Impoverished in Nigeria See Homes Demolished

Although the Nigerian region of Lagos has promised to reinvent itself as a global financial center, the local redevelopment efforts have not taken into account the hundreds of thousands of citizens living in shanties and “informal” neighborhoods.  Julian Omidi discusses the thousands of residents who were abruptly made homeless by the Lagos government.

Lagos, Nigeria is poised to become a global business capitol. Luxury car dealerships are appearing in the financial district. President Bill Clinton recently visited an upscale housing development that is set to rival anything found in Dubai. The Nigerian government is aggressively pursuing the dream of a city teeming with high rises, high speed trains, and high incomes. The only problem is the 21 million poor living in the Lagos slums. Unfortunately, the decision to tear down the slums and let the residents fend for themselves.

Tens of thousands of people were forcibly evicted from their homes so that new and expensive housing complexes can be constructed on the sites. Homes were demolished without any notice; many of the residents were still sleeping in their beds when backhoes arrived and mowed down every dwelling into a pile of rubble. The governor of Lagos, Babatunde Fashola, has plans to demolish the homes of nearly 100,000 people in order to realize the dream of a sparkling metropolis. Little thought has been given, however, to the people who once lived there.

The average income of the people living in Lagos slums is less than $100 per month; nowhere near enough to afford the rent in one of the new apartments in the housing complexes that are slated for development. Not only were the residents of the slums forcibly evicted with only 20 minutes notice, their possessions were utterly destroyed. The New York Times reported a pile of torn boards and nails, slabs of concrete and cardboard mingling with clothes, mattresses, pots, pans and children’s toys. The residents hardly had the time to save anything.[1]

Black police cars arrived with men armed with machetes. The residents were forcibly pulled out of their homes and beaten if they offered any resistance. Local boys were given $10 to clear out the dwellings that were not accessible to the backhoes, and they pulled the shacks down manually with sledgehammers and stole what little of value they could find.

The residents have no plans to relocate; they have been sleeping outside on the remains of their mattresses. The heat has been perishing, and mosquitoes buzz around day and night. There is no light – residents’ feet are being pierced by exposed rusty nails at night as they make their way around the remnants of their neighborhood.

The Lagos housing commissioner, Adedeji Olatubosun Jeje, insists that ample notice was given regarding what was termed as the “regeneration of the slums.”  Moreover, the office denies that there was anyone actually living there. “Maybe we had a couple of squatters living there,” he said.

After the New York Times reported on the demolitions the National Human Rights Commission has resolved to look into the demolitions and how they were conducted. [2]
By Julian Omidi
Homeless in Nigeria Homeless in Nigeria


[1] Nossiter, Adam: In Nigeria’s Largest City, Homeless Are Paying the Price of Progress New York Times 3/1/2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/02/world/africa/homeless-pay-the-price-of-progress-in-lagos-nigeria.html?ref=africa&pagewanted=print

[2] Ezeamalu, Ben. “Human Rights Commission to Launch Public Inquiry into Demolitions across Nigeria.” Premium Times Nigeria. The Premium Times, 27 Mar. 2013. Web.

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