MAKOKO is a riverine community in Yaba Local Government Area of Lagos State. It comprises of settlements on land and lagoon with diverse population, whose economic activities revolve around the use of water, predominantly for fishing, wood logging and boat making.
Though the community enjoys frontage to the Lagos Lagoon and also has rich history in aquatic trading, but it is a slum settlement that has become an eyesore, constituting health and environmental risks to its inhabitants.
Dubbed ‘Dustbin Island’, the settlers live in shanties and illegal structures that hinder free flow of flood water from different parts of Lagos into the lagoon. It is a filthy environment, with strong odor renting the air, spreading its content through the cramp population.
It was obvious that the residents frequently discharge wastes into the lagoon, causing it to shrink and also block the discharge points for storm water, thereby contributing to the flooding in places like Bariga, Shomolu, Ebute-Metta, Ajegunle and Ikorodu, among others.
The community was marked for demolition by the state government, which described the community as illegal, basically due to environmental risks, which can be linked with waste management problem.
Government claims the evacuation was done out of the need to protect the people of the community and the state, saying it has become necessary to halt the continuous expansion of the community into the lagoon with its negative impact on the environment.
The major difficulty faced by the residents is lack of government presence, in terms of basic infrastructure and amenities. Aside the floating school, built without government’s input, according to reports, the community exists on its own.
The settlement has become a place where police and other law enforcement agents tread carefully, due to the rising number of gangs. A motorcycle rider, Caleb Alamu told The Guardian that the development may not be unconnected with the enduring neglect of the people, who have continued to wallow in the slum, with the challenges of power outage, sanitary problems and overcrowding, with many residents surviving only on subsistence fishing.
Approaching the community from the Apollo Street end, about six minutes drive from Oyingbo, the beauty of the road may not readily give an insight into what the area has on the inside, especially with the way it is patterned outside, with good access road, perfectly laid with interlocking blocks. The road is adorned with trees, strategically planted on both sides.
But the inside, is a contrast of the outer look. From the end of the road lie eye-catching events, which look too real to be true. Everything in the community is built on water. With strong wooden structures, the people were seen moving around with confidence.
The scenery is an interesting sight to behold. The women went about their businesses freely, the young ones paddled their canoes unperturbed, and as amazing as it seemed, it looked risky and unreal.
The population of the area is on the increase, especially with the presence of young lads from the Northern part of the country, most of who have taken to the business of commercial motorcycle riding.
The attraction and reason why many residents would not be willing to relocate despite the acute problems in the area, according to investigations is due to the fact that accommodation in Makoko is also cheap, compared to what obtains in most parts of the state.
A resident, John Adoka who had lived in the community for over 10 years told The Guardian that Makoko is like any other community in Lagos, where people live, work and shop. He noted that the unique thing about the community is that life there revolves around water, as all the activities are carried out on small rowboats.
He stated that they are also entitled to all the essential basic amenities, as a part of the state, which also took part in the last general election that ushered-in the present administration in the state.
Adoka appealed to Governor Akinwunmi Ambode to fulfill his promise of ensuring even development of all the communities in the state, noting that they would cooperate with whatever policy the government introduced to give them a new lease of life.
To Madam Abike, a gin seller, the area bubbles at night, due to the presence of relaxation spots, adding that there is nothing to be enjoyed in other communities that they don’t also enjoy, except the problem of basic amenities, which to them is luxury.
She also called on the state government to accord them the necessary support by doing the needful to uplift their standard of living by providing necessary amenities.