BY EBUN SESSOU
Against the backdrop of the recent demolition of Makoko, a coastal community in Lagos, by the state government, a lawmaker in the Lagos State House of Assembly has called on government to design programmes that will ensure that people living in slums are given a new life.
Mr. Mr. Lanre Ogunyemi, representing Ojo II constituency in the state legislature, in an exclusive interview with Vanguard, said that ongoing discussions in the aftermath of the demolition must accommodate the views of the Makoko evictees and other people living in slums across the state.
Ogunyemi, who is also Chairman, House Committee on Energy, Mineral Resources and Waterfront Infrastructure, called on the residents of Makoko to take advantage of the on-going discussions as directed by the Governor, Babatunde Fashola and come up with a solution that would be in their best interest and that would also move Lagos forward.
“Lagos is virtually a megacity and because of the present situation, there is always plan to resettle certain settlement that we think are not in conformity with the expectation of the State. But, there must be better resettlement if people must move. I believe, government will not throw thousands of its people into a daylight penury and poverty without making alternative arrangement for them.
“All over the world, there is provision for the poor and that is what we call evolution or involvement of new towns. Lagos has what is called new towns development authority and by the United Nations charter, there are bound to be emergence of new towns. With the way Makoko is, there is no development that can take place there. What government is doing there is not total demolition of Makoko. The only contentious issue revolves around those who built their houses under power-line. And therefore, there is need to create a safe way to safeguard the lives and properties of the people living in Makoko.
“We must not give chance for any disaster before taking necessary measures. Secondly, the whole of Makoko is choked and therefore there is need to create avenue for some of the facilities to be in place. What has happened in Maroko might not be the same in Makoko and that is why people should not be quick to rush to judgement. What we want there is the beautification of the waterways which is currently our topmost priority. And the point is that an aesthetic look of Makoko must improve in the interest of the image of Lagos as a megacity. We have Ajegunle slum where government is putting efforts to ensure a better atmosphere. This is not a government that empowers the rich at the detriment of the poor”, he explained.
On the allegation that government wants to give the place out to developers, he noted that the government has not made that declaration to the best of his knowledge. “Makoko has been there for so many years and I don’t want to believe that government would be insensitive to the community there. Prior to now, I am told that government has been having series of roundtable talks with the leaders of the community to give a new look to Makoko. But I am of the opinion that concession must be made on both sides so that Lagos can be what we all want it to be. There is no indication that portends that government want to collect from the poor and give to the rich.
“If the Lagos State government did not give out any master-plan on Makoko, I think, there is no point talking about it. Usually, when government comes up with a master-plan for the real development of an area, certain considerations are given to the original occupants. But there could also be the resettlement option,” he concluded.