Thursday, 5 April 2012

Makoko, mini ECOWAS in Lagos…and a reluctant tour haven

One of the challenges of government in suburban redevelopment is Makoko, in Lagos State. Although artists, over the decades, have documented Makoko in painting, sculpture and other medium, but a recent visit of OYASAF’s documentary team to this Lagos mainland suburb affords an opportunity to take another look at a community reported to have resisted several development attempts by the Lagos State government.

Observers and urban planners note that given its waterside proximity, a tour haven is possible if properly developed.

Makoko, a suburb in Lagos mainland, is populated mainly by low income earners and sparsely educated people of Lagos State. The people live in wood-cladded huts built on stilts foundation on the lagoon, with grime squalor and just above subsistence without basic social amenities.

As one leaves Nigeria’s major Central Business District of Lagos Island and descends the Third Mainland Bridge (longest bridge in Sub-Saharan Africa), en route Yaba, these clusters of huts are seen forming man-made islands of abode on the surface of the water.

Aside the fact that Makoko people are just a bridge away from the nation’s commercial nerve centre, there is also an adjoining middle class and high end income estate to the community, whose enabling facilities are not shared with the poor people of Makoko.

And quite strange in an Anglo-Phone Nigeria, the people of Makoko – estimated at 50, 000 in population – speak French as the “official” language.  Reason: many nationalities who have found home in this community are not only Nigerians, but a conglomerate of harmonious cultures and blend of people from countries along the West African coastline. Most of the occupants of the community found their way to Makoko through the sea, while their Nigerian counterparts are mostly of waterside communities who have longer history of settlement in this part of the country.

Native method of processing sea food by Makoko community. PHOTO: BY OYASAF DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER, OGUNTIMEHIN ARIYO
These Nigerians mix with other nationals such as Togolese, Cameroonians, Ghanaians and Gabonese. However, there is an ethnic connection among these people and their Nigerian hosts: the vast majority of these non-Nigerian residents are of the Egun fishing community, of “Tofi” in Benin Republic. In Lagos, the former slave route town of Badagry, whose people are predominantly Egun, shares border with Republic of Benin. Some border towns of Republic of Benin are also of Egun-speaking people.

  Other major Nigerian ethnic groups in Makoko are the Ilaje (south west), Ijaw fishermen (south south) as well as the Igbo (south east), whose major occupation is trading.

The main occupation of the residents of Makoko is fishing. They have established virtual routes on the lagoon and given these routes different names, such as can be found in the Niger Delta creeks. They relate and visit their friends and neighbours in the community using canoes. For those living in opposite abodes to each other, they use infant constructed plank-bridges, which usually  give way without notice but for which little or no harm usually occurs  because of their swiftness and dexterity on water.
However, there is ecological challenge for the people of Makoko as they always dread the rain; their stilt-built huts are of low level and there is an incessant leakage of the roofs. In addition, refuse, dregs and other poisonous wastes from adjoining lands are usually carried by flood into their water which always suffocate the fish in the surrounding lagoon.

The major health hazard to the Makoko community is lack of safe drinking water. Available source of water comes from the same pool in which the people defecate. The defecation also feed the fishes. And quite a circle of nature, these fishes are the main source of protein intake and income to the Makoko community.
Even children in Makoko are not left out, commuting in canoe. PHOTO: BY OYASAF DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER, OGUNTIMEHIN ARIYO

1 comment:

  1. Today is July 18, 2012 and I just received word that the fishing village of Makoko was taken over at pice and military gun point for government distruction The residents were given 72 hours to relocate and of course no planning was given as to where the poorest of the poor should go. Makoko was more than home to the residents there as many earned their living by selling fish caught in the bay. This is an example where the government saw more value in the land than in the residents lives. The future developement will in all likelyhood be sold at a high price to resort developers with no support or compensation given to those who had their homes and livelyhoods taken away.