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A Nigeria slum fights for survival

Little has change for residents of Makoko since authorities destroyed shacks, displacing hundreds, eight months ago.
Last modified: 4 Apr 2013 00:02

Of all Africa's slums, Makoko in Nigeria known for its colour, canoes and poverty is one of the more unusual.

It's built on water. For generations the fishing community in Makoko built its homes over water.
 
Makoko's shacks on stilts are home to an estimated 250,000 people.

They navigate their village on long canoes, or on narrow crossings made of wooden planks.

The settlement has its own economy that has over the years survived mainly on fishing and trade of basic staples, without much interference from federal or local governments.

But all that changed in July last year when, officials of the Lagos state which calls the slum an illegal environmental nuisance destroyed dozens of shacks, displacing hundreds of people.

Little has changed for those people since we first reported on their plight eight months ago.

Life in displacement

We found 37-year-old Alice Dosa exactly where we left her. Eight months after her house was demolished she still lives on a boat with her two children.

When we asked her how life in displacement has been for her and her family, she broke down.

"We have ceased to live as human beings," she said. "We have no protection against the rain and winds.

"Are the people who are doing this to us not human beings? Can't they see what we are going through"?

We also met Collette Nwugbu - one of the displaced we profiled last year.

Collette had sought shelter at the local church. Together with her physically disabled husband and six children, they share a room with a dozen other families.

She told us it's only the women and children who spend the night here. The men sleep in their boats on the lagoon.

"I have lost all hope of getting a home," Collette said.

"My children are no longer going to school. All I worry about is how to feed my family and for that I go out every day to beg on the streets."

Neglect of the poor throughout Nigeria is nothing new.

The administration is plagued by corruption, so billions of dollars in revenues from the country's abundant crude oil reserves have not resulted in developmental progress.

Plenty and poverty

It is also no secret that a select few Nigerians - those at the upper levels of politics and finance - enjoy opulent lifestyles, even while poverty blights the general population.

Yet there are those have dedicated all their energies to fighting for Makoko's continued existence.

Felix Mokku a human rights activist, has for a long time been engaged in articulating the plight of the poor residents of Makoko slum.

"What is the intention of the government for the people who have lived here for more than a hundred years? he asks.

"Where are they supposed to go?"

Those are the questions the government has failed to answer.

Felix believes that the state government officials are only keen to reclaim Makoko because it has become prime waterfront land.

It is not only Makoko, however, that is fighting for survival.

Ceaseless migration is strangling the entire city of Lagos. Authorities predict its population will double within a few decades to 40 million people - making it the most populous city in the world.

They say tough choices need to be made in preparation for this – choices that may affect the people of Makoko more than others.