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.
One of the most back-breaking means of survival is finding affordable housing with good living conditions though for some 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.
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, have been homeless for too long. However it seems there will be a breath of fresh air soon for the ‘never say die residents’ of Makoko who would take half bread rather than have none.
Makoko with a population of 100,000 people is a mirror image of the deplorable standard of living of Nigerians, even though some claim majority of the inhabitants are not Nigerians. 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.
Their natural habitats 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.
In Makoko, 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. And for those close to canals, Smelly, half-drained bogs with homeless rabbit sized rats besieging your privacy, it’s a gory sight!
As for residents of Makoko, they exist in their own peculiar world.
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. 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’ suspected 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 albeit that fate could be redefined soon
In a twist, years after they marked the area for demolition and afterwards almost violently displaced them, the Lagos State Government said it has concluded plans to rebuild Makoko by constructing a housing estate on the waterfront.
This is a welcome development considering the fact that lack of affordable housing has been the major bane of Lagosians in a city that has population 50 times its land mass. Residents of Makoko 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
Also, continous migration of people into a city that offers lot of opportunities for sustainable living for Nigerians has posed negative accommodation issues over the years for Lagosians and the poor in Makoko are no exceptions.
Again, there has been a lot of unplanned settlements and encroachments on both land and water by immigrants from other parts of the country which had been a hard nut to crack for the Lagos state government. The houses built on the Lagos lagoon overtime in the Makoko area continued unabated and soon became worrisome due to the speedy and fast encroachment on the waterway and further extension towards the PHCN high tension cable on the lagoon.
Though some Nigerians consider the 17 million housing deficit as not so much for a country such as ours with enormous challenges and a teeming population of over 170 million people; however the housing deficit doesn’t include those that are inadequately sheltered or those in places a sane person won’t dare call home, but the government have taken what remains of our senses. I’m talking about shanty towns especially the slums at an area which again as come under the radar of the Lagos state government albeit this time it’s for a just cause; to protect the highly valued waterfront against pollution and widespread contamination; enhance water transportation and promote tourism, so we believe.
Just like what we have at Lake Union in Seattle, Washington city – a lake which houses neigbourhoods on its east and west shores, the Lagos state government is hoping that what they have in mind for the Makoko dwellers is no different
The Lagos state government is taking necessary steps to curb the problem of a reduced housing stock in any urban renewal project. If the latest round of news is anything to go by then the government could be making efforts to eradicate the incidence of the spiral process of slums among the poor.
With the new dwelling units said to be underway, Lagos is not only for the rich after all…