By Kingsley Adegboye

The growth of slums has become a recurring decimal in virtually all parts of the country. The scenario is aggravated by the high rental charges and the desire by most Nigerians to live in their own property.

In Lagos State for instance, the growth of over 200 slum settlements has been a major challenge to successive governments since 1999. From Badiya to Makoko, Ije Barracks to Iwaya, Amukoko to Ajegunle, the growth of slums and its attendant impacts have continued to threaten Lagos’ vision of becoming Africa’s model mega-city as enunciated in the 10-point agenda of Governor Babatunde Fashola.

Instance of infrastructure decay, unhealthy living conditions, sub-standard buildings, criminal activities and the spread of infectious diseases in this slummy settlements are common place.

Experts describe these manifestations as the “push and pull factors of migration from rural communities and small towns from other states of the federation.”

At a recent seminar to sensitise chairmen of  Local Government Councils and Local Council Development Areas LCDAs, stakeholders highlighted the issues of poor planning, failed policies and lack of credible data as factors  responsible for the indiscriminate growth of slums in different parts of the state.

The Lagos state government has stressed again  and again that the task of slum improvement requires the concerted inputs of all stakeholders from the central government to the local authorities. It has therefore mapped out strategies to effectively monitor and evaluate slum upgrading programmes.

Slum upgrading or slum improvement in low income urban communities simply means a delivery of basic services such as potable water supply and adequate sewage disposal to improve the well-being of the community. It also involves legalising and regularising the properties in situations of insecure or unclear tenure.

Mr. Femi Shodunke, an architect and vice chairman of the Lagos state chapter of the Nigerian Institute of Architects NIA, said upgrading customarily provides a package of improvements in streets, footpaths and drainage in a community being upgraded with solid waste collection frequently included with its positive impact on health. It also includes the provision of street lights for security and night activity.

He however noted that this physical improvement is only the beginning, as health issues need to be addressed by providing clinics and health education programmes, school facilities and teachers needed to attack the lack of basic education.

According to him, upgrading programmes are offered to increase income earning opportunities and the general economic health of a community. “Upgrading is the start to becoming a recognised citizen”, he said.

Issues to consider
A former chairman of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners NITP Lagos Branch, Mr. Moses Ogunleye posited that there are several issues to take into consideration when upgrading a slum.

One of such critical issues to consider  is the population of the community. He asked: “What percentage of the population will be affected by the upgrading exercise in terms of relocation? Is there a prepared place for them to move to?”
Ogunleye said it is important to know the population of the community in terms of their age,income capacity and distribution in order to adequately address their needs.

“The second issue that needs to be considered is to properly define the scope of the upgrading. For instance, is the upgrading basically to improve on the infrastructure in the area or  to create some economic activities in the area?This is because some slum communities are basically inhabited by groups of people with different economic activities. Some of them are surrounded by one form of  employment source or the other.

“If a slum community around the lagoon is to be upgraded for instance, it is obvious that the economic activities of the community will water -based such as fishing, lumbering and others. The scope of the project if properly defined right from the beginning, will enable the handlers to know what is needed in the community to be upgraded.

In other words, are you going to do economic enhancement projects in the community or infrastructure improvement in the area? So, the scope of slum upgrading programme is a key factor to be considered.

“Another factor to consider in slum upgrading is funding of the project. In other words, how much is government committing into the project, and is the project going to be done in phases like phase 1 and 2? Are you going to start with roads and construction of drainage channels, or are you starting with creation of amenities or facilities such as health centre, school, water and others?

If the budget for the programme is limited, you then need to prioritise the needs of the people with the limited available funds. So, funding is also a key factor to be considered in slum upgrading programme. “One other issue worth considering in a slum upgrading is that of the residents of the community to be upgraded.

In other words, are the residents receptive? Will they welcome the project? Have you consulted with them enough, and are they ready to accept the programme? This is because some communities will see slum upgrading projects as an attempt by government to evict them from their ancestral lands, thus, will not embrace the projects. This is why it is important to discuss with them extensively on the usefulness of the projects in their communities so that they will accept it before commencement”, Ogunleye stated

Another Architect, Ms. Jemi Ogisi explained that what is needed to make slum upgrading work is the commitment of everybody in the community. The families and all stakeholders, she said, should be actively involved in the process of slum upgrading. According to her, a sense of partnership must be developed.

“Upgrading must meet a real need. That is, people must want it and understand the value. To implement, you must get the institutional arrangements right. Give incentives for agencies to work with the poor, keep everyone informed and coordinated, and define clearly the roles of the various agencies,” she noted.

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