News / Africa

Nigerian Lagoon Village Fights to Stay Afloat

Nigerian Lagoon Village Fights to Stay Afloat i
X
July 11, 2013 5:21 PM
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)
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

US Gives Malaysia Questionable Upgrade in Human Trafficking Ranks

Malaysia’s upgrade seen as removing barrier to country’s participation in the US-led 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership More

Turkey, US Try to Establish Buffer Despite Differences

Coalition airstrikes in proposed zone would aim to drive out Islamic extremists, allowing targeted area to come under sway of anti-Assad rebels More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe 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.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs