Slum settlements in Nigeria are largely a study in squalor and misery, compounded by government neglect. Will the story ever change?
By ANTHONY AKAEZE and EMMANUEL OBE
They are located within a shouting distance of each other, as close as you can imagine but the difference between them is world apart – as clear as between day and night. That’s the picture that stares any visitor to the lagoon area of Ikate-Lekki, Lagos in the face. There are, within that axis, two neighbourhoods. One, on the lagoon, called Otodo Gbame, is a contraption of planks and is bereft of the simplest basic amenities like pipe borne water, electricity, health centre, public schools, while the other reeks of opulence – modern, state of the art buildings and world class amenities within the reach of the many well to do residents of Lekki. At night, from the bank of the lagoon and its rickety features, the splendor and glow of its affluent neighbour stand out in all its glory. You wonder how this dissimilarity came about but the story of the poorer
community is as old as time. The residents of Otodo Gbame are descendants of a fishing community said to have migrated from places like Badagry. They had occupied the lagoon area for several decades, long before Lagos became a mega city and Lekki, a choice area for its many nouveau riche. In recent times, the people of Otodo Gbame had come under threat of being ejected from the area by people suspected, by the residents to be agents of either some powerful individuals in the state or the Lagos State government itself but the inhabitants have vowed not to move an inch. The latest assault on their community happened on March 17 this year when bulldozers accompanied by security men stormed the waterfront and demolished many of the structures on the land overlooking the lagoon, leaving thousands of residents with no place to call their home. It was a follow-up to the November 6, 2016, incident when some shadowy figures in the dead of the night, according to Ahisu Celestine, a youth leader in the community, set some buildings and shops in the community ablaze, leading to many in the settlement losing their source of livelihood. The relics from that arson was still visible in February when the TELL reporter visited Otodo Gbame. To have a clearer picture of the community, one would need to take a canoe ride around and that’s when the dire condition in Otodo Gbame, which literally means “swamp” confronts one. It’s a fetid, even if serene environment. This languid atmosphere is what marks it apart from a place like Ajegunle, another well-known slum community in Lagos.
Located in the Ajeromi/Ifelodun Local Government Area, Ajegunle, like Otodo Gbame, is made up of various ethnic groups: Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Igala, Effik, and others.
Ajegunle literally means \”wealth has landed here,\” but the physical outlook of this densely populated municipality speaks otherwise.
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