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Anticipatory Urbanization Strategies for In-Situ Oil Sands Extraction in Nigeria

Christina Milos, University of Hannover, Mellon Fellow 2015–2016, Fall

Nigeria’s future will be shaped, in part, by the twin forces of urbanization and resource development. A key emerging resource expected to accelerate urbanization in southern Nigeria is the 140 km oil sands belt that stretches across Edo, Ondo, Ogun, and Lagos states. Estimated by Nigeria’s Ministry of Mines and Steel Development to contain 32–47 billion barrels of oil, Nigeria’s reserves of oil sands are the largest in Africa, and sixth largest in the world. Anticipating how resource development might spur urbanization and restructure landscapes in developing countries such as Nigeria poses a critical global challenge. Seeking to improve policy and planning mechanisms to respond to this challenge, my research asks two key questions: How might Nigeria’s future oil sands industry transform regional urban landscapes? What are potential transformative actions and decision points that may structure this future landscape? The research examines two historical cases: Canadian oil sands development and urban impacts, and Nigeria’s oil industry development and urban impacts in the Niger Delta. These cases are used as precedents to anticipate potential scenarios for future oil sands development. During the fellowship term at Dumbarton Oaks, I studied in detail the territorial, environmental, urban, and social impacts of Nigeria’s oil industry. This research will play a critical role in shaping knowledge products intended to raise awareness among Nigerian policy makers regarding the challenges that oil sands extraction poses to Nigeria’s urban landscapes.