking their batons on the streets and against the walls, yelling “if you love your life, move out!”(Chavkin, 2015). The thousands of residents had to grab what they could as fast as they could, fleeing their homes as the excavators moved in. Osobe explains how she frantically looked for her children, whom she lost in the commotion, as the hydraulic claws smashed her home and her entire neighbourhood to pieces around her. Within hours the entire community was flattened (Chavkin, 2015).
Forced evictions and displacements, like what occurred in the Badia East slum, aren’t supposed to happen in the middle of projects backed by the World Bank (World Bank Group, 2017). The bank’s commitment, it says, has always been to “do no harm” to the people or the environment (World Bank, 2016). However, over the past decade, the bank has regularly failed to enforce its policies— with devastating consequences for some of the most impoverished and vulnerable communities in the world (ICIJ, 2014). An investigation carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found that the World Bank often neglects to properly review project proposals ahead of time to ensure that communities will be protected, and too often has no idea what happens to these people one they are forcibly displaced (Steffan, 2015). Often, the bank has been known to continue to do business with governments that abuse their citizens, illustrating to other government leaders that violating the banks rules is okay, according to former bank employees. Former World Bank employee, Navin Rai, spoke out against his former employer during the investigation carried out by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists: “There was often no intent on the part of the governments to comply — and there was often no intent on the part of the bank’s management to enforce. That was how the game was played” (Steffan, 2015).
While the World Bank may not be the one physically forcing people from their homes, they are responsible for what government officials do with the money given to them. The Nigerian government has been exposed more than once for its political corruption relating to development. In 2011, emails were leaked suggesting that a $1.3 billion payment by oil companies, Shell and Eni, for an underdeveloped oilfield, never went into the public trust to which it was promised (Chavkin, 2015). Instead, it was found that almost the entirety of the money—which equated to nearly half of the country’s annual budget— was divided up among high-ranking government officials (Chavkin, 2015). Due to the corruption in the Nigeria government, the World Banks policies should have required them to remove themselves from continuing to do business, as the developmental outcomes are not favouring the citizens, but rather the corrupt politicians.
All over the world, there are millions of individuals living in impoverished conditions, who require the external assistance from developing countries and their organizations, in order to alter their situation and improve the country’s socio-economic standing and overall well-being. The World Bank was established to fulfill this very purpose— providing “financing and services to low and middle-income countries in order to support development and change on an international scale” (World Bank, 2016).
Unfortunately, the World Bank has fallen back on its promises, and has ignored many of their policies put in place to avoid adverse impacts of development— as was illustrated in the Badia East slum case from Lagos, Nigeria (Chavkin, 2015). Since the Badia East slum case occurred in 2013, the country’s poverty rate has increased at an exponential rate. That single project resulted in the forced displacement of an estimated 16.9 thousand residents of the area (ICIJ, 2014). The large numbers of Nigerian citizens being forcibly displaced, most of whom have no chance to save the little amount of assets they own, are left with almost nothing (Kazeem, 2017). Considering the vast amount of forcibly displaced people, it is unsurprising that the country’s poverty rates have continued to increase.
Chavkin, S., et al. (2015). How the World Bank Broke Its Promise to Protect the Poor. Retrieved from http://projects.huffingtonpost.com/worldbank-evicted-abandoned
Crisp, J. (2006). Forced Displacement in Africa: Dimensions, Difficulties, and Policy Directions. Retrieved from http://www.unhcr.org/research/working/44b7b758f/forced-displacement-africa-dimensions-difficulties-policy-directions-jeff.html
ICIJ.(2014). Explore 10 Years of World Bank Resettlement Data. Retrieved from https://www.icij.org/investigations/world-bank/explore-10-years-world-bank-resettlement-data/?icij_navigate=worldbank&icij_navigate_worldbank=%2Fevicted-and-abandoned%2Fabout#_ga=2.149717494.1724161106.1508365111-498089484.1508365111
Kazeem, Y. (2017). Some of the world’s biggest countries have managed to reduce extreme poverty-except Nigeria. Retrieved from https://qz.com/963465/some-of-the-worlds-biggest-countries-have-managed-to-wrangle-extreme-poverty-except-nigeria/
Steffan, S. (2015). World Bank failed to protect the poor, research shows. Retrieved from http://www.dw.com/en/world-bank-failed-to-protect-the-poor-research-shows/a-18388491
Work Bank (2016). Forced Displacement: A Developing World Crisis. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2016/09/15/forced-displacement-a-developing-world-crisis
World Bank Group (2017). Forcibly displaced: toward a development approach supporting refugees, the internally displaced, and their hosts. Retrieved from https://www.unhcr.org/5975a93e7.pdf