What are squatter settlements?
In Lagos the lack of housing and rapid rate of urbanisation has forced millions of people to build their own homes. These are typically on land they do not own. However, in Lagos, some homes have been built on water. Squatter settlements are any collection of buildings where the people have no legal rights to the land they are built upon. The people are living there illegally and do not own the land. They provide housing for many of the world’s poorest people and offer basic shelter. Homes in squatter settlements are typically constructed from scrap material including wood, plastic sheeting and corrugated metal when they are first built. Over time more sophisticated materials can be used to improve the quality of housing.
Squatter settlements are not only found in Lagos. They are located in all cities in low-income countries and newly emerging countries all around the world. They can also be called informal settlements, shanty towns, favelas, barrios or slums.
Where are squatter settlements found in Lagos?
There are 13 squatter settlements in Lagos, These are:
- Oke-Offa Babasale
The map below shows the location of a number of squatter settlements in Lagos.
Squatter settlements are found all over Lagos. They are typically found in areas where more wealthy people do not want to live. This includes marshland and land close to industry.
What are the problems of living in a squatter settlement?
Population density is very high in squatter settlements in Lagos. This is because of the lack of available land to build on. The area known to outsiders as Makoko is actually six distinct “villages” spread across land and water: Oko Agbon, Adogbo, Migbewhe, Yanshiwhe, Sogunro and Apollo. The first four are the floating communities, known as “Makoko on water”; the rest are based on land. In these floating communities homes are built on stilts on the edge of the Lagos Lagoon. It is estimated that a quarter of a million people live in Makoko.
The homes are built from materials such as wood and metal sheets. They do not have basic facilities or sanitation.
Most of the residents of Makoko work in the informal economy or make a living by fishing.
Should Makoko be demolished or improved?
Even though it has many problems the people in Makoko are very proud and protective of their homes. After all, it is their home. Residents have already taken steps to improve services criss-crossing the lagoon bed are pipes, paid for and laid by enterprising residents to bring in clean water – for a modest fee – from boreholes in neighbouring Sogunro.
Makoko Floating School, designed by architect Kunlé Adeyemi, has become the community’s most popular and famous building.
Makoko Floating School. Photograph: Andrew Esiebo for the Guardian
Doctors Without Borders opened a floating clinic in January 2011; although very popular when it launched, it stayed open less than a year. Today Makoko continues to be served by a network of informal, unregistered clinics that attend to basic ailments. There are also a number of traditional birth attendants who deliver Makoko’s babies in an atmosphere of high levels of maternal mortality.
However, the authorities want to demolish it to help improve the image of the city. Though residents have nowhere else to live. In recent years the authorities have demolished areas of squatter settlements, like the one in 2012. Badia, a swampland settlement on the edge of the city’s Apapa Port, was one of the worst-hit targets. More than 15,000 people have lost their homes.
Cities Series – Lagos Week – The Guardian
Inside Makoko: danger and ingenuity in the world’s biggest floating slum