Rural-Urban Migration and Economic Development in Nigeria: Problems and Prospects


According to Okeke (1990), rural-urban migration as in other parts of Nigeria can be attributed to a number of reason including economic opportunities, the flight from rural violence and cultural inhibitions, better quality housing, better health service and other urban amenities and infrastructures. Whatever the reason for migration, the influx of rural migrants to urban centres has a lot of implications for the society.

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It is noted that migration is a major cause of increasing the population of a destination area (source area). In some developed regions or areas, the reverse effects has occurred with cities loosing population to rural areas, and is particularly for richer families, though the number is minimal. This has been made possible because of the improved communications, and has been caused by other factors such as the fear of crime and poor urban environments. Other factors are the increased attraction to investment in real estates, or the simple desire for a new living experience.

According to the United Nations (1988), rural-urban migration is viewed as a movement of rural agricultural workers into the cities in search of non-agricultural jobs and “the easier life style” often attributed to living in the urban areas. It is generally observed that most of the people migration are seen as “vehicles” for improving their standard of living. The indications are that those who migrate are largely the energetic young people and the educated one in that area.

Olisa (1992:245) further maintained that “the reason for rural migration is the total absences or shortage of social amenities in the rural areas; one of which is public libraries where people can improve their knowledge.

Migration harms the prospect of developing a place, it can lead to brain drain “which harms the prospects of developing an area whether it does depend on the nature of migration and the links it is to establish between the host and home area. The main factor which lead to migration must be addressed by creating opportunities mutually to the beneficially that it is to be explored.

Another approach to the study of rural-urban is to examine the different between the migrants and the non-migrants. According to Otite and Onwo (1979) they are of the opinion that opportunities for employment and consequently for rewards and advancement vary from place to place, on the other hand, the presence or absence of industries influences the movement of labour because people migrate in response to the absence or presence of suitable economic occupations. Furthermore, migrant may seek employment either as temporal or as a permanent or semi-permanent employees of an industry. People also migrate from one place to another as a result of official transfer or political factors. Generally, the ultimate reason for labour migration are economic and psychological in nature. Migrants are often more ambitious risk bearers than those who stay behind. This risk taking maybe well articulated and actualize success but fail if not well planned.

Based on this argument by the international development committee which they maintained that the distinction are often drawn between the type of migrants (voluntary or forced) and of their motivations for moving (economic or non-economic) and this is between the pull and push factors which are motivating migrants to the economic move in order to gain access to resource or to improve their employment opportunities, whereas non-economic migrants move to escape persecution.

Furthermore, Ottong (1983) argued that in the context of economic development, rural-urban migration has some positive consequences in terms of the contributions of migrants to the development of their places of origin. Observation has shown that whatever little development rural areas have experiences is due in large parts to the influence of migrants in town. For example, migrants provide the impetus for most rural development.

Ottong (1983) is of the opinion that rural-urban migration means a shift of population from agricultural and non-agricultural jobs which may not be readily available in the urban centres. He is of the view that the domaince of males in rural-urban migration has the negative effect of the trend on rural labour force. It observed that migrants are energetic able bodied young person of between the age of 15 to 35 years. As a result of this incessant movement, the rural areas are deprived of sustained part of the labour force needed for rapid development of those areas which in one way or the other affects the economic development of this nation.

The researcher at this point, perceive migration in Enugu State as being so difficult to say quantitatively the volume of rural-urban migration. But it is widely acknowledged that the level and pattern of migration is relatively high and it is increasingly intend. This is because the migrants are trying to improve their lives and must be treated accordingly. Most migration takes place within and between states. It is not the poorest but most desperate ones that migrate. This has major implication for police since improvements to governance to reduce the motivation to leave which creates a situation of development friendly.

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If Nigeria government suppose to channel their effort towards urban and rural development which will be one of the means of checking the rural urban migration which has become a serious social problem in the country at large.

According to Ozor (2004), He maintained economically, the main objectives of government towards rural development policies as contained in the 2nd – 4th national development plans were to increase the rural productivity and income in order diversify the rural economy and generally enhance the economic development and improve the standard of living. Rural – urban migration worsens rural income distribution and as a result, rural areas suffer great disability as a result of this movement of its citizen to urban areas in search of other means livelihoods abandoning those in the village. People migrates to increase the income level and opportunities for employment.


The existence of migration as a social problem tries to relate the movement to basically economic pull from the urban areas. This pull is established by the existence of very lucrative career opportunities in urban areas.

Commenting further on thus view, Ogbuagu (1989: 3 – 9) maintained that most of the factors that resulted to the under development of the rural areas are in most occasion those factors that compels most migrants to move from the rural to urban areas. Moreover, he agreed that in some rural areas, provision of social services are minimal and agricultural production become or remain lower and other struggles without yielding any positive result, prompted the young able bodied youth to migrate from the rural area to urban centre in search of better opportunities in the urban areas.

According to DFID memos in international development committee (IDE, 2003 – 4) migrants responding to push factors are leaving places where life is a struggle, and responding to pull factors and moving to places where they think they might prosper. On the other hand, it further stated that people who move often have multiple motives for leaving the place where they have problem of lack of economic opportunities and political instability linked by the common thread or poor governance. And these includes:

  • The Rural Push Factors

This is the conducive and unfavorable atmosphere condition in a rural area that militias the rural inhabitants to vacate their place of residence to a place where they will enjoy these things not found in their territory.

  • The Pull Factors

This is characterized with those factors that better the living of man, which could be the present of social amenities and other infrastructural activities such as; electricity, pipe born water, good roads etc and present of job opportunities which prompted or magnetized the interest of rural people migrating to the urban areas in order to enjoy those embedded good living.


The concept of economic development is very importance and imperative because of its prominence in the scheme of events. Economic development cannot be properly understood without a detailed comprehension of economic growth. This is because the fundamental character of economic growth, which hinges on increase in real per capital output as a result of high productivity which is an imperative in economic development. It is pertinent to distinguish economic growth from economic development, this is because it has been misunderstood but detail clarifies of economic growth will come in subsequent sub-heading:

Economic growth is basically on the increase in per capital income on the production which will reflect in the increase in Gross Domestic product of a country (GDP) but denies her citizens equitable distribution of the health. While economic development, the productive wealth and high standard of living are equitably distributed, the right of the citizen are given to them.

Economic development is not laid on economic variable alone, but in every other social sector which makes it a general social phenomenon, (Okeke 2006). To that extent, economic development could be understood from a multi-dimensional perspective i.e. all socio-economic sectors must grow in equilibrium.

According to Nwankwo (2006), economic development is refers to the term used to describe the problems related to the economic conditions of the under developed countries, while economic growth is used to describe that of the already developed countries. Economic development basically refers to question of raising the income levels of the citizens and government of the poor countries.

Hicks (1957) opined that the economic problems of under developed countries are primarily concerned with the development of their unused resources in his own perspective. Kindle berger (1965) visualize economic development as more output and changes in the technical and arrangement institution by which the resources are produced and distributed.

Economic development embraces a wider concept than economic growth; it is taken to mean growth plus changes. It is related to qualitative changes in economic wants, goods, incentives, institutions, productivity and knowledge or the upward movement of the entire social system. It describes the underlying determinants of growth such as technological and structural changes. An economy can grow but may not develop because of poverty, unemployment and inequality may continue to persist due to the absence of technological and structural changes. But it is difficult to imagine development without economic growth in the absence of an increase in output per capital particularly, when population is growing rapidly.

* Measures of Economic Development

There are four basic ways in which the economic development of any nation can be measured. There are:

  • The level of Gross National Product (GNP)
  • Increase in Gross National Product per capital
  • Economic Welfare
  • Social indicators

Economic growth is different from economic development. To this extent, economic growth refers to the total physical output or real income of an economy that is an increase in real per capital output of an economy. Such an economy is expected to possess high level of productivity, which will reflect in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP or Net National Product (NNP). The GAP or NNP must rise over a given period of time and will also manifest in the nations per capital income.

Economic growth aids in high standard of living but does not simply imply economic development, it is only a character of economic growth. It becomes obvious that one which has increase in its real per capital out but lacks equitable distribution of income, marginalizes and exploits it citizens, denies her citizens an egalitarian right and socio-economics opportunities, it still has its economy elusive of economic development.




Migration to urban areas could cause the following factors:


According to Udabah (1999:62) said, it is obvious that when people tends to move from rural area to urban areas, the urban area will be over populated and as a result of that, it will effect the economic growth of any nation. This brings us to perceive the postulation by Malthusian theories which states, categorically that if population is not adequately checked, that the number of persons consuming the available food at geometrically progression while the food supply will be at arithmetic progression. Over population can lead to the following:

  • UNEMPLOYMENT: This is caused when many persons migrate from rural to urban centres either in search or job, or for other purposes, the number of persons searching for a particular job will be more than the available jobs, thereby causing unemployment and this mares development.
  • SOCIAL VICES: (Wikipedia) This could be caused as a result of being unemployed. This is when many persons are loitering and gallivanting without having any occupation, they will be poised to indulge in some abnormal acts like: Robbery, prostitution, kidnapping.
  • High cost of living – over population in urban area which was as a result of migration of people from rural will amount to inflation of goods and services in the urban areas thereby making things harder to the poor people.
  • UNUTILIZATION OF LOCAL RESOURCES: Since the young able bodied youths are migration to the urban centre, embedded resources in the area will be left behind which is encumbering a nation’s economic development.
  • NEGLECTION OF AGRICULTURAL ACTIVITIES: Migration has amounted to low food production the youths who are supposed to be more active in the production of food are no more active in production of food. In view of these, there is no doubt that neglection of agriculture encumbers a nation’s (GDP).



Summarily, it is obvious from the various literature reviewed that rural-urban migration has been an age long development challenge in Nigeria, despite the fact that government had made effort to control and curb down the ugly trend, by enacting policies and programmes such as agricultural improvement programmes, youth empowerment programmes and provision of social amenities in the rural areas, all did not yield any positive result.

The literature reviewed, reveals the meaning of rural-urban migration, economic development and the effects of migration to the economic development.

It is pertinent to mention here that despite the efforts and contribution made by many scholars based on this study, they still have some lacunae in their works i.e., where their works has not covered. They all covered their views on negative effects of migration. It is obvious that rural-urban migration has more effects on country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) an emphasis in Enugu state, which encompasses agricultural productivity. will only provide papers as a reference for your research. The papers ordered and produced should be used as a guide or framework for your own paper. It is the aim of to only provide guidance by which the paper should be pursued. We are neither encouraging any form of plagiarism nor are we advocating the use of the papers produced herein for cheating.

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