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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid