When Development Deprives; Forced Evictions and the Poor
Big cities face big problems, much of which is providing adequate urban services and an adequate standard of living for its teeming population. A corollary to this challenge is managing physical spaces within the city. The growth of slums is also straining public services in Lagos, Nigeria. There is a historicity to slums and informal settlements in African cities. Many of these neighborhoods termed 'slums' have been in existence for close to a century. In Lagos, Makoko, Iwaya, Ijora-Badia, are not all creations of urban sprawl but old low-income neighborhoods that have degenerated into slums. Many of these neighborhoods pre-existed many urban planning and megacity development frameworks. It then becomes acutely challenging to rationalize the city-space while confronting historical informal settlements and slums that have begun to grow.
(Photo credit: Enyenaweh)
Urban renewal, which is a re-development process, has been a significant strategy of city governments. Similarly, urban gentrification, which is the usual (and expected) result of these city development programs, is often accompanied by forced evictions and demolition of homes. Therefore, urban renewal programs in Lagos, as in many cities, often result in dire consequences for low-income populations. Indeed, gentrification programs are particularly an exclusionary urban renewal strategy.
Lagos is an economic opportunity location that attracts opportunity migrants from other regions of the country. These migrants often arrive at and build community at the margins of the city and society They settle in slums, where there is a thriving informal structure that provides cheap and flexible housing rentals at best, and open-spaces at worst. There is often no restriction to the informal labour market; no resume requirement, special skills, or training mandatory. To survive in Lagos's slums, the condition is to possess considerable brawn and optimism.
A young man arriving at Makoko can quickly get a room at 500Naira (1.2 USD) per night in Apollo street, and by the next morning, walk down to Temidire market to help shoppers carry their goods for a fee. In less than 24 hours, this young man has begun instituting himself as a member of that community. The quick settlement and assimilation into the community is the reason for the attraction of low-income neighborhoods to migrants in large cities. As city governments attempt to address population growth challenges and urban sprawl, building a poor and low-income community's resilience should be an essential program component.
Individuals rendered homeless due to forced evictions in cities often face double jeopardy: having fled the poverty in rural areas and thrust into wage labour in the city, they lose social connections and networks that had served as a form of safety net in urban poverty. These individuals -often young and many-deal with loss of what meager income they possessed, face starvation and are sometimes unable to return to their origin points. While informal safety nets provided by their rural settings did not shield them from deprivation, it offered a form of comfort in times of extreme need.
Therefore, slum dwellers already weighed down by poverty, when suddenly thrust out of their homes, resort to worse living conditions than the slums. Usually, the abode of evicted persons becomes relocated to refuse dumps under pedestrian bridges, at the beach fronts, and other open spaces within the metropolis Homelessness exposes them and their children to different forms of abuse, harassment, and exploitation.