|Carrington Youth fellowship Initiative|
U.S. Consulate General Lagos
The youths are fellows in the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative, a Consulate-sponsored youth outreach program for which 15 young Nigerians were selected and grouped into teams to design and implement projects with a social impact. At the fellowship’s monthly meeting on September 15, which was attended by U.S. Consul General Jeffrey Hawkins, the fellows viewed segments of the BBC documentary “Welcome to Lagos” and discussed issues relating to urban development in Lagos.
The discussion focused on the often controversial demolition policies, in which the Lagos state government forcibly clears illegally built structures, including homes, in an effort to address the myriad public health and security concerns associated with slum development. In July 2012, for example, the Lagos state government demolished many structures in the densely populated shantytown area of Makoko. According to the Daily Times NG, residents were given just 72 hours to leave the area, and the State Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Adesegun Oniru, said the state had no plans to resettle the residents.
Fellows from the civil liberties group concurred that such demolitions were legal under Nigerian law, though several felt that the government should strive to provide alternative, low-cost housing to the affected residents.
Several fellows said they felt the state government’s Lagos Megacity Project catered to the wealthy.
“When you talk about megacity, ‘mega’ means something big. Not everybody can live in the big city. Where is the place of the small people?” Ebenezer Akinrinade, a fellow whose working on a vocational training project for youth in Ibadan, said.
Tunde Aboderin, a colleague of Akinrinade, said he felt the state government should "empower people and provide them alternatives."
Temitope Adeoye, another member of Build a Village, said he observed that often, slums are cleared and the land is subsequently beautified with flowers and bought by the wealthy. Address poverty and there are no slums. Address poverty and there is no illiteracy," Adeoye said.
Fellows differed over the level of force the state government should use in its dealings with these residents of these communities and the touts, ‘area boys’ and others who engage in quasi-illegal activities in the city’s large informal economy.
“The slums cannot remain if you want sanity in Lagos,” said education team fellow Sholape Adeniran.
“You can’t treat people with such distain and expect they will respect the laws,” Adeoye said.
Several fellows felt Lagos state government should focus on improving education and creating employment opportunities, and that if these areas are better address, the issue of the slums will naturally decline.
“Create these opportunities and people will naturally migrate out of these areas,” Adeoye said.
Yet education must also change mindsets and attitudes. Rhoda Robinson, a health team fellow, said that while she felt the demolitions were “actually leading somewhere” in terms of the development of the city, many people fail to understand. “Because they don’t understand, they are fighting the process.”
Emmanuel Maduabuchi, another fellow on the education team, said that the government wants immediate solutions, and he felt that change of attitudes and mindsets in Lagos was a more gradual process.
Tosin Taiwo said she felt that the government should be more attentive to the needs of the people. “We need this participatory type of democracy. Let the government hear from the people, then let the government come up with solutions.”
The discussion also took on a national dimension at times. Jikeme noted that one of the causes of Lagos’ poverty is overpopulation, as Nigerians from many other states come to Lagos seeking opportunities. If other states also focus on job creation, fewer people will come to Lagos and the pressures on the city will be alleviated.
CYFI was created through the Public Affairs Section in late 2011 as a way to increase outreach to Nigerian youth. The 2012 CYFI fellows are divided into five project groups, and projects include: a women’s health and malaria outreach initiative; a youth mentorship program at a public secondary school; an economic empowerment effort in an urban fishing community, utilizing student volunteers from nearby universities; a vocational training program for unemployed youth; and the production of a radio drama series on human rights and law.
More information on CYFI: www.cyfinigeria.org