Yesterday, we delivered a piece on affordable housing in Lagos. We also addressed the incidence of the spiral process of slums among the poor who can’t afford the regular houses. Which brings us to this question; is affordable housing the basic right of every Lagosian? Here is the concluding part…
When reference is made to the homeless, you may not only want to look at those who live under the bridge in Ojuelegba, Ikeja, Oshodi; the list seems endless. You may also want to look in the direction of the Lagos shanty town especially the slums at Makoko, it’s a good reference point when assessing the number of homeless people in Lagos.
If homelessness is the condition and social category of people without a regular house or dwelling because they cannot afford, do not desire, or are otherwise unable to maintain regular, safe, and adequate night time residence then inhabitants of shanty towns such as is obtainable in Makoko, are homeless. But like they say, half bread is better than none
Lack of affordable housing has been the major bane of Lagosians in a city that has population 50 times its land mass. The shanty towns suffer from lack of basic infrastructure, including clean drinking water, electricity and poor waste disposal techniques which make them prone to severe environmental and health hazards.
Lagos shanty towns provide a mirror image of the deplorable standard of living of Nigerians, a reflection of our government’s concern for and contribution in the life of an average Nigerian.
Their natural habitats which provides an array of functions; It could be a source of livelihood yet a dump site for waste and excreta, call it a repository of all sorts of discarded objects and oil streaks which seem to suffocate the water hyacinth that is equally a menace.
This was evident in the Lagos armoury blast of 2002 which was believed to have killed 1,100 people and rendered over 20,000 homeless. 600 of the 1100 killed, died after falling into a canal concealed by water hyacinth as hundreds of people, mostly children surged into a plantation that is separated from the city by the deadly canal which runs from north to south parallel to the Isolo-Oshodi expressway through the centre of the city.
In shanty towns, sitting or standing in front of your homes (if there is ever any chance to), the scenery is usually an eyesore. Putrefied foul smelling slough-like water and afloat on the surface are all sorts of discarded objects and oil streaks I mentioned earlier in this piece. And for those close to canals, Smelly, half-drained bogs with homeless rabbit sized rats besieging your privacy, it’s a gory sight!
A visit to one of the shanty towns, and I couldn’t help but shudder at the sight that confronted me.
“This is still homelessness,’’ I uttered under my breath.
I thought for a second “won’t I choose to live in the wilds or get to be allotted a space at the Yankari games reserve than be subjected to such degradation. It was just a thought that and it lasted only a second.
Considering the teeming population of Lagos state in relation to its land mass and of course its immense water body, Government officials have a hard nut to crack.
With Lack of affordable housing, high standard of living, continuous migration and poverty, increased homelessness looms
Perhaps the only way to avoid the problem of a reduced housing stock in any urban renewal project, thus curbing the incidence of the spiral process of slums among the poor, as the Maroko example has demonstrated in Lagos, is by building new dwelling units for ‘relocatees’ before demolishing their present homes. Such policy would merge with general attempts to relocate the poor in suburbs, seeking a reduction in the concentrations of poverty in the most populous and industrialized city in Nigeria.
Government claim to enhance affordable housing projects yet in Lagos only the rich can afford the so called affordable houses.
Is Lagos then only for the rich?