Promoting legal empowerment of the urban poor in Nigeria through an inter-city community paralegal network
Approximately 67% of urban populations in Nigeria live in informal settlements and are caught in a poverty trap characterized by marginalization and insecurity. Communities lack access to basic services and security of tenure and they face discrimination and threats of physical violence. Ethnic minorities, urban migrants, and women are particularly vulnerable to social and political exclusion. To date, approaches to urban development have emphasized policies of decongestion, formalization of informal settlements, or beautification, which have often resulted in arrests, forced evictions, and demolitions of informal settlement communities. Many people living on the margins of Nigeria’s cities have struggled to exercise their basic rights.
Against that backdrop, this project aims to address some of the most critical justice and governance challenges facing Nigeria’s urban poor. The research builds on five years of experience of an innovative inter-city network of community paralegals, trained and supported by Justice and Empowerment Initiatives – Nigeria. The network currently serves over 100 informal settlements (slums) in Lagos and Port Harcourt.
The research will comprise three streams. First, the team will identify the priority justice challenges experienced by informal settlement residents, with their direct participation. Another stream will study the immediate costs and longer-term impacts of these justice challenges on residents, with a view to understanding their relationship with the poverty trap. A final stream will explore the broader societal costs of current urban policy approaches and will conduct cost-benefit analyses on proposed alternatives. Research findings will be used to identify and test legal empowerment strategies to improve urban poor communities’ capacity to respond to priority justice challenges. Findings will also feed efforts to improve public awareness and perceptions about the development and justice challenges faced by the urban poor and to foster collaborative engagement between urban poor communities, civil society, and government. Researchers and informal settlement residents will co-produce outputs and knowledge products.