Article written

My people them dey stay for poor surroundings 0


In 2012, the star architect Kunlé Adeyemi unveiled his “floating school” in Makoko, one of more than 100 slums in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. Most of Makoko’s residents, who are estimated between 40,000 and 300,000, live in makeshift structures built on stilts on lagoon water.


The floating school, built by local residents, used wooden offcuts from a nearby sawmill and locally grown bamboo. It sat on 256 plastic drums and was powered by rooftop solar panels. The construction of the floating school gave new hope to residents hoping for more durable, permanent housing structures in the face of regular flooding. It was also viewed as a prototype for housing crises elsewhere on the continent.

One thing the floating school did not do was encourage government intervention to improve the lives of Makoko’s residents. Instead, residents were regularly subject to threats of eviction because Makoko is located on prime land. At best, the international attention (the school won a number of design prizes) slowed attempts by the Nigerian government to finally “clear” Lagos of the slum. It didn’t help when three years after the floating school was first constructed, it collapsed in June 2016, after heavy rainfall.

The global assessment of slums by UN-Habitat shows that 828 million people, or an estimated 33% of the urban population of developing countries, reside in slums. In sub-Saharan Africa, 62% of the urban population resides in such settlements. For Nigeria, the World Bank reported that as of 2015, 48% of the total population (estimated at more than 180 million) reside in urban centers.

Nigeria’s biggest cities – Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Aba and Enugu – present a number of urgent problems for urban planners: urban decay, slums, overcrowding and lawlessness, which lead to the loss of land and natural resources. Lagos faces the most acute housing crisis. It began to expand at a breakneck pace with the oil boom of the 1970s. Lagos is now Africa’s largest city with a population that exceeds 10 million. The result has been over-urbanization, meaning that populations are growing much faster than local economies, leading to major social and economic challenges of slum proliferation.

In an effort to alleviate the housing crisis, the Lagos State Government (LSG) and its different agencies contributed a mere 27,000 housing units between 1950 and 2010. Considering that the population of Lagos tripled over this period of time, these efforts have done little to alleviate the acute lack of affordable housing for the poor or lower-class Lagosian. It is estimated that about 500,000 units of housing per annum over the next 10 years would be needed to keep up with the housing demand.

The deterioration of urban centers are the result of, but not limited to, the lack of enforcement of urban development and management regulations by city authorities, and the non-compliance to building laws by developers. Most city authorities in Nigeria are so overwhelmed by the rapid development and spread of informal settlements that their regulatory interventions make little impact. Secondly, the absence of a ‘maintenance culture’ for already existing housing infrastructure is missing from the Nigerian public housing market. The issues of repairs and maintenance are foreign to Nigerians causing rapid decay and deterioration of buildings which affects the sustainability of the urban environment and consequently leads to the development of informal settlements.

Continue reading on Africa is a country

By Olukayode Alao

subscribe to comments RSS

Comments are closed

P.IVA 11273390150
Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi