Makoko_Projects | about

Small-scale design interventions for impoverished informal settlements

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Makoko’s name was derived from the names ‘Omi’ (Yoruba word for water) and ‘Akoko’ (After the trees which grew there). Omi+Akoko = Makoko. The settlement has been in existence for a little over 150 years and the oldest stilt houses in Makoko are just as old. Traditionally, the settlers were fishermen. Now, other economic activities include salt-making, sand dredging and adjacent saw mills. Members of the community get around using canoes and connecting planks. It is a shifting population and the ‘Egun’ tribe which have settled there originate from Badagry. Other inhabitants to be found in Makoko hail from coastal communities around the region.

It is one of the most well-known and photographed communities in Nigeria, particularly popular with foreign visitors. It is a popular ‘must see’ among local and international journalists as it is one of the first sights that is seen on arrival in Lagos Island from the Third Mainland bridge and piques curiosity. Most recently, the community was featured in a BBC documentary on Lagos in April 2010. Despite this interest, little investment in core areas such as health and education has occurred and the local chief reports that the situation has worsened over the past 5 years. Part of Makoko’s problem is the lack of legitimacy it has with regard to the community’s rights to the ‘land’ they occupy. As the community is situated on prime Lagos real estate (similar areas have been landfilled regularly) and is inhabited by some of Lagos’s poorest citizens. The area is, and always has been, a prime target for hawkish developers.

To draw a parallel to more organized cities, and to speculate in part, one could argue that ‘property developers’ have understood the value of the Makoko land for some time and have likely lobbied successive governments of Lagos state to ensure that official status of is not granted to the community. In the Nigerian context, this is not unlikely. On the record, the Lagos State government has periodically discussed developing the area in a more structured manner, but has never followed through. The general ambiguity is a cause of concern in Makoko, as many have called the area home for multiple generations.

There is no official record of how many people live in the community. As at June 2010, the population has been estimated at 84,450, but the Baale claims it is approximately 400,000. Every house has a canoe. More than 80% rent their rooms from landlords and one room will sleep an average of 6 to 10 people. Communal latrines are shared by about 15 households and waste water, excreta, kitchen waste and polythene bags go straight into the water. Establishing a better estimate of population size is therefore an important first step to any type of project that might be undertaken in the community.

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© 2009 - 2012 Isi Etomi