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Demolitions Return to Waterfront Lagos Slum

Tens of thousands of slum dwellers living in stilt-supported shacks on the lagoon on the southwestern side of Lagos, Nigeria, are being forcibly removed from their homes as government demolition crews move in to tear down the shanty village, AFP reports. A fishing village occupied mainly by migrants, the Makoko slum is situated half in the lagoon and half on land. Only the buildings stilted above the lagoon are being demolished.

Officials are targeting the slum as illegal and environmentally unsafe. With no sewers or formal infrastructure, human waste and garbage are regularly dumped directly into the lagoon, which is also the fishing area and a main economic driver for the city. Another demolition effort last August targeted 500 lagoon shanties. The current effort is expected to be more comprehensive.

As we reported recently, Lagos has recently taken the title of most populous city in Africa, with upwards of 21 million people. The city is also home to significant slum populations. An estimated 70 percent of Lagos residents live in slum areas. Makoko has been occupied for more than 100 years.

According to the Nigerian Tribune, the state government delivered eviction papers to residents in Makoko on July 12. "Notice is hereby given to you to vacate and remove all illegal developments along the Makoko/Iwaya Waterfront within 72 hours," the letter read. By Monday demolition had begun.

It's not clear how many of the structures will be demolished or how many people will ultimately be affected, The exact population of the area is uncertain, but estimates range from 30,000 to 100,000. It's also unclear where all these people will go now.


People stand in front of a demolished stilt house as the metropolitan government begins the demolition of structures in the Makoko riverine community in Lagos July 16, 2012. The structures were deemed illegal as they were built without permission on Lagos Lagoon. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)


A woman sits in a canoe with her child as demolition gets underway, while other residents pack their belongings onto canoes. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)


A stilt house that will be demolished as part of the state government's plans to clear out residents from an informal settlement on Lagos Lagoon. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)


Residents pack their belongings and prepare to leave as government demolition crews arrive. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)


A woman and a child making a tearful exit from their home. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)


It's unclear where residents of Makoko will go after their homes have been demolished. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)


The lagoon. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)


After a previous push to demolish structures in Makoko in August 2011, residents pull their belongings from the water. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)


Portions of a demolished building float in the water in this photo form August 2011. The bridge in the background passes next to Makoko and connects the Lagos mainland with wealthy island areas. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)


An example of the shanty development on the lagoon. (boellstiftung/Flickr)


Women row canoes and sell food in the lagoon among thousands of stilted homes. (Reuters/George Esiri)


Garbage floats near buildings in the lagoon. Improper waste and sewage dumping had been a persistent problem in Makoko, prompting the government to label it an environmental nuisance. (boellstiftung/Flickr)


Smoke rises from the waste heap at a saw-mill near Makoko in this photo from September 2009. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)


People walk over a makeshift bridge in Makoko in this photo from November 2009. (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic)


A girl carries a tray of fish in Makoko, where fishing is the main economic activity. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

Keywords: Makoko, Slums, Lagos, Nigeria

Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for The Atlantic Cities. He lives in Los Angeles. All posts »

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