Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi

Slum clearance calls for better social housing initiatives

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi, Lagos Community Manager


The Makoko riverfront is an informal residential area that is Lagos' largest and most visible slum. It is located right beside the busiest highway in the state, which is the most used route to link the mainland to Lagos Island. Makoko village is mostly made up of fishermen and their families, and it is here that the famous floating school is being built. This informal community has been a bone of contention for the state government for three main reasons: it is unsanctioned, shanties have expanding beyond the established boundary, and some of the erected shanties are dangerously close to electric lines and poles.

In 2012, the state government issued a demolition order for the settlement. Various organizations stepped in to back up the residents' opposition to the sanctioned demolition of their homes, including the Social and Economic Rights Action Center (SERAC). SERAC works by building awareness about economic, social, and cultural rights, and by broadening individuals' and communities' access and participation in social and economic policy processes. In its fight for the provision of affordable social housing and inclusive housing laws, SERAC created and runs a housing initiative for Lagos slums called the Nigeria Social Housing Initiative (NSHI), with support from the Catholic Organization to Relief and Development Aid (CORDAID) and the Ford Foundation. The NSHI program seeks to undertake innovative approaches towards improving housing conditions in slum communities while also considering the social, economic, and environmental functioning of these neighbourhoods. The initiative focuses on:

  • Creating awareness in slum areas on the need to improve housing conditions and to regenerate the physical, social, economic, and environmental conditions of these communities
  • Establishing social housing cooperative(s) to aid target communities' ownership of, and participation in, the program
  • Boosting income-generating opportunities through training in technical crafts and other economically viable skills
  • Designing and instituting a savings scheme to retain and grow members' financial capacity to participate in the social housing cooperatives
  • Promoting engagement among community members for developing an enabling and strategic policy, and a legal and collaborative framework for social housing in Nigeria.

SERAC has also worked with the Yaba College of Technology, Lagos under their Urban Spaces Innovation (USI) program, which works for the provision of affordable housing for the urban poor. This collaboration led to a program that trained local youth from the Makoko slum community in technical and construction skills. This enabled the youth to secure construction jobs during the construction phase of the Makoko Social Housing Development Project (MSHDP), which helped both with youth unemployment as well as reduced housing unit cost thanks to reduced labour cost.

SERAC recognizes the importance of social housing policy in promoting accessibility to quality and affordable housing to low-income groups, so the organisation is working on a new social housing policy draft which Dinma M. Nwanye, the community relations officer for SERAC, says will be finalized by end of June 2013. The goal is to get the social housing policy draft adopted by the Lagos State government. According to the organisation, "the successful institutionalization and implementation of the policy is expected to reduce the deficit of 31 percent to less than 10 percent within eight years of implementation."

Photo: Gist Only