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8 December, 2011 - 14:11

Bulldozers pursue Nigeria’s slum dwellers

Nigerian township  data/files/township-pic_web_edit.jpg

Climate change has provided an ideal excuse for the state government in Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos to bulldoze homes of slum dwellers. A phenomenon that has coincided with the waterfront property price boom.
By Ekwtosi Collyer,Lagos
“A woman gave birth there the other day,” says Chief Agonyon, pointing to a pillar beneath the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos. “That is where she has been living since the government people came and destroyed several homes here.”
Chief Agonyon is leader of the Makoko community in Lagos. Makoko has been home to fishing communities for over a century. Today, an estimated 100,000 people live in Makoko without electricity, schools and just one health clinic. Houses are built on stilts above the water. The only way to get around is in a canoe. Women go from house-to-house selling their wares in dug-out boats, while men fish in the 75-kilometer long Lagos lagoon.
Danger of flooding
Early on a Saturday morning in September officials from the Lagos State Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure Development arrived without warning in Bariga, the neighbouring community to Makoko. They destroyed over 50 homes with bulldozers.
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This year’s rainy season brought the worst floods since records began. The Nigerian Red Cross recorded 102 deaths in one day alone in August.

Thousands more were made homeless due to unprecedented floods across the country. Lagos is also under attack from the sea which erodes 10 meters of shoreline every year.
“Our houses are built on stilts far above the water so that they are unaffected by flooding,” explains Chief Agonyon while gliding through Makoko in his canoe. Less than one nautical mile along the shoreline from Makoko, Chief Agonyon points out a private housing estate, which he claims was built on land cleared by individuals acting on behalf of the state government, who then sold the land to private developers.
Long wall
Across the lagoon from Makoko and Bariga is the most exclusive residential area in Lagos, Victoria Island. A monumental building project, Eko Atlantic City, is underway two kilometers out at sea from Victoria Island, where a ten kilometre-long wall is being built and land is being recovered.
When Eko Atlantic City will have been built it will house half a million. Residents will enjoy constant electricity, a planned road network and a light rail system. Bariga and possibly Makoko across the water are being destroyed to ensure a pristine view for the future residents of Eko Atlantic City. 
No adequate planning
“People in these communities built their houses without adequate planning,” explains Toyin Ayinde, State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, matter-of-factly. “We are resettling them for their own good. If not climate change will move them.” When pressed, Ayinde admitted the Okobaba Resettlement Scheme was not currently functioning.
In the meantime, the woman who gave birth to her fifth child recently will stay with her family under Nigeria's largest bridge, perched precariously above the water.