Spaces for Change, a non-governmental organisation, in partnership with the Lagos State Resilience Office, is leading an initiative to address poverty among slum dwellers in the state.
The organisation, also known as S4C, recently led a focus group discussion on empowering slum dwellers to quit poverty and live a better life, noting that this would go a long way in reducing the challenge of slum proliferation, which the Lagos State Government had been grappling with for decades.
At the forum, themed, ‘Un-slumming Lagos: Evicting poverty, not poor people’, participants noted that with the ever-growing Lagos population, rendering infrastructure inadequate, it had become necessary for both the government and residents, as development partners, to continue to devise innovative thinking targeted at reducing poverty.
The Executive Director, S4C, Mrs. Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri, quoting a World Bank 2017 figure, stated that two out of every three people living in Lagos were living in slum areas.
She said the worrying statistics would keep rising if the causative factors such as high rate of unemployment, widespread poverty, and the absence of adequate social intervention programmes from the authorities continued to defy solutions.
Ibezim-Ohaeri stated, “As the Lagos population is expected to hit 32 million by 2050, the current housing deficit, put at three million housing units, is already triggering an alarm that the number of available homes is not matching the galloping population growth.
“From the initial 42 slums identified in the mid-1980s to over 100 slum areas existing presently, according to the Lagos State Urban Renewal Authority, slum dwellers have over the years represented the vicious cycle of urban poverty in Lagos.”
Ibezim-Ohaeri stated that the emphasis often placed on slums as settlements that exist outside conventional city planning arrangements was the reason concerned authorities forcefully evict slum dwellers without attending to their needs.
While encouraging the government not to see solutions only in evicting the people, without evicting poverty, Ibezim-Ohaeri noted that solutions could only be arrived at through direct and indirect empowerment programmes; removing barriers in accessing public opportunities by slum dwellers; social housing scheme for low-income earners and poorest of the poor; and through policies that would mandate private developers to apportion certain percentage of their development to poor people as practiced in Germany and other developed countries, among other solutions.
The Chief Resilience Officer, LSRO, Mr. Simon Gusah, said despite the plight of the slum dwellers and the negative perception that people had towards them, they had supported daily livelihood in the city, providing food and other technical services to the affluent.
“With adequate empowerment, their resilient spirit can deepen contribution to their community, the city’s prosperity and boost social security,” he added.
Gumah stated that to make Lagos more resilient, the state government went into a partnership with 100 resilient cities in the world under the Rockefeller Foundation established to develop a city resilience strategy.
The Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Resilience, Mrs. Ibironke Sodeinde, said the state government had good intention for slum dwellers and called for a more robust citizen participation, cooperation and positive attitudinal changes.
Credit: Punch Newspaper