May 20, 2014

Makoko: A slum that refuses to dissolve



Makoko is one of the slums that will register in anyone’s mind in Lagos.

It is located on Lagos lagoon and a stone throw from modern buildings that adore the landscape.

In this extensive slum on the waterfront, adjacent to the 12.5 kilometre long Third Mainland Bridge, tens of thousands of people live in rickety wood houses supported by wooden stilts driven deep into the waterbed.

There are no official census records, but estimates suggest that about 100,000 people live there and the World Bank estimates that the population on land is just over 85,000.

On  July 12, 2012, the state government gave residents 72 hours to vacate the area. Two days later, a large contingent of mobile policemen and staff of the Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure Development arrived Makoko and started demolishing the wooden on water. It was however made clear that the houses for demolition were those built within 100 meters from the sea and those under high-tension wire.

Nearly two years after the demolition, there is still encroachment towards the high tension cable and more buildings are being erected.

The move to relocate people from Makoko dates back to the Yakubu Gowon era in the 1970s.There are other reasons, apart from the excuse given by the Lagos State Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Resources in its letter for the take over of the waterways. It is argued that no nation allows its waterways to be encroached upon by the people.

The real reason for the government’s move is a subject of controversy. One is that as usual, the government wants to displace the inhabitants, sand-fill the area and sell it to the rich.

Those who share this view alleged that some parts of Ilubinrin in Ikoyi were reclaimed and sold to the rich after the squatters were evicted.

However, the Lagos State Government has insisted that Makoko is both a health and an environmental hazard as well as being out of line with its development plans.

The residents are said to be in danger because of electricity cables that run along the shanties which constitute serious threats during high tide, thunderstorms and heavy rainfall.

Also the environment is seen to be degrading; due to waste being dumped into the lagoon and the haphazardness of the settlement.

Lagos State Government also believes that Makoko is an ‘impediment to the economic and gainful utilisation of the waterfront and it undermines the “megacity status” that Lagos is trying to achieve’.

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