Date of Graduation

Spring 12-15-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS)


College of Arts and Sciences


International Studies

First Advisor

Jeffrey Paller

Second Advisor

John Zarobell


The aim of this study is to examine the root causes of forced evictions and displacement through the current urbanization process in Lagos, Nigeria. My particular attention is devoted to the legal complexities and how ethnolinguistic identities shape land laws, influence land tenure, and construct urban citizenship. Through this process, competing claims to land ownership provide fertile ground for forced evictions and displacement. Existing scholars suggest that poor urban residents lack rights to stay in their neighborhoods, while a powerful capitalist class has emerged and dispossessed the poor from their lands. Yet these existing approaches derived from the neoclassical and Marxist traditions fail to account for the legal complexity and historical origins of land ownership in these cities. By placing this case within the larger scholarship of the discourse of urbanization, development, and international law, this study will disentangle the legal complexity of how ownership actually emerges and dispel the major social theories and approaches of forced evictions. This paper argues that forced evictions and displacement of in-migrants in waterfront communities are caused by the shift in the land tenure system and that this shift is a product of land laws that have been shaped by ethnolinguistic identities. Second, multiple land laws that accompany the shift in land tenure have led to the fragmented claim that favor one ethnolinguistic group over the other. Finally, development in the urbanization process is represented as an “urban cleanser” that portrays the in-migrants population as impoverished, alien, rural, strangers thus, inimical to urban sustainability. As a potential solution, this paper proposes a resettlement to an unaffected waterfront in Badagry where a fish market can be established, religious institutions in Lagos to give 10% of their acquired religious city land to support victims of forced eviction, and advocates for an informal settlements protection law.

This research was conducted over two months and is a multi-sited participatory ethnography largely relying on interviews, seminars, workshops and extensive desk research through reviews of existing literature, and court cases on land laws concerning the traditional overlords.