Hundreds of residents are living adrift after their homes on the Makoko waterfront were destroyed by order of the Lagos state government.
With nowhere else to go, the residents still live on remains of their now demolished homes, some sleep on wooden floors held up on stilts above water and others live off their boats.
Community leaders say as more homes are taken apart, thousands more will be displaced. Ewajene Osowo, a community leader in the fishing community, says displacing the residents will only create more problems in society.
“When you displace about 300,000 people and your son or daughter is being harassed on the Third Mainland Bridge, you won’t think something is wrong?” the community leader asked.
The state government ordered that demolition begin on the waterfront on Monday after the 72-hour quit notice given to the nearly 300,000 residents in the community lapsed.
The notice cited the need to “protect lives and property” as well as create “legitimate economic opportunities on the waterfront” as major reasons for the evacuation. The state government is also eager to “beautify the Lagos coastline”.
Olusegun Oniru, commissioner for waterfront in Lagos told reporters that the government’s utmost concern is the averting disaster and removing the eyesore of shanties.
“A lot of people, tourists use the Third Mainland bridge in Lagos and part of what they see is the Makoko slum,” Oniru told reporters.
Cleaning up Lagos’ less than pristine image is not the only reason the Waterfront commissioner gave for the demolition of the waterfront slum.
He said as the community increases, more people build close to the power line and that constitutes a grave danger.
However, community leaders say they are willing to move 50 meters back from the power line and have called on the Lagos state government to invest in making Makoko a true fishing village in Lagos.
Chief Francis Agoyon, head of the Baales in Makoko, who spoke to Pilot Africa argues that the community has been around since the 1890s and livelihoods will be disrupted if the government insists on its demolition mission.
Another community leader, Hagbe Emmanuel, who is a frontman for the Egun community in Makoko, decried the government’s handling of the matter.
Emmanuel told Pilot Africa that the government should have provided some alternative, instead of pushing them out with nowhere to go.
The same sentiment was expressed by Mr. Agbodemu Ishola Musbau, the spokesman for the Lagos Marginalised Community Forum, who said the issue of displacement without an alternative only causes more trouble.
“When you destroy one slum, without giving the people an alternative, you create two more because people must live. They must find somewhere to go,” Musbau said.
He also warned that the demolition of the slum and displacement of thousands will only create social vices in Lagos.
Oniru argues that it is not the responsibility of the government to provide alternative dwelling.
He said no one is meant to live on the Makoko waterfront.
“It is no one’s fixed address,” the commissioner said. “All those people came from somewhere and started building on the waterfront, they can just as easily go back to where they came from.”