News / Africa

Nigerian Lagoon Village Fights to Stay Afloat

Nigerian Lagoon Village Fights to Stay Afloat i
X
July 11, 2013
Sometimes called "The Venice of Africa," the village of Makoko floats on a lagoon in the heart of Lagos, the financial capital of Nigeria. But unlike Venice, Makoko's houses are built on sticks and dugout canoes are the main form of transportation. And while the government pushes to tear down the watery slum, the community is building a "floating school" for Makoko's children. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Makoko.

Young boy rides in a canoe on lagoon in Makoko, Nigeria (Photo: Heather Murdock /VOA)

TEXT SIZE - +
Heather Murdock
— Sometimes called "The Venice of Africa" the village of Makoko floats on a lagoon in the heart of Lagos, the financial capital of Nigeria.  But unlike Venice, houses there are built on sticks and dugout canoes are the main form of transportation.  And while the government fights in court to tear down the watery slum, the community is digging in by building a "floating school" for Makoko's children. 

“A fish cannot live on land,” Makoko residents are fond of saying, and “neither can we.” Their sprawling village is a collection of sagging wooden homes on stilts in the Lagos Lagoon.

We take a canoe through the watery alleyways and to open water just outside the residential area, where women sell fish under a bridge, one of Lagos’s many mega-highways. 
 
Fisherman Pierre Gotun crafts fishhooks, preparing to go out to sea at night.  
 
In the Egun language, which is more common along the borders of Nigeria and the Benin Republic than here in Lagos, he shares how his father taught him to fish right here in Makoko, a self-contained community believed to be more than 100 years old.
 
Fishing can be profitable, he said, especially now in the rainy season. Like dozens of other people, he is sitting under the cover of what is expected to be Makoko’s “floating school” to avoid the rain. Built in part by support from the United Nations, the building bobs on top of hundreds of plastic drums about half way between the bridge and the residential area. 
 
  • The government calls this sprawling village in the lagoon a shantytown, but residents say Makoko is not just a place, it is a way of life in Makoko, Lagos, July 5, 2013. Photo:  VOA/H. Murdock
  • Like the better-known city of Venice, the primary way to get around Makoko is by paddling a dug out canoe, Makoko, Lagos, July 5, 2013. Photo: VOA/H. Murdock
  • Lagos Lagoon is almost completely surrounded by the city, which is Nigeria's most populous and one of the fastest growing cities in Africa. Photo: VOA/H. Murdoc, Makoko, Lagos, July 5, 2013


  • Fisherman Pierre Gotun crafts fishhooks in preparation for a night at sea. He says his father taught him to fish here in Makoko, a community believed to be over 100 years old, Makoko, Lagos, July 5, 2013. Photo:  VOA/H. Murdock. 
  • Like many residents, fisherman Pierre Gotun says he was born of water, and cannot live on land, Makoko, Lagos, July 5, 2013. Photo:  VOA/H. Murdock. 
  • Women say selling fish in Makoko is as much of a tradition as catching fish, July 5, 2013. Photo: VOA/H. Murdock
  • Makoko community leaders say in addition to the floating school, they are working to rebuild homes and churches, Makoko, Lagos, July 5, 2013. Photo: VOA/H. Murdock
  • Makoko families say they would like city services, like running water and trash collection, but failing that, they just want the government to leave them alone, Makoko, Lagos, July 5, 2013. Photo: VOA/H. Murdock
  • Makoko residents say there is only one school in the community and hundreds of children are not attending, Makoko, Lagos, July 5, 2013. Photo: VOA/H. Murdock
  • Supported by the United Nations, Makoko's "floating school" is not yet open, but residents use the structure to stay out of the rain, Makoko, Lagos, July 5, 2013. Photo: VOA/H. Murdock

David Shemede, chairman of the local Community Development Association, said construction on the floating school is almost complete and it is expected to open in coming months. But Shemeda points out it won't be enough for all of Makoko’s children. Hundreds of local children don’t go to school at all, and those that do attend, squeeze into the community’s only schoolhouse, which is slowly sinking into the water.
 
“When we need schools, they come build this one," he said. "The one that they build is not [enough] for us. We still need more schools in our community because we still have many many many more children who are not going to school.”
   
Shemede is quick to say that despite the lack of schools, Makoko residents will never chose to leave the lagoon, which is surrounded by what is one of Africa’s fastest growing cities.
 
According to Shemede, the government calls Makoko an illegal shantytown and has been trying to tear it down as part of their plan to make Lagos more appealing to businesses and tourists.  But residents aren’t budging.
 
Back on solid ground, or rather a house on stilts, Emmanuel Shemede, the Makoko traditional chief and David Shemede’s brother, says last year some residents were given 72 hours to evacuate, but they refused to go.  One person was killed in clashes that erupted and now residents and city planners are fighting it out in court.
 
Lagos state Governor Babtunde Fashola to leave the community alone, he said, adding that the government should help fix dilapidated buildings, develop a sewage system, and connect them to city water and electricity.   But if that’s not going to happen, Shemede said he wants them to at least to not tear down their homes.  
 
But Fashola’s development policy is wildly popular in Lagos, with locals saying he’s one of the rare leaders who makes a difference you can see. In the more developed areas, residents say when the city of Lagos tears down slums, it replaces them with safer, cleaner homes connected to city services.
 
Friday Oruerio, a litigation officer on a lunch break in Ikoyi, an upscale island district of Lagos, said city planners have built up schools, developed mass transit and made the city safer for everyone.

“They see any building that’s getting old and has a crack on that building, they pull that building down to save lives. Because so many buildings have collapsed and so many people have lost their lives.”
 
But here in the Makoko waterways, locals say tearing down their homes would mean also tearing apart their way of life because after all, a fish cannot live on land.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid