Most Nigerians popularly support ‘development’ projects, so it was quite ironic when Nigerian social media platforms erupted with fury over the recent demolition of a slum. In the case of Makoko, no one seemed to be upset with the Lagos State Government's decision to demolish the slum, but they were furious about ‘how’ it was done.
“You have continued to occupy and develop shanties and unwholesome structures on the waterfront without authority thereby constituting environmental nuisance, security risks, impediments to economic and gainful utilization of the waterfront such as navigation, entertainment, recreation etc.
“The state government is desirous of restoring the amenity and value of waterfront, protect lives and property, promote legitimate economic activities on the waterfront, restore security, improve water transportation and beautify the Lagos waterfront/coastline to underline the megacity status of Lagos State and has decided to clear all illegal and unauthorised development on its waterfront and water bodies.
“Therefore, notice is hereby given to you to vacate and remove all illegal developments along the Makoko/Iwaya Waterfront within 72 hours of receipt of this notice.”
The manner in which the government went about demolishing the slum also reminded many of the dark nights of military dictatorship in Nigeria. The time when the use of force was legitimate and governments did not seek the consent of anyone before acting, usually ending declarations with the phrase “with immediate effect”. Yimiton recounts:
Several soldiers, police officers and officers from other paramilitary agencies, on Monday, stormed the Makoko (Ilaje) water front area of Lagos, demolishing houses and shanties. More than 2,500 persons, mostly fishermen and their families have been rendered homeless. There is pandemonium as the people were sighted running helter-skelter to avoid being shot by the armed soldiers and police officers. Some of the residents interviewed complained that the eviction will alter their way of life and disrupt their means of livelihood. They wondered where the government expects them to go. At the time of publishing this report, it remains unclear if provision has been made for the relocation of the displaced residents by the Lagos State government.
Reactions by tweeps decried the callousness of this developmental push by the government that lacks a human face:
@tejucole: The living conditions in Makoko were appalling, but appalling, too, is waking up to guns, bulldozers, violence, and sudden homelessness.
@segundemuren: I grew up in Oyadiran Estate, Sabo, Yaba & used frequented Makoko. It is an enterprising community with its own dynamics.
Who will fight the cause of the displaced?
@MrSleevesUp #Lagos State: before u demolish poor homes in Makoko, demolish rich homes in VI (Victoria Island) and Ikoyi on drainage path. D poor r always an easy target!
@AfricaHand: So where did the people go? To build another slum…
@dreeee1: You knock Makoko down, make no alternatives and frown when your daughter or wife gets robbed in VI. Oyinbo dey call am – Domino Effect.
@Bantucrew: Makoko saga: I beg make unna help us remind Fashola say Housing Na Human Right.
Digital natives amplifying offline voices of the victims:
@chineduozordi: After her shanty in Makoko was demolished by the government, Janet and her 3 kids simply moved into their canoe ensconced under the 3MB (Third Mainland Bridge).
Alashock’s blog summarizes the prevailing sentiments of most Nigerians as follows:
The demolition is absurd and sad, only if Lagos state government could resettle these displaced people before the demolition exercise…What about the school children? What about families who have grown up to know no other place aside Makoko as their hometown?
People’s lives should not just be a commodity that should be stockpiled and then scattered at will and/or as it pleases the government who ordinarily is meant to cater for its own people including shelter…
We are not saying Makoko should not be demolished for whatever reason/s, but please where are the re-integration plans for these homeless people in their thousands? Makoko people have been dealt with psychologically. They have blood and water flowing in them…They are human beings…even animals should not be treated like this. Height of irresponsibility and wickedness towards lives no man could create…
But all hope is not lost for the Makoko victims because the typical Nigerian spirit of helping the hapless has once again risen up to the challenge: