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Tenement buildings in Lagos

Understanding and managing conflict among residents of tenement buildings in Lagos

Though not every Lagosian can afford to live in self-contained apartments, Mini flats, 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom flats, but there’s always an option for those who can’t deal with the exorbitant price charged as rent by Lagos Landlords. In this article we address the presence of untold conflict amongst tenants who live in tenement buildings in Lagos.

Low income earners in Lagos metropolis have peculiar taste for a type of residential property, popularly referred to as ‘face-me-I-face-you‘, not because they would willingly want to live there but because that’s their last resort in other not to join the homeless in the society.

Human beings are naturally gregarious and no human being is an island on his own. There is therefore a need for them to interact, cohabit, and do things in common. The Lagos metropolis has witnessed continuous growth in demand for housing units by low-income earners for all types of properties, especially during the era of economic boom in the 1980s.

The low-income earners have peculiar taste for tenement properties because of its low rent, though many of such properties lack basic infrastructure. The tenement type of residential properties usually consists of unit rooms flanking both sides of a central passage that connects the rooms to shared unit, kitchens and toilets at the rear.

Sometimes the kitchen is attached to the structure while the conveniences (toilet and bathrooms) are in most cases detached from the main building. This design type of property was said to have been imported from Brazil at the end of the slave trade era.

The property is also characterized by overcrowding; with several individual families occupying unit rooms or room-and-parlours; and individual occupiers having differing tastes, aspirations and socio-cultural backgrounds.

As a result of differing socio-cultural backgrounds, on many occasions the occupiers of the low-income houses listen to separate and conflicting songs blaring from their musical sets, and because of the population of occupiers, the facilities are inadequate with the use of available bathrooms, kitchens and toilets carried out on rotational basis.

The occupiers often resort to cooking at the central passage. Disagreement, misunderstanding, quarrelling and open confrontations occasionally bloody do occur as the occupants are usually in close proximity with one another.

With a population of over 21 million people, Lagos metropolis – the largest city in Nigeria has the highest number of ‘face-me-I-face-you’ apartment units in the country. The case of conflict amongst occupants of a typical tenement building is worse in Lagos State because it is a socially heterogeneous city with tribes and nationals from within and outside Nigeria aggregating in Lagos metropolis.

The city represents the melting-pot of various races, and of economic activities with high net-worth manufacturing, commercial entities, high grade residential precincts, highly productive industrial concerns that have congregated to take advantage of the nearness to sea, international airports, and rail systems, and also served with networks of trunk roads.

This makes demand for residential properties increase on daily basis as migration of all classes of people into the state increases.

Despite the increasing number of tenement buildings in Lagos, how individuals choose to engage in or manage conflict depends on their personal view of conflict and on the source of conflict. It is an inherent ingredient in human society that has sprang from observations of raw animal nature in which rules or order were determined by length of tooth and strength of claws and as long as physical conflict was considered to be inherent in man’s makeup, it was assumed that it would usually be employed in his dealings with others

Feelings of unfairness and injustice, suspicion, anger, emotion, and mistrust lead to conflict. In a conflict situation each party attempts to destroy, injure, thwart, influence or control the other

There are many ways to resolving conflicts, these include surrendering, running away, overpowering the opponent with violence, filing a lawsuit, et cetera. In general, common forms of conflict resolutions are negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and hybrid of mediation-arbitration. Others are early neutral evaluation, community conferencing, negotiated rulemaking, and peer mediation.

Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process in which a neutral third-party facilitator helps people discuss difficult issues and negotiate an agreement.

A number of techniques have been developed in resolving conflict in a society, these include: inaction, negotiation, facilitation, mediation, arbitration, court action, non-violence, violence, conflicts escalate, with variety of processes used to deal with them.

The most common causes of conflicts amongst residents of the face-me-I-face-you type of low-income residential properties in Lagos metropolis is inadequate infrastructure, followed by non-settlement of electricity and neighbourhood levies, the costs of which the occupier share equally.

Inadequate infrastructure contributes greatly as a source of conflicts. Many tenants scrabble for kitchen, bathroom, central passage, balconies, electricity and water supply, and other facilities that are available for common use.

Planning regulation may be adopted to give advantage to approval of buildings with adequate infrastructure over those with few and inadequate. Co-tenants have important role to play in resolving conflicts amongst residents of low-income housing.

The involvement of co-tenants in conflict resolution will go a long way at peace-making and prevent conflicts with using the Police except when life is threatened or there is potential breach of public peace and tranquility.

The prevalent type of conflicts involves multi-parties (two families – parents and their children). Conflicts probably arise from little disagreement between two members of the families extending to other members of the conflicting parties.

Multi-party conflicts involving two or more families are complex situations, and require careful intervention by neighbours and estate surveyors.

In this case, one should expect settlement to take a bit longer time than if the conflict involves only two, and greater precautionary measures must be in place to forestall individual conflict that may degenerate into crisis and breach of peace in the entire area.

It is always better not to manage any property at all than to manage crisis-infected ones! Time is valuable to the estate surveyor and time spent in resolving conflicts could better be diverted to rewarding ventures.

Involving reliable residents in conflict resolution will prevent estate surveyor from expending time and energy on what is not worthy and enable them spend quality time on more rewarding aspects of the professional practice.

The estate surveyor also has an important role to play by ensuring that facilities provided by their clients are adequate before taking up the letting and management of a property while planning approving authorities must ensure that facilities provided in low-income tenement houses are adequate in relation to the number of tenants before approval is granted.

Creative problem-solving strategies are essential positive approaches to conflict management, and such management should start from tenants’ recruitment stage. It will be painful for estate surveyors to manage conflict that could possibly have been prevented at the initial stage.

Tenants of like-minds, of same social and ethno-religious status must at the recruitment stage be recruited. Provision of adequate infrastructure to residents to give them unhindered access will create room for minimal frictions and go a long way at preventing conflicts amongst the residents.

When conflicts arise, the way out is for the estate surveyor to be patient and ensure that parties’ points of view are heard, and issues in conflict are clarified so that they will not be biased in taking final decision, and when there is impasse in resolving the conflicts, creating neutral grounds and retreat from untenable position will provide the first step in negotiating an agreement between the conflicting parties while staying open for another day to reach settlement if impasse could not be resolved at first

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