With the highest nominal gross domestic product in Africa and an emerging market, Nigeria has become a powerful economic force on the continent and an increasingly important player in the global marketplace. While the country’s oil production and expanding financial, service, communications, technology and entertainment sectors have helped propel it forward financially, wealth distribution, income inequality and poverty remain troubling social issues.
The disparity between the country’s wealthy elite and the rest of the population is striking, with nearly a third of its citizens living below the poverty line. The growing gulf between the haves and have nots has the potential not only to hamper Nigeria’s economic prospects in the future, but also to undermine the country’s security, as continues to be seen in the embroiled northwestern region. In this region, where the percentage of those living below the poverty line is highest, growing instability has allowed the Boko Haram insurgency to gain a foothold, with dire and tragic consequences.
An ominous column of black smoke rises far in the distance in this landscape shot of Abuja taken from the top of the National Church of Nigeria’s bell tower. While taking photos of Abuja’s skyline for this story, I unknowingly captured the moment a car bomb exploded at Emab Plaza, June 25, 2014. 21 people were killed and 54 injured in the terrorist attack that has since been attributed to Boko Haram.
During my trip to Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja, I visited a small slum village that epitomizes the country’s income disparity issue. The village is inhabited by people who were displaced from their homes in the Guzape District during the development and construction of a new affluent suburb. Unable to afford the soaring land costs, the slum residents were forced to relocate, and have become refugees in their own city. Today, they are literally living in the shadows of formidable estates that now occupy the land where their humble homes once stood.
Palatial new homes rise up in the distance behind the refugee slum where a woman and her daughter walk past a group of reclining men and goats.
A woman bathes her son in a large bucket in front of their home.
An entrepreneurial resident holds up one of the textiles she creates by weaving together discarded fabric scraps. The income she makes from selling her handiwork at a local market helps feed her family.
A resident barber plys his trade on a bench along the slum’s main thoroughfare.
A group of children relax on a discarded recliner outside their home.
Women collect clean drinking water from a new well inside the slum that was donated by a foreign dignitary.
As her baby sleeps in a sling on her back, a woman frys millet cakes that she will sell at the village market.
With no public services to rely on, residents dispose of their trash in a giant dump outside the slum. The dump also serves as a physical and metaphorical divided between the displaced community and their wealthy neighbors who now inhabit mansions on the land they once called home.
Check out all the high-resolution shots from my trip to Nigeria in my album on Flickr.