On Demolitions, Overpopulation, and Lagos Shanties

On Demolitions, Overpopulation, and Lagos Shanties

Titilayo Olurin

We see them everywhere; cluttered up or strewn about in the most disorderly manner and in the most unlikely places. They spill out onto the road, they are situated near mawky, foul smelling gutters, and are constructed on drainages and canals, adding to the unsightly mawkiness of the gutters and filth that surround them. They are the hurriedly constructed shanties, sheds, and makeshift stalls that we see cluttered around the city of Lagos.

They seem uninhabitable, unfit for humans, even dangerous, yet people reside in them. Some of these structures are used as shops and others as both – shops and homes. Overpopulated neighbourhoods, like Obalende, Ikotun, Makoko, Majidun-Ikorodu, and Ajegunle are known for housing such structures. Because they are haphazardly constructed, they look anything but attractive. They, in fact, look hideous.

A view of Obalende, Lagos, after the demolition of illegal structures.

But the shanty dwellers do not seem to mind at all, as they continue to live in these structures rather nonchalantly, acting oblivious to the health, physical, and emotional hazards of living in them. Perhaps they are forced to live in such places out of desperation for accommodation or they do not have enough to pay the exorbitant rent in Lagos. Still, the dangers of living in these structures cannot be overstressed.

These are illegal structures, constructed without the permission of the Lagos State Government or the town planning authority. It is thus no surprise that the Lagos State Government began demolition on them over the weekend, with Obalende being the first port of call. Will Lagos State now finally be rid of these hideous looking shanties that encourage flood, breed filth, and sometimes harbour criminals at night? Maybe now we can breathe easy, knowing that Lagos will be cleaner and safer.

Photos: Temitope Aina

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