A trip to the community avails one of various sites that could best be described as disgusting. It gives a feeling that the community is not wanted there or neglected. It takes a great deal of courage for a first time visitor to wade through the dirty stinking canal waters, inhaling polluted air and seeing all manner of decomposing rodents, faeces and the likes, floating on the water without feeling like throwing up.
Along the water street, there are shanties left and right with several petty provision stores, barbers shop, etc. To a stranger, it is a squalour community that is unfit for human habitation, but to the dwellers of this slum, it is a way of life perfect and suitable for them. It is their paradise on earth.
Government’s present is really not visible as there was no sight of primary health centre, police station or school. The only school they have is a floating one, called ‘Makoko floating school.’
To get to this school, one will have to go through labyrinth of canal passageways. Despite the filthiness and strong stench oozing out of this environment, life goes on for the people living inside the slum. There were food vendors scattered round the squalor community unperturbed by their environment.
They were using one hand to sell, and the other to chase away flies. And those who stayed at the vendor’s place to eat also used one hand to eat and the other to chase away flies.
They ate, chatted, laughed and even socialised in this environment. Indeed, for them, life could not be sweeter elsewhere. Approaching any of the swampy jetties surrounding Makoko community which are filled with various stinking dirt ; it is an appalling sight to behold.
Filth of various kind were seen all over. For instance, there were scattered faeces in the entire place. By the river bank, hardly can one lift a leg without stepping on faeces- it is just unavoidable! The jetties also appeared to be the dumpsite for wastes of that community and dead rodents and animals. Well, they turned around the slum water to their advantage.
For they make use of the water as a means of transportation. Most of the young teenagers and youths were seen paddling canoes as commercial means to eke a living. With N200.00, a passenger can taking a canoe from Okuagbo waterfront to the location of the floating school which takes between 20 to 25 Minutes meandering through the narrow lagoon passageways in between shanties erected as houses.
Interestingly, they live, eat, bathe and ,defecate inside the canoes. They do virtually everything inside the canoes and throw the wastes into the water. Speaking to New Telegraph on the issue of lack of schools for the growing population of Makoko community, Gift Godwin, a resident of that community explained that, “the three storey building floating school is supposed to be an extension of the only existing WhanYinna Nursery and Primary School, which take pupils in primary one to four while the floating school accommodates from primary four to six.
We have no secondary school as at today.” Speaking further to New Telegraph, Seun Agbai, a former resident, who claimed that he has moved out of the community to the mainland but comes around to fish, said, “Makoko had only one primary school, which was inadequate for the increasing population of the community.
The school was built on a reclaimed land.” He added that the settlement which is built mainly on stilts above the Lagos Lagoon has been largely neglected by government with most of the social and physical infrastructure provided by the communities or by philanthropic individuals and organisations.
Makoko, a horrendous slum community in Yaba Local Council Development Authority (LCDA) with a diverse population of Egun, Ilaje, Ijaw, Yoruba extractions and illegal immigrants from West African countries has a frightening state that lives little or nothing to be desired.
The economic structure of this community revolves round fishing, fish-smoking, mat making, wood logging and boat making. Agbai narrated that there was a God sent gentleman named Architect Kunle Adeyemi, who came with a good idea to transform Makoko waterfront community to a floating island by creating a functional building prototype school with the collaboration of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Federal Ministry of Environment, Africa Adaptation Programme, Yaba Local Council Development Area (LCDA) some Non-Governmental Organisations including Heinrich Boll Foundation, and Makoko waterfront community to build what they have today as ‘Makoko floating school.
“To our dismay, after the school was built, we were told that the Lagos State government declared the school illegal because the community did not get approval from the state government to construct it,” he said. A retired teacher, Pa. Meshamenu Steve, told Newsmen that “Makoko has a population of roughly 100,000 residents, with about 60,000 teenagers and youths that are within the school age bracket.
However, out of these number, only an insignificant number- 3,000 are in school and with only one primary school, called Whayinna Nursery and Primary School.” Edward Nimbe, one of the teenagers of the community asked Newsmen that, “I was told in my school that our community is like a city in Italy called Venice and that the government of Italy takes care of the people and maintains the city. Why is our government neglecting us?”
According to John Rufus, another resident who spoke with our Newsmen as well, sometime in 2012, the Lagos State government threatened to evict them from the waterfront community and actually started pulling down their houses.
He said a lot of their people were affected and they left after their houses were destroyed but with the intervention of some good Nigerians, government had to stop.
“This prompted a re-modelling plan and the development initiative as developed by the Social and Economic Rights Action Center, (SERAC), Heinrich Bell Foundation and other nongovernmental organizations in collaboration with residents of the community.”
It will be recalled that sometime in August 2012, Radio Nigeria reported, that the former Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, was quoted as saying “… the people (of Makoko/Iwaya)… we are not disturbing them but we are not going to allow that settlement to expand beyond what we have accepted.
One of the things we also considered was that even if these people decide not to leave, can we help re-order them to make their lives more valuable and fulfilling if they choose to live on water. Because we understand that the Ilaje people are adaptable to water.
Our Ministry of Physical Planning is working on a project as Plan B. In case they choose not to leave, we will make that place a tourist destination.” But that dream is yet to be realised. The community people are hopeful that Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s regime will help polish their standard of living.
By Oluwatosin Omoniyi