As Lagos continues to develop, there are some residents who have to pay the price that comes with building the megacity.
Activist Olutimehin Adegbeye highlights this element of being a part of the city as a fluid concept determined by several things including class.
"Who belongs in a city?" This was the title of a speech given by the writer at a Ted Talk in August 2017 in Arushat, Tanzania.
In her speech, Adegboye highlights the key challenges faced by a specific group of people in the development of megacities.
“Among the Yoruba, we have a saying, "Èkó gb’olè, ó gb’ọ̀lẹ," which can be translated to mean that Lagos will welcome anyone. But that saying is becoming less and less true”, she says.
On March 17, 2017, residents of Otodo-Gbame fishing community in Lagos State, were woken up by uninvited visitors made up of helicopters, gunboats and police trucks. Moments later, the slum of over 5,000 inhabitants had been reduced to rubble and the residents forcefully evicted.
Otodo-Gbame community stands as a paradox--it is a slum of shanties, peasants, mat-weaving fishermen and divers who are just a few meters away from the wealth, interlocked roads and high-rise buildings of Lekki Phase 1 and the rest of highbrow Lagos Island.
Despite this demolition, the residents returned to rebuild what was destroyed but their plan was foiled when on April 9, 2017, armed policemen and other paramilitary agents under the aegis of the Lagos State Government visited the settlement of Otodo-Gbame and made sure they left the land.
The Lagos state government defended its actions saying the shanty town was demolished because it was illegal and a hideout for militants.
In a bid to boost the commercial value of the city and attract investors, there are some who have to pay the price and this cost includes harassment, imprisonment, homelessness and even accidental death. There's clear evidence that there's no room for the poor man in the growing carnivorous city called Lagos.
“Many Lagosians, including the descendants of those fisherpeople who arrived generations before my grandfather, are now being pushed out to make room for an emergent city that has been described as "the new Dubai””, Adegbeye said at TEDGlobal.
“Lagos inspires big dreams, even in its leaders, and successive governments have declared aspirations towards a megacity where poverty does not exist. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on the eradication of poverty as you would expect, the strategy of choice focuses on eliminating the poor”.
Lagos is one of the world’s largest cities with a population of almost 21 million. The once former capital of Nigeria still remains a key commercial hub for the country Despite this, Lagos still faces the challenges many other megacities suffer including air pollution, traffic, homelessness and slums.
Other than the fact that the dwellers in Otodo-Gbame and other communities like it settled on the land centuries ago, it also shows that there's an issue with housing in the state. As of May 2016, there was a housing deficit of 2.55 million.
Adegbeye points out the inequality in the system by saying how we believe a home is something everyone but poor people are entitled to.
“But there is no single definition of the word "home." After all, what is a slum besides an organic response to acute housing deficits and income inequality? And what is a shanty if not a person making a home for themselves against all odds? Slums are an imperfect housing solution, but they are also prime examples of the innovation, adaptability and resilience at the foundation -- and the heart -- of every functional city. You don't need to be the new Dubai when you're already Lagos”.
Most importantly in her speech she called attention to how several other poor settlements in Lagos despite being disadvantaged have been able to create innovations that benefit their communities.
“Slum dwellers are often at the forefront of innovating solutions. After being disconnected from the grid for months because the power company couldn't figure out how to collect bills, one settlement designed a system that collectivized remittances and got everyone cheaper rates into the bargain.
“Another settlement created a reform program that hires local bad boys as security. They know every trick and every hideout, so now troublemakers are more likely to get caught and reported to police and fewer of the youth end up engaging in criminal activity. Yet another settlement recently completed a flood-safe, eco-friendly communal toilet system. Models like these are being adopted across Lagos,” the writer said.
She called for citizens to hold the government accountable for its actions.
“Informal settlements are incorrectly named as the problem. In fact, the real problems are the factors that create them, like the entrenchment of poverty, social exclusion and state failures.
“When our governments frame slums as threats in order to justify violent land grabs or forced evictions, they're counting on those of us who live in formal housing to tacitly and ignorantly agree with them. Rather, we must remind them that governments exist to serve not only those who build and live in luxury homes, but also those who clean and guard them”.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, Justice Surajudeen Onigbanjo of an Igbosere High Court ruled that the government's eviction of the residents of Otodo-Gbame was unconstitutional and ordered the government to enter into negotiation talks with them to discuss resettlement plans.