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The world is increasingly becoming urbanized and the rate at which city populations
grow and countries urbanise is indicative of the pace of social and economic change (Donk
2006). In 1976, one-third of the world population lived in cities and 30 years later (2006), this
rose to one-half of the entire humankind (Tibajuka 2006); and by the target year for the
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); cities in the world are estimated to grow to two-third
or 6 billion people by 2050 (UNHabitat 2006).
With nearly all global demographic growth that is mostly concentrated in developing
countries, urban sprawl is becoming a major feature of the developing countries. Useful as they
may be as demographic absorbers, metropolitan regions by their sheer size, create complex
and multifaceted problems on scales never experienced before. The effects of this population
dynamics in African cities in particular produced miseries that are often difficult to comprehend
(Olurin 2003). Most of the big African cities including those in Nigeria are faced with the
problem of rapidly deteriorating physical and living environment. The deterioration manifests
itself in the form of slums, urban sprawl and squatters settlements, increasing traffic
congestion, flooding and erosion, deteriorating infrastructure and short falls in service delivery
among others.
For most developing countries, the governance and management of their towns and
cities are most daunting as the cities appear to be growing beyond the control of planners,
beyond management capacities and beyond available resources (Agbola and Olurin 1998). Since
mans quest for change will continue within his dynamic environment, this points to the fact
that urbanization becomes an inevitable phenomenon particularly in developing countries.
Contemporary comparative international experiences do show that the problems have to be
approached with innovative ingenuity and solved through novel strategies which are
consensual and adaptive to the socio-economic and cultural setting of the target population.


Urbanisation is a global phenomenon and is a process of spatial concentration of urban
population that is premised on some basic push and pull factors called urban transformation
forces, which Agbola (2006) classified into three major processes. These are (a) natural increase
in the population (National growth rate or the ratio of birth to death rates); (b) rural-urban
migration, and (c) city annexation into the surrounding rural areas (a real expansion). These
processes explain urban population growth. However, Deblij (1996) posited that while urban
growth depends on the natural increase of the total population that is already urban; the
growth of city population through the natural increase has minimal effects on the process of

urbanization. Consequently, proportional increase in the population of urban dwellers is largely

due to transformational forces of rural-urban migration and area expansion. Thus, resulting into
the growth of settlements from villages to towns, cities and mega-cities; as well as leading to
the increase in the number of settlements through the establishment of new ones.
In Nigeria for instance, by 1952 National Population Census, the population of Nigeria
was put at 30.4 million, out of which 3.237 million people were living in 56 urban centers
(Afolayan 1978). A city was then regarded (defined) as a settlement that harboured 5,000
people. Besides the Government Reservation Areas (GRAs) in the regional government
headquarters at Ibadan, Enugu, Kaduna, and Lagos the National headquarters; none of the
remaining cities in Nigeria could boast of enjoying a re-planning project. The classification
criterion for an urban centre was increased to a threshold population figure of 20,000 during
the 1963 National Population Census. As shown in Table 1, the 1963 census indicated that the
population of Nigeria had increased to 55.67 million people out of whom 10.6 million people
were then living in 183 cities and towns that constituted 19.1 percent of the total population
(Olujimi 2000). The 1991 National Population Census gave the population of Nigeria at 88.5
million, and it shows that Nigerian urban population had risen by 36.3 percent with 359 urban
centres existing in the country then (Odeyemi 2002). By 2004, Agbola estimated the total
population of Nigeria at 115 million and speculated that Nigerian urban centres must have risen
to 600 (Agbola 2004). However, the speculation of Agbola (2004) notwithstanding, the fact
remains that population of Nigeria has been increasing tremendously. This is confirmed by the
provisional result of the 2006 National Population Census that indicated the total population of
Nigeria at 140,542,032 (National Population Commission 2007). The details of the breakdown in
terms of population figure for each of the urban centres and the percentage of urban to rural
population are still being awaited from the National Population Commission.
In the above described scenario, it is observed that compared to the growth rate of about 3
percent for the total population, the urban population in Nigeria over the last three decades
has been growing close to about 5.8 percent per annum. This is amongst the highest urban
growth rates in the world due mainly to migration from the rural to urban areas. For instance,
Lagos, a former capital of Nigeria is growing in size by more than 10 percent per year, which will
make it the third largest city in the World by 2020 (DFID 2005). One significant feature of the
urbanization process in Nigeria and most of the developing countries is that, unlike America and
Europe, much of the growth is taking place in the absence of significant industrial expansion.
However, the explosive growth of the Nigerian urban centres has not only progressively
complicated and exacerbated inter-related problems of human settlements and the
environment, but has also greatly accelerated poverty, the demand for infrastructure, basic
services and housing in expanding urban centres, otherwise resulting into rapid urbanization.


Different factors are responsible for urban sprawl in Nigerian cities. The unprecedented
increase in the population in the Nigerian cities continues to put pressure on the existing
housing facility. The inability of the housing delivery to cope effectively with the housing need
has succeeded in pricing out majority of the low income-earners from the housing market.
Most affected groups are the immigrants from the rural hinterland that prefer to settle at the
suburbs of the cities. Often times, this is responsible for the development of squatters
settlement at the periurban zones (Olujimi and Gbadamosi 2007) Cities present unlimited socioeconomic opportunities, particularly in area of landed property development. The operations of
the economic forces in the supply of land for commercial development within the city centre
are encouraging the acquisition of land at the suburb of the city for residential property
development. This has sufficiently propelled the greed for land speculation and hoarding at the
suburbs. Unfortunately, most of the isolated parcels of land hoarded at the suburb are not
subjected to conventional design into layouts that could seek planning approval. Even when
such parcels of land are designed into layouts, most of them are not properly charted to allow
for coordination. Hence, most of the layouts are not linked to others for accessibility purposes.
Another factor that is responsible for the promotion of urban sprawl is the inability of
government to effectively develop their compulsorily acquired parcels of land in some cities.
This is predicated on the nonreadiness of government to pay compensations in un-exhausted
resources in the acquired land to the owners. Thus, the unwillingness of the owners to release
fully the acquired land to government and their continuous disposal of the land to individuals,
that continues to develop the land without reference to the planning authorities to seek
planning permission.
However, the planning authorities put in place are expected to control physical
development in all parts of the city (including the sprawling areas) but the ineffectiveness of the
development control tool at putting such sprawl at bay is hindered by a lot of factors. These
among others include lack of political will to implement development control measures,
insufficient planning staff to carryout effective monitoring, and lack of equipment such as
development control monitoring vehicles. In spite of the shortcomings, efforts are being made
at different quarters to check the sprawling growth of Nigerian cities. These efforts are
examined in the next section of the paper with a view to highlighting the limitations as to serve
as guides in suggesting new strategy.


Fig. 1: Map of Nigeria Showing Akure

Akure is a traditional Nigerian city and like other traditional Yoruba towns in the
country, it existed long before the advent of British colonial rule in the country. The city is
located within Ondo State in the South Western part of Nigeria. Ondo State is one of the 36
states of Nigeria. It lies approximately on latitude 70 151 North of the Equator and longitude 50
151 East of the Greenwich Meridian. Akure is a medium- sized urban centre and became the
provincial headquarter of Ondo province in 1939. It also became the capital city of Ondo State
and a Local Government headquarters in 1976. Consequently, there was heterogeneous
massing of people and activities in the city (M.W & H, 1980). The citys morphology has
changed over time to assume its present status with its attendant land problems, as
experienced in similar medium sized urban centers in Nigeria. Akure is located approximately
700 kilometers South West of Abuja, the Federal Capital of Nigeria and about 350 kilometers to
Lagos the former capital of Nigeria. It is located within the tropical rain forest region of Nigeria
where rainfall is high through the year. The increased relative political influence of Akure as a

state capital since 1976 has greatly promoted its rapid growth and increased socio-economic
activities resulting in its spatial expansion from an area of about 16 squares kilometers in 1980
to about 30 square kilometers in 2000 (Ministry of Works, Lands and Housing, 2000) The
population of the city grew from 38, 852 in 1952 to 71,106 in 1963. Its population was
estimated to be 112,850 in 1980 (DHV, 1985); and 157,947 in 1990 (Ondo State of Nigeria,
1990). The 1991 national population census however, puts the population of Akure at 239,124
and its estimated population in 1996 was 269,207 (NPC, 1996). At present using a population
growth rate of 3 percent, the city is estimated to have over 380,000 people. As a result of its
designation as a State Capital in 1976, Akure experiences more accelerated growth and more
serious problems compared to other towns in Ondo State (DHV, 1984)
Formal land use planning and management in Nigeria began in 1863 with the enactment of the
Town Improvement Ordinance by the colonial government (Federal Government of Nigeria,
1863). The ordinance was meant to control development and urban sanitation in Lagos, then
the federal capital of Nigeria. However, modern planning could be said to begin in the country
in 1946 when the Nigerian Town and Country Ordinance was enacted. Western Region where
Akure was located enacted its own Town and Country Planning law that forms chapter 123 of
the laws of Western Nigeria. This law among other provisions established Town Planning
Authorities (TPAS), which were to control and guide the orderly development of the settlements
within their jurisdiction by approving proposals for physical development and the preparation
of development schemes and land use plans (Olujimi, 1993). In March 1979, as a result of the
poor staffing situation and non-availability of a staff pension scheme, Ondo State government
abolished the Area Planning Authorities (APAs) including Akure Area Planning Authority. In its
place, a unified town planning control system was adopted which centred all town planning
activities in the Town Planning Division of the Ministry of Lands and Housing. Following the
centralisation of planning in Ondo State in 1979, the responsibility of planning Akure was taken
over by the state government and the Town Planning Division (now Department of Urban and
Regional Planning) of the Ministry of Works and Housing. As a result of the need to guide and
control development of the city as a state capital and to also cope with the rapid growth of the
city, a private planning consultant was commission by the state government to prepare a
master plan for the city. The plan that covers the period 1980 2000 was completed in 1983.
The plan was reviewed in 1998 .by the officials of the ministry. At present, the planning, control
and management of land in the city is undertaken by the Departments of Urban and Regional
Planning, Land Services and Survey, Ministry of works, Lands and Housing, Akure. They
discharge different but complimentary functions. The Department of Land Services is
responsible for allocating public lands, issuance of Certificate of Occupancy (C.of O.) and
management of government lands and estates in the city. The Department of Urban and

Regional planning is responsible for the preparation of government layout plans and
development schemes, approval of development plans (i.e. building plans, layout plans, etc)
and general physical development control through its Area Urban and Regional planning Office
in the city. Whereas, the Survey Department is in charge of mapping government lands, vetting
and approval of survey plans prepared by private consultants in the city.
Urban sprawl has become a pejorative term without any serious examination of its qualities or
benefits and without any critical analysis of its troubled alternative urban congestion while
the formation of the worlds cities has always been determined by the means of transport
available. The automobile has helped make these choices possible and easier. Automobiles
offer more options and flexibility when people choose where to live, work, and shop.
Tenements and luxury apartment buildings replaced agricultural land use. Urbanization is now a
rising trend seen all over the world, especially in an alarming rate in developing countries. This
makes cities grow both in number and in physical size. In quite a lot of instances, the
percentage increase in population is accompanied by more than proportional percentage
increase of an urbanized area. This is an indication that the two growth rates differ and urban
area grows in a more rapid pace. The urban areas of most Nigeria urban centres have
increasingly been replaced by offices and houses on larger lots. At first, people continued to
work in cities but lived in sprawling suburbs. Urban growth and sprawl are almost synonymous
and edge cities have become the dominant urban form. While the car is a symbol of wealth, the
high cost of automobile dependence has actually eroded real economic growth. In this paper,
literatures on sprawl and urban growth will be reviewed. Second, while many factors may have
helped the growth of sprawl, automobile act ultimately as one of the root causes. Suburbia,
edge cities and sprawl are all the natural, inexorable, result of the technological dominance of
the automobile. Third, sprawls negative quality of life impacts have been overstated. Effective
vehicle pollution regulation has curbed emissions increases associated with increased driving.
The growth of edge cities is associated with increases in most measures of quality of life.
Fourth, the problem of sprawl lies not in the people who have moved to the suburbs but rather
the people who have been left behind. In this way the various planning implications of akure
urban sprawl will be examined.
Akure urban population
Akure is experiencing a high pace of urbanisation compared to other emerging cities in Nigeria.
Urbanisation in Akure has been never as rapid as it is in the recent times. As one of the fastest
growing capital city in Nigeria, Akure is facing stiff challenges in managing this urban growth
that leads to sprawl and ensuring effective delivery of basic services in urban areas. The exact
population of Akure is not known because the national census of 1991 undoubtedly

underestimated the number of inhabitants in many settlements of Nigeria based on political

reasons. However, the current estimate today varies from 2 to 5 million inhabitants (FOS, 2001)
Moreover, it is well known that population counts during the colonial period were more like
estimates than real counts, and it is difficult to give even an evaluation of the percentage rate
of growth. Today, Akure remains the administrative headquarters of Ondo state whose share of
agricultural workers in the workforce has greatly decreased. Meanwhile, the share of
population living in urban areas increased from 20.2 per cent in 1971 to 23.7 per cent in 1981
and to 26.1 per cent in 1991 (akure master plan,1998). But these figures do not tell the whole
There is evidence that urban growth is increasingly dispersed and is therefore not reflected in
the census of population. Urban sprawl promotes the spread of urban land use into the ruralurban fringe and draws a larger number of people into the rural-urban interface. And even
though the growth rate of Akure has not risen steeply, the absolute increase in the urban
population is very large, having increased from 230,000 thousand in 1971 to 1.18 million in
1991 (census, 1991). In the course of development, it is likely that out of the enormous number
of rural people lacking opportunity in the economically underdeveloped places where they
usually come from will continue to migrate to the cities. Most of the population growth in cities
is due to migration.
Generally, population growth, rise in household income, subsidization of infrastructure
investments like roads, ineffective land-use, excessive growth, social problems in central cities
and poor land policies are taken to be the main causes of sprawl. One of the main factors that
help in explaining the increasing sub-urbanization of population in rich countries is the demand
for larger suburban lots. With rise in household incomes, people who move into the suburbs
are motivated to a significant degree by the desire for more living space. The rise of the
automobile is certainly not the only factor driving the decentralization of population and
employment. The high correlation between using automobiles and living in low-density edge
cities may not prove that cars caused sprawl but is an indication that the two strongly
complement each other. One factor that has surely played some role in explaining the
increasing suburbanization of population is the demand for larger suburban lots. People who
move into the suburbs in Akure are motivated to a significant degree by the desire for more
living space. However, for a land-oriented view to explain the rise in suburbanization, it needs
to explain why the demand for land should have risen so much over the last 15 years. A second
major alternative hypothesis is that the growth of the suburbs has come about because people
have fled the social problems of the core region of Akure. Core city problems may have led
people to leave and seek solace in socially controlled suburbs. At the individual level, this

theory is irrefutable. Lots of residents have surely been directly motivated in their move to the
suburbs by the desire for a more attractive social environment.


Like many other Yoruba settlements, Akure founding, growth and development, is not rooted
to colonization. Though the city had a master plan but the inability of the master plan to
function as an effective development control tools calls for its frequent revision. The forest belt
used to provide both a limit to urban expansion and to commercial and recreational resource
for the people of the city. Plots of cultivated land can be found on any vacant land and on areas
close to small rivers or streams within and immediately surrounding the city. Urban built-up
area increased significantly, whereas bare, undeveloped land decreased. Nevertheless, without
any reliable alternative, the analysis of this paper will be based on the 1991 National Census.
Until 1970, Akure was the largest city in Ondo province. The growth of the built-up area during
the second half of the 20th century (from 16 km2 in the 1970s to 68 km2 in the 1990s) shows
clearly that there has been an underestimation of the total growth of the city. In the 1980s, the
Ijoka Oluwatuyi road generated the greatest urban sprawl (east and north of the city),
followed by the Idanre Akure road (west of the city).
Since then Akure has spread further into the neighbouring local government areas of Akure
North and Owena. The demand for infrastructure, basic services and housing in Akure is on the
increase. Issues of sanitation, waste management, crime, social conflict, governance and
management also need attention. Moreover, there is a strong urban bias in the development of
programmes and no coordinated efforts at rural development, which in turn is reflected in
inadequate access to market for goods and services, and deplorable condition of the education,
health, transportation, water and sanitation sectors. Most fundamental is the lack of resources
and technical capability to manage the urban crises.
Sprawl leads to land-use patterns which are unfavourable to the development of sustainable
transport modes and hence, increase the use of private car that in turn result in increased trip
lengths, congestion, increase in fuel consumption and air pollution. As homes and businesses
spread further and further apart, local governments are forced to provide for widely spaced
services and infrastructure leading to higher costs and increased tax burden. It is an economic
theory that productivity is much more enhanced with dense development since ideas move
quickly when people are in close proximity. But when jobs move to the suburbs, people follow
them which is the case of Akure. This may reduce productivity in the city leading to social loss.
Sprawl has also created segregation of rich and poor or social isolation in general in akure
metropolis. The low-income groups are abandoned in the core regions because they cannot

afford car-based lifestyle. Role of transport technology can explain this social fragmentation.
The much congested and deteriorated central towns end up being favorable places for crime
and social unrest.

The development of most urban areas is influenced, to some extent by processes of
urban policy and urban planning; and since urban policies and planning are dynamic activities
whose formulation and interpretation is a continuing process; there is a need to invigorate
planning machinery and land management activity in Akure to incorporate and integrate all
land use control and management agencies in the city and to introduce measures to guarantee
effective and efficient land management in the city. There is the urgent need to review the
Land Use Act of 1978 to integrate the socio- economic characteristics of the people that permit
communities and families to have a say in land use planning and administration. This is essential
because almost thirty years after the introduction of the Land Use Act, families and
communities still exert great influence on land use decisions in the city. The advent of the Land
Use Act and the instrument of Certificate of Occupancy have fuelled unprecedented
speculation, private ownership and commercialization of land. The unbridled corruption and
high-handedness encouraged by the Act have also defeated the equity and accessibility
advantages that the Act had intended to ensure. As a matter of urgency, government should
embark on a comprehensive cadastral survey of all lands in the city, to determine their
quantity, use desirability for various purposes, using the Geographical Information System (GIS)
approach. Land should be listed and registered to ensure the security of tenure of the holder. It
is only when the quantity and quality of lands are known that land could be classified for
various uses, and other policies applied to them. A comprehensive coding of land should
facilitate easy referencing, as well as define property boundaries, thus, eliminating unnecessary
disputes and litigations associated with urban land use in the city.
There is the need to strengthen land use planning and management capacity in the city.
Capacity building with respect to land issues should be distinguished from manpower
development. Sustainable land policies should combine incentive systems, which should be
negative (i.e. sanctions), or positive (i.e. rewards), in order that land policies are enforced.
Enforcement of land policies requires effective policing; otherwise, the objectives will be
defeated. Thus, land use control mechanism and department should be improved by employing
more people, make essential facilities available that will facilitate and enhance their land use
control activity. The present practice where land use control is limited mainly to approval of
plans and granting of certificate of occupancy without monitoring their outcomes can not be

expected to achieve the desire results of ensuring equity in accessibility to land and efficient
functioning of land market in the city.


Over the past century, urban growth has taken the form of sprawl. The root cause of sprawl is
the automobile, first people and then jobs left the high density, walking and public transport
cities of the 19th century. Edge cities were made possible by the automobile and as long as the
car remains the dominant transport mode, sprawl is likely to remain the dominant urban form.
The economic and social consequences of sprawl do not appear to be dire. Urban sprawl
involves the spread of cities into peripheral zones and the filling in of interstitial areas.
Customary property owners in these areas often undertake developments that start as lowdensity neighborhoods, but degenerate progressively into large irregular settlements. Urban
sprawl has been recognized as a problematic aspect of metropolitan growth and development
in the world over. The growing concern about the issue is shared among planners, policy
makers, environmentalists and people in general. The drawbacks of this practice are many. As
such areas become more crowded and unmanageable, it becomes increasingly difficult to
integrate them into the urban services network. For the most part, efforts to control this
phenomenon as part of urban projects have been modest. They have focused largely on
providing serviced plots for new settlers and have only rarely tried to anticipate the direction of
urban development. The inability or unwillingness to provide proper services in the wake of
urban sprawl means that the problems to be confronted in peri-urban areas are enormous.
Proper implementation of master plans / development plans is a critical aspect in regulated
development of urban areas.
Although the master plan of Akure have been prepared, so far their implementation has not
been satisfactory due to a variety of reasons, which in turn have resulted in mushrooming of
slums and squatters, unauthorized and haphazard development and above all environmental
degradation, lack of basic amenities and transportation problems within and around urban
areas. The city planning mainly addresses preparation of land use plans through zoning.
However, local authorities also need to plan for meeting the demand of infrastructure facilities
and ensuring delivery of basic services. This has been dismal in the current planning practices
since these are normally static master plans or development plans mostly addressing land use.
These plans are also less equipped to review and evaluate any policy decisions dynamically so
as to visualise the potential implications of a policy directive and also the regions of potential
sprawl. It is therefore necessary to enable the administrators and planners to graduate and
equip with better understanding, methods and tools to tackle the problem of urban sprawl.
Further, planners need to be informed of possible areas of sprawl to take corrective actions to

mitigate the implications. In this regard, there is a need for a deeper understanding of urban
sprawl phenomenon, capturing the dynamics and modelling it to visualise, review and evaluate
various policy options. The implications of urban sprawl are not well understood and can
potentially be a threat for achieving sustainable urbanisation. Hence, it is very essential to
understand the phenomenon of urban sprawl especially from the perspective of a developing
country, like Nigeria. This would eventually aid in evolving any policy and management options
for effectively addressing the problem of urban sprawl. Further, the problem of urban sprawl is
observed to be an outcome of improper planning, inadequate policies and lack of good
governance due to various reasons. The inability of the administration and planning machinery
to visualise probable areas of sprawl and its growth is persistent with the lack of appropriate
spatial information and indicators. Added to this, is the inability of administration and planning
to capture the feedbacks arising out of different decisions, essentially with lack of dynamic
spatial models with feedback mechanisms. Furthermore, inappropriate policy decisions are
fuelling sprawl as there is no mechanism to evaluate for different policy implications. Thus, in
the present context, with the escalating problem of urban sprawl, the challenges for future
research is to arrive at an integrated spatial planning support system to effectively plan, review
and evaluate different policy options while capturing the dynamics involved. The contribution
of research by way of spatial planning support system would only be a short-to-medium term
solution to this problem.
The significant driver of sprawl in developing countries most especially Nigeria which is the
most populated country in Africa is the migration of people from rural areas aspiring for
livelihood to urban areas, which in turn compounds the problem of sprawl. Hence, a long term
solution can only be achieved through an overall economic development of the Akure and its
immediate region by the way of better employment and livelihood generation activities in the
rural areas that can lessen the migration of people from rural areas to urban areas and mitigate
urban sprawl.


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