By FEYI BANKOLE
*‘Omoniles are enemies of housing development’ …
Mr. Toyin Ayinde, a Town Planner, is the Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning & Urban Development. In this interview, he discloses what the state is doing to ensure the availability of housing. He also speaks on the Lagos Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme- HOMS and the redevelopment of Makoko, a sprawling slum in Lagos.
Provision of decent housing for Makoko
The state is working on what we call ‘Houses on Water’, but definitely, by the time we are done, it’s not going to be the kind of thing they have there. Nowhere in the world can be developed like that! People mention Venice, but is that the type of model they have in Venice? Absolute no! The other problem we have is that the lagoon happens to be our main drainage facility; not the gutters. The gutters are only a means of getting us to the drainage facility. These facilities include the streams, rivers, lagoons and creeks.
The same lagoon is what we use for recreation, transportation and tourism. Now, when the Makoko community continues to sand fill, how much of the lagoon will we have left? Secondly, the result of their action will be a flooding that we will never be able to control! This people also put their wastes in that water! That is not a sustainable environment, and that’s why the government is working to have an environment that is sustainable; there will be houses and they will be designed in a way that their sewages do not go into the water.
Will government build the houses?
Government cannot make that kind of promise, but we could lead an initiative. We will do the planning and then guide what will be put there.
Accommodation of the poor majority in the scheme
I will like us to disabuse our minds of the kind of definition we give to poor people. When you go into that community, you will see they are not as poor as you think! You’ll see flat screens and satellite dishes! That cannot be owned by poor people, so, I think it’s just that most of these people choose to stay there. At the time the government was negotiating with Okobaba community, it was also negotiating with those in Makoko. Those in Okobaba agreed to move and right now, the new sawmill is being built at Agbowa-Ikosi and we’re expecting that project to last 12 months. So, around the middle of this year, they should be able to move completely to Agbowa-Ikosi. But Makoko residents said they weren’t moving!
The point now is that the waterfront is an invaluable resource everywhere in the world! We can’t permit shanties; otherwise, we’ll lose value! I believe these people will make better living moving somewhere else, and coming back to take advantage of a beautiful environment, either to sell, fish or whatever. The poverty you’re talking about is in the mind; not in physical terms. As a nation and as a people, we really need to improve our mindsets so that we do not continually say it is poor people who live in Makoko. I can tell you that a lot of them are not poor!
Tackling high rent and the problem of ‘Omonile’(Land-owners)
We’ll eventually get out of that. We’re still the product of the forces of demand and supply. It’s because there aren’t sufficient public housing. When there are, the demand for unschemed lands which are owned by Omoniles will drop. The state is actually working at some things. I was actually supposed to be somewhere today to check for a land that somebody gave us a hint about, which the governor has said we should design houses on. So, the state government is aggressively pursuing a housing programme which we have tagged Lagos Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme- HOMS.
The system is aimed at developing a new way of living together, where you’ll have one, two, three bedrooms apartments in one environment with about 12 units per block. We’re replicating it all-over; some are already being built in Ikorodu, Sangotedo, Igando, and then we’re looking towards Ajara in Badagry. We’ve even evolved another model which we’re starting with Badia, and once we succeed with this model, we’ll also begin to replicate it. This will reduce the Omonile issues.
Frankly, the government itself experiences it sometime. I remember when we wanted to embark on the housing we’re doing now in Agbowa. We had a challenge from the owners of the land, so, we moved away to another place! In fact, they came back begging later on! You see, they still have to learn how to encourage development; it’s because they lack foresight. Once construction is going on, there will be jobs for both carpenters, engineers, iron-benders, bricklayers, architects, food sellers, water sellers, sand suppliers, to mention but a few, in their community. Once we’re able to provide more housing, I’m sure the issue would be lessened.
On affordability and accessibility
They should be. One of the reasons why government has not given out even those existing is that we’re working towards a mortgage system. We’re trying to depart from the old style in which you live in a place, pay rent for twenty years, and then you’re flushed out eventually. What government is working at is how these houses will eventually be owned by their occupants after they’ve eventually finished paying. We’re trying to tie it up to an income category, and this means that I myself cannot access them. Before, wealthy men could buy ten, but this time, it’s won’t be so. It going to be one for one person, and it won’t be accessible to people of very high income class.