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Lagos show concern for slum dwellers

With the reality of rapidly urbanizing world in which more city dwellers than ever before found themselves living in informal settlements, the United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-HABITAT) has pledged a robust collaboration with Lagos State Government to promote socially, environmentally sustainable human settlements and adequate housing for all.

While expressing deep concern on the rate of urbanisation in Nigerian cities at World Habitat Day 2014, organised by the Lagos State Government last week, the Programme Manager, UN-HABITAT Programme Office (HAPSO) in Nigeria, Malam Kabir Yari, warned that over a quarter of the country’s total urban population and with a growth rate which at between 6-8 per cent is about to double the national estimate of 2.9 per cent.

He said: “Almost 60 per cent of the urban population in sub-Saharan Africa resides in slums without running water, minimum conditions of hygiene and without access to essential services. It is only expected that Nigeria’s premier Mega City, Lagos, would have more than its fair share of people living in slum conditions to contend with. “

He cited UN Under-Secretary-General and UN-Habitat Executive Director, Dr. Joan Clos, speech at the Prepcom 1 of Habitat III in New York, where he noted, “the proliferation of slums and an informal economy are not the only obstacles in the urbanization of developing countries. Other factors also threaten the future of cities, such as vulnerability to natural disasters and socio-political conflicts over land and resources. Many cities also fail to provide basic services to their citizens and lack functioning public transportation systems. In many countries in the global South, the current development dynamics increases social inequalities.”

Speaking on the theme of the event titled: “Voices from Slums”, Yari explained that the theme would draw a collective attention to the plight of urban residents who today, live in conditions that are not the best, and unacceptable.

However, he recalled that the first efforts at slum upgrading in Nigeria also began in Lagos in the 1930s with the creation of Nigeria’s first planning agency, the Lagos Executive Development Board (LEDB), which started with the Oko Awo Scheme and followed with the Central Lagos Planning Scheme in the late 1950s. Subsequent efforts to expand on these initiatives over the years, have led to the establishing of several specialized agencies to address the notoriously burdensome challenge of managing rapid urban growth in the city.

“In line with these efforts, the Lagos State Urban Renewal Authority in October 2006 adopted a city-wide approach for upgrading nine of the 42 slum communities (blighted areas) identified in 1983, covering an area occupied by up to 1.1 million inhabitants and 150,000 households.

“Also worthy of note, are the several other recent initiatives adopted by the Lagos State government to address these issues, such as the preparation and adoption of District Plans, Draft Town Plans and Regulations, Interim Regional and Structure Plans, Model City Plans and Metropolitan Master Plans among several others.

“It is the commitment to such innovative interventions that has enabled Lagos State to consistently provide leadership in the area of urban renewal and slum upgrading and today, some of its achievements have become Best Practices that are being emulated by others from both within and outside the country”, he said.

He also added that the growing proportion of city dwellers represent real human beings with real needs and real expectations, whose voices must not only be heard, but must also count.

According to him, ‘Voices from Slums’ seeks to give a voice to slum dwellers, calls our collective attention to their needs and, encourage all stakeholders to explore ways to more effectively improve the quality of life in their environments.

Furthermore, he said that the UN HABITAT has continued to advocate for prevention of both slums and urban sprawl by encouraging governments to ensure provision of improved access to basic urban services, sustainable water and sanitation, as well as energy and transport, through Preventive planning in advance; Planning at the scale of the problems; and Planning in phases.

Slums are heavily populated informal settlements and are identified by substandard housing and filth caused by the population boom which has put undue pressure on the Government as demand for housing continues to rise and in return causing the growth of slums which are the alternative, despite being unfit for human habitation. Slum areas such as Agege, Amukoko, Badia, Bariga, Ilaje, Itire/Ijeshatedo, Iwaya, Makoko and Ajegunle have been found to be inhabitable, poorly ventilated, cramped and with unclean environment where people reside, raise families and socialize and they are being upgraded under the Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project (LMDGP).

The common factors that bring about the creation as well as growth of slums due to the adverse effects on development include: Rural-Urban Migration, Economic Stagnation and Depression, Poor Planning, Poverty, Colonialism and Segregation, High Unemployment, Informal Economy, Politics, Natural Disasters and Social Conflicts.

Governor Babatunde Fashola noted that the quality of life in slums is characterized by many factors that call for concern such as substandard housing and overcrowding.

He noted that shanty homes often built hurriedly with materials unsuitable for housing, which cannot withstand heavy rains, high winds and local climate. These dwellings are single root with high occupancy and cohabited by multiple families, including single room dwellings that could be occupied by five or more persons. This is where they cook, sleep and live with conveniences serving dozens of families.

He also listed insecure Land Tenure as another important characteristic. “Unoccupied land is regarded as land without owners by some immigrants which in most cases belongs to someone else. Land tenure that is secure is an authentic recognition of the residential status in urban areas of slum dwellers”.

He noted that lack or inadequacy of Public infrastructure such as; electricity, safe drinking water, basic health care and security, affordable public transportation, good road networks and sanitation are all identifying factors of slums which is due to the informal nature of settlement and no planning.

The risks associated with slums are diseases, vulnerability to natural and unnatural hazards, unemployment, insecurity and child malnutrition. These risks can countered by:

“Upgrading the slums with basic infrastructure such as, sanitation, safe drinking water, electricity, paved roads, drainage and transportation systems, include urban infrastructure development and public housing, availability of mass transit systems, motorways, public housing projects aid in the disappearance of slums”.

Earlier, Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr. Olutoyin Ayinde, a town planner, observed that over the years, Lagos State government has proactively initiated policies and strategies aimed at addressing challenges of slum dwellers thereby improving their living conditions.

These include: Identification of slums and blighted areas; Enactment of Lagos State Urban Renewal Law; Establishment of Lagos State Urban Renewal Authority (now Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency); Implementation of Urban Renewal Schemes: Olaleye-Iponri, Otto-Otumara, Ipodo-Ikeja, Badiya and Agege amongst others.

He said that the LMDGP succeeded in carrying out upgrading and regeneration in 11 slum communities: Agege, Amukoko, Badiya, Ajegunle, Ijeshatedo, Ilaje-Bariga, Makoko, Ijora-Oloye, Iwaya, Isalegangan Urban Regeneration Project Phase 1 & 2 and Adeniji Adele Regeneration Project.

Others include: Skill empowerment scheme which provide centres for training and empowerment of women and unemployed youths; Improvement and establishment of basic health facilities accessible to the poor; Implementation of monthly/weekly environmental sanitation programmes; and Improved educational facilities (Eko Project) among others.

Credit: Guardian Newspaper

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