Lasgidi, city of hustlers where everyone seems to be sprinting on an imaginary track yet there are no spectators or even track officials. In Lagos, it is the survival of the fittest, if you don’t fit in, you will end up in a fix.
One of the most back-breaking means of survival is finding affordable housing with good living conditions though for many the living condition is not much of a big deal as long as they have a place to lay their heads, even if the habitat is in the wild, whilst living on water or along canals is even a better alternative for many.
With a population of about 21 million people, the second fastest growing city in Africa, yet Lagos happens to be the smallest city in Nigeria with a vast area of wetlands. The implication of this is that, a fraction of the population stay on water or along it, while others who are not entirely human may prefer to dwell in water rather than on it; I learnt its always cold there and probably more peaceful.
There has been a dearth of housing to accommodate the teeming population of Lagosians in a country with an estimated housing deficit of 18 million with Lagos solely accounting for 5 million deficits.
The continuous growth of Lagos in geometric proportion is a major contributing factor to homelessness, even the provision of urban infrastructure and housing to meet this demand has done little to ameliorate the situation.
The extent of the housing shortage in Lagos is enormous. The inadequacies are far reaching and the deficit is both quantitative and qualitative; even those households with shelter are often subjected to inhabiting woefully deficient structures as demonstrated in the multiplication of slums, prompting some to find solace on and around the sea, swamps and canals in deplorable states.
As for residents of the Lagos shanty towns; they exist in their own peculiar world. For those on and around the sea, their major occupation is fishing. However, this means of livelihood portends danger. The surrounding oily waters which provides a way of life for the fishing communities also role play as monsters in their lives, spreading disease through the cramped population.
In 2012, the Government took a keen interest in the slums at Makoko after more than a century of being left to its own devices.
Some people call it Lagos version of Venice; located on a lagoon on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, a stone’s throw from the modern buildings that make up the main business hub of Nigeria, this sprawling slum on the waterfront, adjacent to the 10 km long Third Mainland Bridge gained immense popularity after a BBC documentary in 2010 on the shanty town sparked controversies.
Local Officials declared the centuries-old community illegal and scheduled it for demolition. They sent men with chain saws to storm Makoko. They cut through the stilts suspending dozens of homes, schools and churches above the water, leaving them to collapse into the murky depths. The officials cited health and sanitation concerns, but some locals’ suspect that the underlying motivation was a desire to sell off the area lucratively to property developers.
However, some of them would still remain, many of which have no place to call home other than houses raised on stilts.
That’s the lagos they know, the home fate ceded to them.
To be continued tomorrow…