The Socio-Economic Value of Home Remittances as Means of Reducing Rural Poverty: A Case Study of Igbomina Migrants in Lagos.

Author:Ibiloye, E.O.
Position:Lagos, Nigeria - Case study


A careful survey of the current demographic situation in Igbomina shows that a great proportion of its economically active population is settled outside the homeland, predominantly in the South-western parts of Nigeria primarily in search of economic fortune. Like the Jews, Diaspora Igbomina are migrants who: in-spite of their long absence from home, still regard the original home as the ultimate place of habitation to which they hoped to retire at old age. Home, to them as is with most Yoruba sub-groups, is not just a geographical location, but also a meaningful cultural niche, representing the past, present and future. "Home" is where the umbilical cords of children born in cities are buried. "Home" is where they themselves will eventually be buried. (1) The consciousness that they would one day retire from public life and return to their villages meant that improving the living condition of the people and place now, rather than later, is of priority consideration. It is therefore not a great surprise to see the energy and resources committed by Igbomina migrants to community development in their villages and remittances sent to sustain the people back home.

Migration and Settlement in Lagos

Migration of Igbomina people to Lagos date back to the last decade of the 19th century. However, prior to the establishment of colonial administration, evidence abounds of traditional migration associated with origin of the people dating back to the 18th and early part of the 19th centuries. During those periods, population was constantly being redistributed through migration of small groups. Migration from kingdoms to acephalous communities caused by disputes of office (Chieftaincy) seemed to be common in Yoruba-land then.

However, migration associated with economic activities did not commence in Igbomina until the second part of the 19th century. This has to do with the long-drawn civil wars that plagued the entire Yoruba country and restricted long-distance trading to a few individuals who enjoyed immunity from abduction through the protective umbrella of the Lagos Colony Government (2)

Those that were initially involved in long distance trading in the late 19th century confined their activities to seasonal migration conducted during dry seasons to avoid a clash with agricultural production. These were the pioneers of economic migration in Igbomina whose destinations were then mainly in and around Bida, Ibadan and Kano. Lagos, being a relatively small coastal village, was unknown to them. The relative prosperity and enhanced living and financial capacities of these few seasonal migrants, coupled with the forced absorption of Nigeria into the colonial economy, led to an increase in migration flow towards the coastal region in search of wage labour and trading activities. (3)

The imposition of Colonial rule from 1900 brought greater peace and security for people of the colony that had hither to been engaged in inter-ethnic conflicts prior to colonial intervention. Consequently, there was a considerable flow of migration following the consolidation of the colonial presence. However, right up to 1920, migration was still exceptional and relatively slow. Between 1920 and 1945, it increased slowly, but from 1945 to 1985, the rate of increase accelerated rapidly for reasons having to do with socio-political and economic transformation of the country. The pre-independence and four of the post-independence National Development Plans all fall within this period when greater emphases were placed on urban development to the detriment of the rural areas. Therefore, a shift of the neglected rural population in order to enjoy urban privileges was inevitable. (4) Migration was the result.

The population that was not involved in long distance trading at the early stage could only make do with subsistence farming in food crops. However, this traditional economic system could no longer absorb the full potential energies of the population, especially of the males. The absence of an adequate market for produce over and above the need of the local subsistence meant minimum utilization of the potentiality of the work force. It was, therefore, natural for people to look outward for places where this human potential could be adequately utilized.

The Igbomina were among the earliest migrant communities to settle in Lagos in the early part of the twentieth century. (5) The majority of the males who migrated to Lagos between 1900 and 1920 had been circulatory migrants who were either unmarried or whose families had been left at home. From the 1920s, however, the entire Igbomina population in Lagos began to take on the characteristics of a settled community of sojourners rather than a community of circulatory migrants. (6) Many were already doing well in their businesses. But the world economic depression of the early 1930s saw the economic gains of the early years go down the drain. However, as the recession years passed by, the prosperity that came along in the 1940s and 50s made a remarkable imprint on Igbomina as ownership of houses with corrugated iron sheets became a status symbol found in most Igbomina villages through remittances sent by migrants to parents and relations. (7) By this time there was great glamour and prestige associated with migration especially to Lagos. It was seen as rite-de-passage: to be a real man (enlightened) you have to have been to Lagos at least once. Nearly all of the earliest migrants were exporting their strength and not their skill and were going to work as labourers. Petty trading accounted for more then fifty per cent of the occupational group as they graduated from labourer work.

It is within this framework that this paper examines the Igbomina migrant community in Lagos within the context of its remittances advanced to the home region and the impact of this on socio-economic life and relations back at home.

Remittances and Its Socio-Economic Impacts on Home Region

Most studies on remittance in Nigeria, as elsewhere in developing countries...

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