19 February 2009

Nigeria: Ijora Badia - Living in Squalor of Urban Richness

Immediately the residents of Sunday Street in Ijora Badia, which is the filthiest slum part of the area, saw a reporter clutching her camera trying to take a snapshot, they swiftly ran into their wooden rickety buildings.

They did not want to be captured and associated with their unpleasant habitat. This means that they are aware and are not happy about the condition of their abode.They know that Ijora, an axis close to Apapa Ports, where Nigerians have been reaping their richness over the years but prefer to invest their money in other places, is classic case of complex paradox.Here, Ireti Owoseni Road that leads to the Sunday Street is so much in deplorable shape with refuse and foul-smelling black water flood.It indeed gives a first timer what he or she is about to witness within the other major streets in the area.

Looking at Sunday Street from its entrance, disgust as of a dumpsite is what comes to sight.Possibly one would argue that human beings do not dwell there. Otherwise called shanties, the dwellers seem not bothered because the place is not befitting for residential purpose.Though not a refuse dumpsite, the environment survives on continuous generation of refuse and sawdust, which helps to absorb the waterlogged environment. So irritating is the environment with sticking smell and horrible to sight.For proper movement so that the refuse would not have direct contact with passers-by feet, slates of wood were place on large stones and other rubber support to create a narrow space for 'safe'movement.They indeed live in a world of their own.

Wooden school buildings were also erected on the swamp to serve as school for their children. Living in squalor best describes these ones, as they live under what seems an intense impoverishment.There are small provision stalls in the area where residents make purchases of their day-to-day needs.Likewise, on the street there is a small tank that supplies water to the residents. For the past 20 years, the residents have been living in these shanties to survive all the harsh conditions that their geographical location has subjected them to.

The health of the dwellers here is at stake.They experience their woes during the rainy season.Since the habitat is a swampy land, the water level increases whenever it rains.Sometimes it floods into their wooden homes.They have grown to exercise patience and preserve the harsh condition that they are subjected to.

The area is also characterised by inadequate access to safe water, inadequate access to sanitation and other infrastructure, poor structural quality of housing, overcrowding and insecure residential status.To these, one might add the low socio-economic status of its residents.

A lot of the women and girls, who live in these shanties, are more or less jobless without any source of living.As at 11am, a lot of them are still with their towels wrapped around their waists.After verification that this reporter is not a health inspector from the government and has not come to earmark their building for demolition, it boosted their confidence and they thronged out from their abode to have a look of what she came for. They appeared concerned about seeing a strange face coming into their 'special'custody.This is because the area is commonly seen as "breeding ground" for social problems, such as crime, drug addiction, alcoholism and high rates of mental illness, rape and suicide.Likewise, there is high rate of disease due to unsanitary conditions, malnutrition, and lack of basic health care.

With her six-month-old baby held firmly to her arms, Adija Salami, who said she has been living in the shanty for about five years, said she and her children have never witnessed any serious health problems.According to her, that is what her husband could afford."This is what we could afford to live in.If we have money, we would have left this place, but for the past five years, it has been home to us," she said.

Another resident, Abisoye Balogun, attributed her presence in the shanty to the recent or ongoing demolition that is taking place in Badagry."The house where we were living in Badagry was demolished by the Fashola government, so we had no option than to come here to live.We are the real masses, the wretched of the wretched, how can human beings be living here? You may ask, but this is where we found ourselves and I have been living here with my family for the past six months.We are coping," she said.

However, many of these residents are living in fear of being evicted by the Lagos State government from their illegal and unhealthy abode.Though they are aware of the harmful situation of their habitation, t according to many of them, they are helplessly poor people who have no other means of shelter than to live in the shanties.

However, they all have a common plea on their lips.Despite their awareness of the environmental nuisance their abode is, these dwellers seriously pleaded with the government not to evacuate them from their abode.

"Above all, the Fashola government should please leave us like this because if they come here to evacuate us and demolish our buildings, where do they want us to go? They should allow us to be, that is the reason we don't always want strange faces to come here," said Salami.

Without doubt, these people need assistance of both the government and corporate organisations.Several ethnic groups live in Ijora Badia, but their living conditions are so pitiable.Good housing or shelter is nothing to zero level.The filthiness of the environs and Sunday Street especially does not in any way reduce the population of the people.Like clustered bees, the area has a large concentration of people residing in the place.

Quite a lot of what are regarded as houses in Ijora Badia are shanties unfit for human habitation.Other areas within the vicinity that need to be addressed or visited by the Ministry of Works are Ireti Owoseni Road, Giwa Road and Adefisayo Street, among others.

Ijora Badia is under the Apapa Local Government Area.Ordinarily, with the fame of Apapa, it is appalling that there are shanties and awful slums in the area that is part of the nation's treasury base.

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