The Cities We Create Depend on the Choices We Make: Lagos [ARTICLE]

This article is reposted from SDI's Know Your City website here:

26 March 2018


By Megan Chapman and Andrew Maki

The year 2017 witnessed two very different approaches to urban informal settlements in one city—Lagos, Nigeria. The largest city in Africa, Lagos epitomize the tension between tremendous economic potential and the overwhelming urban planning challenges posed by massive growth and rapid urbanization.

Within the space of a few months, one agency of the Lagos State Government carried out a massive forced eviction of over 30,000 residents of the Otodo Gbame community, an ancestral fishing settlement on the shores of the Lagos Lagoon. The eviction destroyed many hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of property, rendered tens of thousands homeless, and resulted in at least 11 deaths from drowning and gunshots. Evicted residents were literally chased off valuable urban real estate in the upscale Lekki area of Lagos and into wooden fishing boats in the lagoon. They fled by the thousands to no fewer than 16 other informal settlements on the waterfront, where most are still homeless and living in deep poverty. The seized land is meanwhile being rapidly developed into yet another luxury real estate venture, which will likely sit half vacant while the city’s enormous affordable housing deficit grows wider and informal settlements multiply to fill the gap.

During the same year, another agency of the Lagos State Government was—for the first time in the city’s history—opening up dialogue with residents of dozens of informal urban settlements organized under the auspices of the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation, with a view toward partnership in gathering community-led data and planning toward holistic in situ community upgrading. A peer-to-peer exchange for Nigerian slum community and government representatives to Nairobi, hosted by their Kenyan slum federation and government counterparts, provided an opportunity to see viable eviction alternatives forged by communitygovernment partnership. As a result, the Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA) and the SDI-affiliated slum dweller federation started the process of building the mutual understanding and trust that are essential to reversing a history of violent evictions and demonstrating alternatives for inclusively transforming the city.

These starkly different strategies for urban development and the choices they represent reveal the potential for Lagos to be a city of large-scale tragedy or large-scale opportunity.

The Cost of Eviction

The human and development costs of evictions are enormous. For evicted households, the results include homelessness; loss of livelihood; negative health consequences, even death; separation of family and loss of social support systems; interruption of education; and overall worsened living conditions.

These consequences are not limited to the immediate term but have lasting effects on urban poor households. Research conducted among victims of the February 2013 forced eviction in Badia East—another Lagos informal settlement—showed that 2.5 years after the forced evictions, over a third were still homeless, and over 80 percent were living in shelters worse than the homes they inhabited prior to the demolition. More than half were separated from family, and a third of children had been unable to resume schooling. Virtually all described their incomes and access to work as worse or much worse.1 Similar findings are reported on the long-term impact of the forced evictions of the Njemanze and Abonnema Wharf communities in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.

Nothing leaves people behind as evictions do. Forced evictions are a betrayal of the SDGs we signed up for. A large-scale eviction affecting tens of thousands of urban poor residents undermines progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on poverty, health, education, access to basic services, and sustainable urban development.

Government officials routinely try to justify large scale forced eviction on the grounds that such displacement will improve city security, sanitation, and the environment and will enable implementation of a master plan. But evicted communities do not disappear from the city; rather, the population forcibly displaced from one location simply moves to or creates a new informal settlement and does so with far fewer assets. Far from creating a more secure city, such mass displacement leaves affected populations desperate and erodes trust in government and law enforcement. In short, the city’s resilience is massively reduced.

Win-Win Alternatives: Learning from Other Federations

As the Nigeria federation and its partners seek and develop win-win eviction alternatives, they do so in solidarity with their peers from the SDI network. In cities across the globe, the experience of mass forced eviction and the manifold negative consequences of such evictions gave rise to these slum dweller movements. Organized communities have leveraged grassroots knowledge and the capacity to change urban policy and practice while developing strategies to protect and improve settlements. Over decades, in response to and in dialogue with these movements, city governments have found ways of working with the urban poor to craft win-win alternatives to eviction with improved outcomes for communities and the city as a whole.

Looking across countries, workable alternatives to eviction can be driven by innovations in policy, practice, and finance. Policy-driven alternatives are those that grow out of policy innovations that unlock investment in in situ slum upgrading. In some countries this has been achieved through innovations in land titling to enable the urban poor to secure tenure and, consequently, invest more in their housing and community infrastructure. Other policy innovations target the private sector, incentivizing investment in housing and infrastructure for the urban poor. For instance, in India, policymakers, in consultation with the SDI-affiliated slum dweller movement, designed a Transferred Development Rights (TDR) scheme by which developers could obtain the right to build high-end housing with augmented density in exchange for building free housing for the urban poor.

Innovations in practice involve partnership between governments and organized communities to directly upgrade or resettle informal settlements, at times with participation by global development partners. Examples include the large-scale railway resettlement programs in India and Kenya, in which SDI-affiliated slum dweller federations led enumerations of people living within railway line setbacks and then worked with the government to plan, organize, and implement resettlement programs. In India, strong partnership and highly organized communities enabled the resettlement of 60,000 in just one year. In Kenya, nearly 10,000 have already been resettled in situ and the program is ongoing. Housing units were constructed on the same land after clearing the 20 meters closest to the rail line through consolidation of households into three-story housing in the remaining 10 meters.

Even where third-party financing may not be available for rapid and large-scale resettlement, organized communities working in partnership with government may still plan for and implement community-led upgrading. An example is in Kambi Moto community in Nairobi, where the SDI-affiliated savings groups in the community negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding with the government. The government agreed to transfer land title to the community in exchange for a land readjustment and upgrading plan whereby residents used their savings and SDI-supported soft loans to build improved housing, going vertical to make more efficient use of the land and making available a plot for a government building. The layout and process are continuously being improved and have been replicated in other Nairobi slums.

Innovations in finance, as well as in policy and practice, are essential to unlock slum dwellers’ capacity to invest in the upgrading of their own communities. To this end, SDI-affiliated slum dweller movements across the world have been working with city governments to establish and grow Urban Poor Funds. Such funds pool capital from their members and third-party sources to finance investments in land, housing, and related projects. An example is the community-managed uTshani Fund, established in 1995 by the South African SDI affiliate with an initial USD 2.7 million pledge from the Minister of Housing. The uTshani Fund uses donated capital to pre-finance innovative community-based housing design and delivery through bridge loans, which revolve back into supporting new projects. To date, the fund has used its initial grant capital to secure land and build over 13,000 houses.

Trust and Partnership: A Foundation for New Solutions

In each of the successful examples of alternatives to eviction given above, a key to crafting workable innovations in policy, practice, and finance is strong partnership between organized communities and government. Against a history of evictions, it may take time to build trust and mutual understanding to enable such partnership, but the sustainable outcomes—upgrading slums and delivering affordable housing for the urban poor without recourse to evictions—are better for communities and for the city. This is the process that LASURA and the Lagos chapter of the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation have embarked on, following in the footsteps of other SDI-affiliated movements and their government partners around the globe.

The Lagos chapter of the federation comprises hundreds of savings groups in over 80 settlements across the megacity; of these, the federation has identified three settlements with the strongest savings groups and highest level of contributions to the Nigerian Urban Poor Fund as priorities for upgrading in partnership with LASURA. During the initial phase, the federation has led household-level enumerations in two of the priority communities, with LASURA’s research department joining the fieldwork so that they can understand the process and help validate the data, which will be essential for planning. The federation has also convened a series of large town hall meetings in which community members engage directly with LASURA around upgrading priorities and data-based planning.

While building the foundation for partnership, dialogue is beginning on how best to drive eviction alternatives on a megacity scale: Should this start incrementally? Should it involve a development partner? Are policy changes needed to unlock investment? What is the role of private developers? How can communities remain in the driver’s seat if private developers are involved? What is the best way to overcome the legacy of evictions and avoid the pitfalls of the past?

One thing is for certain: as this partnership takes shape, it will not only make history in Lagos, but it has the potential to tap into the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of Nigerian slum dwellers to develop new approaches to eviction alternatives. It will simultaneously pose and answer the most pertinent question of all: What happens once an eviction has been prevented?


In February 2018, SDI launched a landmark publication titled “Know Your City: Slum Dwellers Count,” showcasing the extraordinary contribution of the Know Your City (KYC) campaign to creating understanding and taking action to reduce urban poverty and exclusion. The above article appears in this publication. Download the full publication here:

Paralegal Supervision Meeting [BLOG]



With each new class of paralegal trainees concluding their 6-month training course and passing their final exams our team of active paralegals is rapidly growing, and weekly paralegal supervision meetings now stretch from 10am until 6pm (or later!) every Monday. In Lagos, we've divided paralegals into two groups, each group meeting every other week in order to accommodate our growing numbers. As Lead Paralegal in Lagos, I've taken on supporting paralegal training and supervision meetings, and in particular working with the newest classes of paralegals to help them get up to speed and tackle challenging cases.

#SaveTheWaterfronts - Forced Eviction of Otodo Gbame Against Court Orders [VIDEO]

Despite subsisting court orders from the Lagos State High Court ordering the Government from refraining to cary out any demolitions in Lagos waterfront communities, Otodo Gbame, a historical Egun fishing settlement located on the shores of the Lagos Lagoon in Lekki Phase 1, was repeatedly forcibly evicted by the Lagos State Government and the Nigerian Police Force in November 2016, March 2017, and April 2017.

#SaveTheWaterfronts - Spotlight on Voting among Lagos Waterfront Residents [VIDEO]

Every four years, Lagos waterfront communities such as Otodo Gbame, a predominantly Egun fishing settlement in Lekki, come out to vote en masse for the candidates and parties of their choosing. Now the Lagos waterfronts are under threat by the same Government these residents helped to vote into office. Learn more in this video.

#SaveTheWaterfronts - Spotlight on Fish Trading in Lagos Waterfronts [VIDEO]

#SaveTheWaterfronts - Spotlight on Fish Trading in Lagos Waterfronts [VIDEO]

Fishing is a way of life in Lagos waterfront communities such as Otodo Gbame, a predominantly Egun fishing settlement in Lekki. For generations, people across Lagos State and beyond have bough fish -- both fresh and smoked -- from Egun fishermen living along the Lagos Lagoon and other waterfronts. Now the Lagos waterfronts are under threat, which could destroy an important aspect of the local economy. Learn more in this video.

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Ensuring 'Our Urban Agenda' is Heard at UN Habitat 3 [BLOG]

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The UN Habitat conferences are meetings of world stakeholders on human settlements that take place every 20 years. The two prior UN Habitat conferences were held in Vancouver, Canada (1976) as Habitat 1, and  Istanbul, Turkey (1996) as Habitat II. The primary idea is that we can not ignore the growth of cities and the attendant challenges, instead we must plan ahead so that those challenges will not take us by surprise and overrun us.

The main issues the UN Habitat conferences consider are defined by the prevailing challenges during the preceding two decades. Key issues discussed at UN Habitat 3 were urban poverty, slums, slum dwellers vulnerable and marginal groups (including women, girl child, disabled persons), socio-spatial exclusion (i.e. segregating the poor from the rich in physical planning), governance, equity and equality, environmental justice, participatory planning, right to adequate housing, security of tenure, slum upgrading and prevention, inclusive finance, informal economy, and climate change (not pronounced in Habitat 2).

Attendees included high-level government representatives (primarily those working on housing, urban governance, and environment), as well as stakeholders from many grassroots organizations like the Shack/Slum Dwellers International (SDI), Women In Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), Huairo Commission (HC); many public and private research and development institutions; donor agencies, and the press.

READ the full SDI Report here:

Improving Access to Health for the Urban Poor [BLOG]


In March 2016 we hosted a team from Northwestern University Access to Health (ATH) comprised of both faculty and students in Lagos for a week-long engagement to identify key obstacles to good health for the urban poor. From this trip, and based on the Federation's interest in tackling some of the health challenges facing residents of informal settlements in Lagos, together with ATH we developed a health education curriculum for training nominated Federation members as Community Health Educators (CHEs). The aim of the collaboration is to improve knowledge among residents of informal settlements by sharing health information through the Federation's savings group structures, and offering health accompaniment to health facilities for those in need of health services.

Influencing the UN Habitat 3 Agenda at Africa Regional Meeting [BLOG]


The UN Habitat 3 Africa Regional Meeting took place in Abuja, Nigeria from 22-26 of February 2016. The meeting was convened in order to gather stakeholders from across Africa to discuss the particular issues and priorities of African countries in the lead up to the Habitat 3, a UN-wide conference on Housing & Sustainable Urban Development taking place in Quito, Ecuador from 17 - 20 October 2016. The focus of Habitat 3 will be to “reinvigorate the global commitment to sustainable urbanization, to focus on the implementation of a New Urban Agenda, building on the Habitat Agenda of Istanbul from 1996.” The formal outcome of the Africa Regional Meeting was the Abuja Declaration (available online here: – a unified statement adopted by all of the African governments present identifying “Africa’s Priorities for the New Urban Agenda.”

The SDI delegation in attendance was comprised of members of both the Nigerian and Ghanaian Federations and support NGOs.

Our strategy and objectives:

Our objectives at that UN Habitat 3 Africa Regional Meeting were simple: ensure that voices and priorities of the urban poor are incorporated into the common African position as reflected in the final Abuja Declaration (which will form a basis for the New Urban Agenda). Our key messages were:

  1. Active partnerships between local governments and organised communities of the urban poor are critical

  2. Inclusive policy making and development planning must include specific mention of the informal sectors of the city (e.g. informal settlements)

  3. Implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals must take place at the local level, and in partnership with organised communities of the urban poor

Although not all of our suggestions were ultimately reflected in the Regional Meeting outcome document, termed the Abuja Declaration, many of our key priorities appeared in its recommendations. Pasted below are portions of the first three recommendations contained within the Abuja Declaration, with the sections reflecting our contributions highlighted in yellow.

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While we believe that many of the above points wouldn’t have been reflected in the Abuja Declaration without our direct participation, the Abuja Declaration isn’t perfect. Areas where the Abuja Declaration is lacking, and where more advocacy is needed during the remaining thematic and regional meetings as well as at the UN Habitat 3 conference in Quito in October 2016, are as follows:

  1. Nowhere in the document are the “urban poor” specifically identified as a key constituency in the New Urban Agenda. Although the general reference to “participatory approaches and consultative frameworks” in Recommendation 2 is important recognition of the need for inclusion in urban planning and governance, the Abuja Declaration doesn’t clearly spell out who must be included.
  2. The terms “slums” and “informal settlements” only appear once (and only in reference to creation of disaster resilient infrastructure in Recommendation 5). Instead, the Abuja Declaration focuses intensely on the concept of “human settlements” (which specifically appear on 21 occasions throughout the document) – which are notably neither specifically poor or even urban.

    Indeed on no less than 8 occasions in the Abuja Declaration there is reference to “urban and human settlements” which suggests that the New Urban Agenda is not necessarily urban-focused.

  3. There is only one mention of “rights” within the Abuja Declaration (in Recommendation 2), which merely suggests that they should be “taken into account,” rather than referring to the foundational human rights framework of ‘protect, respect, promote, and fulfill.’ This is a notable shift from the UN Habitat 2 outcomes, which were more firmly grounded in the human rights framework and language. This is particularly problematic where development-based displacement, and violent forced evictions of the urban poor continue unabated in many African countries, particularly Nigieria.

    It is also notable that there is no mention of alternative land tenure models or land and property rights specifically in the Abuja Declaration – although this is not surprising, as there was very little mention of either throughout the plenary discussions by the governments and experts in attendance. Indeed, the only concrete mention of rights during the formal plenary came during the presentation of Justice Ntaba of Malawi – whose voice and perspective was singular on this point (see above section on the ‘Main plenary sessions’ for further elaboration on her presentation).

  4. There are only two mentions of “local governments” and one mention of “decentralized urban management” within the Recommendations of the Abuja Declaration, suggesting that the local governments are merely one of a list of actors that need to be “empowered” (see Recommendation 3) and “strengthened” (see Recommendation 5). Moreover, there is no mention of the need to links and active partnerships between local governments and organized communities of the urban poor.

  5. There only mention of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is with regard to strengthening UN Habitat (see Recommendation 7), and there is no mention of the need for the organized urban to be key partners in implementing and monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals.


Lagos Informal Settlements as Learning Centers for Innovation, Resilience, and Inclusion: Community-Led Solutions to Citywide Challenges [ARTICLE]

This article is was published on 27 January 2016 by hbs Nigeria, Nsibidi Institute Lagos, and Fabulous Urban Zurich as part of the Open City Lagos publication. The full publication is available for download here:

Lagos Informal Settlements as Learning Centers for Innovation, Resilience, and Inclusion: Community-Led Solutions to Citywide Challenges

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By Megan Chapman & Andrew Maki,
Co-Directors, Justice & Empowerment Initiatives – Nigeria

A Lagos of extremes - exclusive estates v. inclusive settlements

On the other end, informal settlements rely largely on collective but nevertheless private mechanisms to provide for the basics of life that are not provided by public authorities – collectivized1 security (called “vigilante”, but functioning like a neighborhood watch), collectivized access to public water, public or shared toilets, collectivized access to public electricity, collectivized maintenance of access ways such as roads (where they exist) or footbridges. Lagos offers this as an “open source” dream: different lives coexist under the supervision of local leadership structures – landlord associations, community development associations (CDAs), and at-times diverse traditional leadership structures representing coexisting ethnic constituencies within a settlement – with a certain degree of poverty as the common denominator.

So much in common and yet so much at odds; this is one of the mysteries of Lagos. While estate life tends to be better documented and projected to the outside world through literature and Nollywood, the collective mechanisms that make informal settlements work are less understood though much more broadly felt. That over 60% of Lagosians live in informal settlements testifies to the effectiveness of these mechanisms at providing real solutions to basic human needs at a price the average city dweller can afford. These undocumented secrets are the keys to the “open city.”

Collectivizing basic/ essential services

In well functioning informal settlements, the answer lies in collectivized access. Collectivized access cuts out the “overheads” – the costs relating to the infrastructure of service delivery, billing, and payment collection – that increase basic service costs beyond the affordability point for poor households.


Getting water into informal settlements neither relies on the most expensive, fully privatized, and most reliable option – the private borehole and private pump – nor does it rely on the physical infrastructure of a public utility reaching every household. Instead, informal settlements generally rely on a few access points that lessen the costs of bringing water into the settlement. 

In some communities that are close enough to the “grid,” this is a single plastic pipe running from the water main. In communities close to the Lagoon or on islands off CMS or Apapa, this is by way of wooden boats loaded with water tanks filled from boreholes to the bottom of the Lagoon in Makoko. In both cases, the water reaches informal settlements through a single entry point and fills fixed water vendor tanks from which individual residents buy water by the bucket. Not as convenient as water piped into the home, but accessible and affordable.


Getting electricity into many informal settlements uses a similar mechanism, but can run the undue risks of overloading or electrical sparks in unsafe connections. Recently, one community off Costain in Ebute-Metta has partnered with Eko Electricity Distribution Company Plc (EKEDP) to innovate a win-win solution to formal delivery problems by collectivizing electricity payments through community-level bulk metering.

Due to settlement density and lack of infrastructure, EKEDP’s predecessor had difficulties metering and billing individual households in the settlement. The community overcame this hurdle by organizing a community association that took up the challenge of household-level billing and collection in exchange for EKEDP installing designated transformers with a bulk meter, but at lower residential rates rather than the usual higher bulk metering rates that apply in estates. This “win-win” solution – implemented through a negotiated memorandum of understanding between the distribution company and the community association – has facilitated safe electricity provision to all residents at more affordable rates, while simplifying and reducing collection costs for EKEDP.


Informal settlements also have to deal with crime and insecurity but cannot afford walls and gates and private security; nor do they always have the political capital to demand proactive patrolling from the Nigerian Police Force. In response to a spate of rapes and other violent crimes occurring in some informal settlements around Otto in Ebute-Metta – an area where the police often failed to respond, especially at night – the community came together to form a “vigilante” force that patrolled the community during the night. This night patrol is responsible for arresting suspects, turning them over to the police, and following up with the appropriate authorities to ensure diligent investigation and prosecution. To make this possible, the community supported the salaries and uniforms for the vigilantes through monthly household levy of just N200 (~$1). These vigilantes were drawn from youths in the community and indeed were sometimes reformed “bad boys” who could use their own local knowledge to help to curb crime in the community, epitomizing the Yoruba proverb, “It is the thief who can trace the footsteps of another thief on the rock.” In fact, the model has worked so well that its successes are being replicated in neighboring communities.


Sanitation is serious problem in Lagos where public sewage systems appear fictional and the private “soak-away” (septic system) – where it can be afforded – is the norm. In informal settlements, the terrain – which is often swampy or sandy – and lack of road infrastructure make this option practically impossible.

Consequently, many households in informal settlements do not have access to a private or even a shared toilet. Where public toilets exist, they are often run as a business with a per-use charge that can at times be cost prohibitive for the poor.

To solve this accessibility/affordability problem and simultaneously protect community health, one informal settlement located on an island off Apapa has communalized rather than privatizing the public toilet. Households make a one-time contribution to construct and subsequent, as-needed, contributions to maintain a public toilet that is free and thus encouraged for residents to use.

Use-based levies for non-essential community development projects

Many Lagosians cannot imagine living in a home without road access. In Lagos informal settlements, however, roads – like certain other community development efforts – are actually a luxury, needed only for those whose businesses require or bene t from access by motor vehicles. Additionally, some residents in informal settlements live and conduct their business in the settlement, for instance selling provisions or cooking food for sale. This group may not need to leave on a daily basis. Thus, when Government fails to provide or maintain roads, the cost of doing so may not be easily imposed on all residents. A use-based model is more t for purpose, allowing the costs of such community development to be imposed on users, including non-residents.

In an informal settlement off Costain in Ebute- Metta, the one motorable road in the community was originally built by the local government, but maintenance has been a problem ever since. The road was built with a high-walled cement gutter on each side, poorly adapted to the water flow in the community. The gutter actually traps water on the road, which is severely eroded and chronically flooded, often nearly impassable for pedestrians. Consequently, the community has to do regular road maintenance throughout every rainy season. To nance such maintenance, the community has established an informal tollbooth that operates on an as-needed basis. Every vehicle –mainly okada and keke marwa – plying the road pays a daily rate until the community can afford to bring a few tippers full of crushed cement block to ll and repair the road.

In another informal settlement, this time in Ajah, the only existing road was developed by residents into a motorable road through the settlement down to the edge of the Lagos Lagoon where there was a major local sand- digging business. The road mainly exists for the purpose of this business, which attracts many big trucks every day. The large, heavily loaded trucks cause constant wear-and-tear on the road. Because of this and the regularity of the business, the per-trip/truck toll operates year-round.

A final example is a pedestrian-only access road leading into one informal settlement in Lekki Phase 1. Because of nearby construction outside the community that is not well suited to the water flow pattern in the area, the only access to the community is chronically flooded with knee- deep water during rainy season. The community youths cooperated to buy bags of sand and build a block-long path through the pooled waters. To cover costs, youths at either end of the path collect a modest toll from pedestrians. After paying, the pedestrian takes a chip as proof of payment and returns it to the youths at the other end. This makeshift solution offers a bene t to those who can or want to pay, while the free alternative – walking through water – remains.

Multi-ethnic inclusion through parallel traditional governance structures

If wealth is the key to accessing exclusive high-end estates, then informal settlements are the opposite in terms of posing little barrier to entry and being open to anyone who shares the common bond of poverty. Yet, as indicated above, most informal settlements rely heavily upon high degrees of cooperation and internal governance to provide the basic essentials of life where no external governance system will do so. While many informal settlements were traditionally settled by a single tribe and may continue to have a dominant ethnic group, many have also opened up over the decades to urban migrants from various tribes, nationalities and religions, especially as informal settlements have been displaced and scattered to new informal settlements.

This being the reality, some of the large and diverse informal settlements illustrate how community cooperation around development and internal governance can work based on flexible and respectful coexistence of parallel traditional leadership structures.

One example of this it is the previously mentioned deal negotiated between the Ebute-Metta settlement and EKEDP, the electricity distribution company. A typical visitor to this community climbs a commercial motorcycle or okada and indicates his destination as “Ilaje,” referring to the community’s origins as a traditionally Ilaje people’s fishing settlement. However, its demography has diversified somewhat in the last few decades. Now, the community has Ilaje leaders who have descended from the original settlers, working alongside a set of traditional leaders who represent the large Ndigbo population in the settlement. In recognition of this, the two sets of tribes were carefully and deliberately represented in negotiations with EKEDP as well as in the community welfare association that runs the electricity arrangement. These same structures have to cooperate to counterbalance and check the power of two Yoruba Baales appointed by the White-Cap Chieftaincy family asserting itself in the area.

The community in Lekki Phase 1 has a name meaning “village in the bush” in Egun, given by its founders Egun fishermen migrating from Badagry generations ago. Much of the community still reflects the traditions of an Egun fishing settlement, however it has with time opened itself to many different ethnic backgrounds. When facing threats, the community demonstrates resilience by embracing such diversity instead of turning insular and feeding fear and panic. At a big community rally held to find solutions to a nearby dredging and sand-filling project that threatened the community’s fishermen, various ethnic and religious leadership structures came out in force. Alongside the Baale and council of elders representing the majority Egun populations, time was taken to recognize the leaders of the Ndigbo and Arewa populations within the community, hear solidarity songs in the various languages, as well as prayers from the leaders of the various churches in the community as well as the community’s Chief Imam.


Such examples of inter-ethnic/religious coexistence and partnership to find solutions to community needs and to face down threats or challenges underscores the unique way that informal settlements hold the keys to an inclusive and resilient future Lagos. Held together by poverty and the pursuit of basic needs, as well as the near constant struggle against various powerful forces, Lagos informal settlements survive and thrive by (1) finding solutions to the basic needs of human existence in a way that is affordable to the poorest of the poor, (2) endeavoring to provide important-but- less-essential community development through use-based mechanisms, and (3) organizing tolerant and adaptive coexistence of different peoples through parallel traditional and social/ religious structures rather than the insistence on dominance by a single group.

As the government in Lagos moves toward formalization of the rampant informality that has long been the norm across the city, it is critical to remember that, in informality, are the solutions to entrenched problems the city struggles of the city – affordable housing, access to basic services, security, and genuine inclusion and participation of the urban poor and minorities. At times, however, the Lagos “megacity” dream seems premised on principles of formalization that point to the total victory of the libertarian dream of the exclusive estate. For Lagos to continue to be an inclusive and resilient city, even as it incrementally formalizes, urban planners and policymakers would do well to look at and learn from the strategies employed in informal settlements to find lasting solutions. The above are just a few examples; informal settlements have many more to share.

Joint Communique Against Forced Evictions Affecting the Urban Poor [COMMUNIQUE]

Due to the recent uptick in forced evictions of the urban poor across West Africa, the SDI federations from West Africa released a joint communique during our regional meeting condemning forced evictions, and calling on governments to partner with urban poor communities to find lasting win-win alternatives. Read the communique below:

Sallah Message from Badia East Evictees [VIDEO]

On 18 September 2015, bulldozers suddenly started demolishing hundreds of homes at Ijora Badia East. Thousands were rendered homeless in a matter of hours. The bulldozers worked on 18-19 September and then came back again, under direction of the Lagos State Physical Planning and Development Authority (LSPPDA), on 22 September 2015, moving from Badia East toward Badia West. If the demolition starts again and reaches all the area presently at risk, more than 30,000 people will lose their homes, businesses and community facilities.

24 September 2015 marks a public holiday in honor of Eid-el-Kabir or Sallah. The rains fell heavily at the Badia East eviction site where dozens of women and children sleep under makeshift structures. This is their message.

Forced Eviction, Never Again [VIDEO]

In September 2015, an estimated 10,000 people were forcibly evicted from #BadiaEast and #BadiaWest communities. This video mourns the destruction of a once-vibrant community and calls for an end to forced evictions in Lagos -- FORCED EVICTION: NEVER AGAIN.

Training Our 1st Class of Community Paralegals from Urban Slums

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November 2014, Ebute Metta, Lagos State -- In partnership with the Rural and Urban Development Initiative, RUDI, JEI trains 20 paralegals nominated from over a dozen informal settlements in 3 different local government areas in Lagos. This 3-day training is part of a year-long training program with the same group of paralegal candidates, a select few of whom will become JEI's lead paralegals in Lagos. This training was generously hosted by Reverend Akintimehin at his church in Ilaje Otumara informal settlement in Lagos Mainland LGA.

Badia East Message to World Bank Inspection Panel [VIDEO]

On February 23, 2013 the Lagos State Government forcibly evicted approximately 9,000 residents of the Badia East slum. The community was an intended beneficiary of a World Bank ($200 million) funded slum upgrading project. Instead of development, the community received bulldozers at 7am one morning, without any advance notice whatsoever. Since then, the evictees of Badia East have asked the World Bank Inspection Panel to investigate their forced eviction, as it in no way fulfills the Bank's own requirements on resettlement of persons affected by Bank-funded projects.