Makoko

MAKOKO: GOVERNMENT ACTIONS, PROFESSIONALS CAPTIONS AND PEOPLES’ PERCEPTIONS

Ring the alarm! The dwellers and the general public (especially the low income earners) roared.

Different issues, propositions, perspectives, debates, however conflicting, partial or controversial have been heralded with the recent government move on the clearing of Makoko community of Lagos state.

However, for the sake of the public at mass, the so called quacks, professionals in other discipline and perhaps co- professionals in the environment world, I will like to throw more light of this recent government move on the Makoko community, a vital landscape space of the Lagos State water front.

This vital nature Makoko begat could be a reason among others the government of Lagos state took this giant stride- what environmental professionals call urban regeneration or renewal. Urban renewal or regeneration can be referred to as the process of turning/developing the deteriorated sections of the city anew. This often involves demolition of old buildings and undertaking new construction as urban areas are targeted as centres that witness the maximum development. Urban renewals are often associated with government renewal programs although they can be privately funded too. On the other hand, these drastic actions may be perceived and seen in the eye of most dwellers and general public as only detrimental to peoples life.

Makoko characterised as a slum – according A UN Expert Group has created an operational definition of a slum as an area that combines to various extents the following characteristics: inadequate access to safe water; inadequate access to sanitation and other infrastructure; poor structural quality of housing; overcrowding; and insecure residential status. To these factors, one might add the low socioeconomic status of its residents and for Makoko locality, a ground of immigrants mainly Togolese.

Thus, it is quite a community of complex nature and as such has made the assessment of helping this community delicate and that of an extremely cautious nature. The immigrant dominance of this place is also a huge contributing factor to any consideration thought of by the government on this community.

Although arguable on the government side of their lukewarm action and nonchalant attitude in allowing  the then little settlement  to have spread to a  height compared to that of a wildfire, it is undoubted and factual that this is an illegal or informal settlement and as such the government retains the dominant power  and right to come in anytime she so chooses to sweep and decorated her own the country in a way best perceived(but with the public’s interest) as she can just like everyone decides when they wish to clean or decorate their various rooms in their homes.

The regeneration scheme is a manly action and not just a forceful exodus of people by the government that follows grounding of slum and sprawls which I believe Makoko is over qualified of with regards to the operational definition by the UN experts. The importance of regeneration among others includes; promote rehabilitation of complex urban structures; improve the environment, as well as the quality of life of inhabitants and city dwellers; preserve the valuable and unique fabric of the selected areas; control-reverse the deterioration of specific urban zones (i.e. residential, commercial, etc.); restructure economic activities located in the urban fabric and Sustainability of the environment.

More so, enviable and worth emulated examples have been implemented in cases like Dockland city southeast London, England. During the 19th century, London’s port was one of the busiest in the world, but by the end of the 1950s it was in significant decline with many of the docks derelict and abandoned. In response to the resulting social, economic and environmental problems the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) was set up in 1981.The massive development programme managed by the LDDC during the 1980s and 1990s saw a huge area of the Docklands converted into a mixture of residential, commercial and light industrial space. The clearest symbol of the whole effort was the ambitious Canary Wharf project that constructed Britain’s tallest building and established a second major financial centre in London. Over the past 30 years, the population of the Docklands has more than doubled and the area has become both a major business centre and an increasingly acceptable area to live, more trade for local shopkeepers cheaper rents here for large companies yet still the benefit of only being 10 minutes from central London a wide range of economic, environmental and social benefits including 22,000 new housing units and 1000s of new jobs. Greatly improved accessibility in and out of docklands addressed the once failing land, housing and commercial property markets in the area.

Also, The Urban Renewal Program for the Central China Town resulted in the redevelopment of all colonial neighbourhoods, which consisted mainly of two- and three-story century-old shop houses, and in the relocation of all original residents and businesses. Urban renewal programmes and regeneration seen have been practiced in Asia, Europe and various part of the United States with is advantages well out weighing it disadvantages over years of implementation

Inferable from or corollary to the above examples, it is a global approach, practice and action to see to the betterment of slum and sustainability of the environment. However the approach to it should be carefully examined. Thus as an environment professional, I did give the following suggestion as regard the government action on the Makoko community.

Firstly, proportion of the oldest dwellers and leaders of the community, if not immigrant, should be recognised and catered for. Secondly, the fishing activities- notable in this area- should be cleaned up, controlled and organised by the fisher men. By this, it is suggestible that the men should do the fishing while the women should do the processing with adequate consideration given to health of the consumers. We can have something branded like the ‘Makoko fish’, hence contributing to the economy of the individuals and the government at large.

Thirdly, the engagement of the community dweller. That is most of them should be employed as workers or labourers in commensurate to their respective skills, ability and capability. Some could be employed in the safety unit and or as on-site traffic controllers seeing to the diversion of vehicles moment ,could be the general public vehicles or site vehicles during material delivery and what –a-view. They could also be used as guards for encroachers during and after the project. They could be employed as laundry personnel for the contractors on site. Likewise they can be retained as permanent staffs of some units that would be functioning at the completion of the regenerations scheme. For example, the staffs for monitoring the infrastructure services here in.  Also important is that we see the value in the immigrants by looking at their social contribution of culture and that of the economy.

By this, dwellers still have feel of the environment they were brought up which most people cherish, although now in a way and form, and they are not far from their friends and business which they have been into before the movement of government action

Moreover, for centuries past, most environmental professionals in the built- up development sphere do not see or act beyond emphasis on land value and the profit thereof. Also guilty of this is the government in most developing countries. However, with the recent trend in the world on environmental issues-global warming, green house effect, flooding among other- most of which are due to the neglect of what should have been considered however ignorant we were or still in the most developing countries.

Now, much cries is made for environmental sustainability, hence what was all about land value then is now about the environmental value as a whole for most people forgot in their actions that land is just one of the various elements of the environment. Thus, actions towards high environmental value as a whole is action towards a high sustainable environment  however opposed to land (profit) values that poses in this light.

Most built up professionals talk more on the life cycle of building forgetting about life-circles of people who are tied to this buildings and beyond. Hence urban regeneration is seen to consider not just the property or land values but also the social, economical, physical for all these is the true environment, however built up, which we all crave for and work towards. In conclusion, urban regeneration is also an inclusion of government actions under the consideration of peoples’ passion and compassion in slum transformation.

@yemilluminati

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