MAKOKO: TALES OF THE BIGGEST FLOATING SLUM
While a lot of us Nigerians might be so scared of the Ocean surge or even living close to water, there you find people who have spent majority of their life leaving on water and in the unhealthiest condition you might have ever seen. Despite their environmental setback the people inhabiting the makoko area of Lagos have somewhat developed adaptive features that would enable them survive and utilize the resources around them to their own benefit.
A lot of people might be unaware of the fact that the popularly demanded smoked fish called “Eja Kika” is processed in this slum. Very early in the morning young men sail out of their homes on their locally made canoe in a bid to catch as many fishes and sea animals as they can before the sun comes up. Fishes caught are being processed via smoking and hawked around various part of Lagos by their women. Revenue generated from sales of the fish is what help sustain this group of people. Other economic activities are salt making, sand dredging, sawmills, firewood, and fishing.
Although makoko might serve as abode to some Lagosians, the Lagos state government hasn’t been comfortable with the existence of the settlement as it stands as an opposing factor to it modernization agenda. In July 2012, more than 200 people were made homeless due to the government initiating a demolition exercise on the Makoko waterfront communities. A 72-hour Quit Notice was delivered to the residents and it stated that due to the environmental nuisance, security risk, impediment to economic and gainful utilization of the waterfront, people who own the shanties should vacate the area. Police and state government staff arrived using Machetes to cut down the stilts of the wooden homes on water. The demolition was halted after 5 days.
As at the time of demolition, no alternative accommodation was offered to the residents. Displaced residents were taken in by their neighbours, some lived with their possessions and their children in their canoes and others rebuilt in the allocated boundary of 100metres from the electricity cables.
The settlement has so far not received any threat from the current government. However the current administration is big on the modernization of the state and has been seen carrying on the legacy of the previous government in the process of making Lagos a future forward state and this makes futuristic attack on this settlement by the government imminent.
Makoko is the perfect nightmare for the state government a slum in full view, spread out beneath the most travelled bridge in West Africa’s largest city. Everyone who flies into Lagos to do business on the Islands is likely to find themselves passing over the Third Mainland Bridge. For a city keen to re-create itself as forward-looking, Makoko is a dismal advertisement, and the government knows this and is ever keen to pursue the seemingly easiest solution to this “embarrassment”.