By Monsuru Olowoopejo
It is a parallel that would amuse some, but the comparison of Makoko and its shanties on Lagos lagoon with Venice, the idyllic European love zone is not totally out of place.Both Makoko and Venice share the physical description of people living on top of water and move around using canoes. But that is about where it stops given the dilapidation and reeking odour that is the lot of the people in Makoko.
The community with over 4,000 structures with about half of the structures on top of water has a network of roads in the community spreading from the backyard of the University of Lagos, Akoka to the Adekunle axis of Yaba which can be navigated by canoe.
Out of concern about the environmental and other negative living conditions of the area, the Lagos State government had two years ago banned the floating school that was the main source of education for the people of the area.
The government it appears has backtracked on the issue and is considering the structure in the development plan for the waterfront community.
This came a year after the floating school received nomination for the Design of the Year 2014, at a competition overseen by London’s Design Museum where it competed with 14 other structures selected across the world.
The entry from Makoko was a three storey building jointly constructed by the residents of Makoko/Iwaya Waterfront Community, Yaba Local Council Development Area, LCDA, United Nation Development Programme, UNDP/Federal Ministry of Environment Africa Adaptation Programme, AAP and NLE Works, Nigeria.
The building is expected to accommodate 100 pupils and their teachers.
The three-storey building with an area of 220 metres was built on a foundation of 256 plastic drums and powered by solar panels suspended on the roof, aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, Goal II, which is to boost universal primary education.
According to NLE Works, the school is an “innovative approach to address the community’s social and physical needs in view of climate change and a rapidly urbanizing African context. Its main aim is to generate a sustainable, ecological, alternative building system and urban culture for the teeming population of Africa’s coastal regions.”
The secretary of the community, Mr. John Keke who spoke to Vanguard recently, said that they would be happy if the state government considers the structure in its regeneration plan for the community.
Another resident, Mr. Ade Aguntor, added that since the structure was constructed, the ground floor has served as relaxation point for traders on the lagoon, adding “The structure has withstood every storm that had occurred in the community.”
According to him, “this was the reason we demanded that rather than demolish the structure; the government should include it in its redevelopment plan.”
Yielding to the residents demands, the state government in a document released recently said “A Non-Governmental Organisation, NGO, NLE Works has shown interest in the regeneration programme for the community. It has designed a floating structure for African Water Communities and erected a prototype, Floating School, at Makoko community. This administration is considering the prototype with a view to incorporate it into its development plan for the community.”