Environment Problems in Makoko, Lagos State

Categories: Water Pollution

Makoko, a slum in Lagos

Lagos State, since its creation in 1967, has grown to be one of the most populous and globalized cities in Africa . The State comprises the metropolitan city of Lagos and the districts of Ikorodu, Epe and Badagry. Unfortunately, the inappropriate allocation of its funds and resources due to poor governance and greed of politicians for riches and power has resulted in dilapidation of its infrastructures; considerable slow growth of its economy; and incalculable sufferings and deprivations of majority of its residents.

Thus, to keep and improve on the history, character and dignity of the State, there is the need to repairs its damages optimum tenacity and patriotism. Obafemi Awolowo, one of Nigeria’s greatest leaders, in a public lecture identified economic problems with the illness of The Republic of Nigeria . Also, he stressed the anguish and calamity that will possibly consume the social and political character of potentially great country if these problems are not resolved.

His proclamation, without doubt is the reality of the Government and Lagosians.\n“It is necessary to bear in mind that inequality of opportunity, in matters of employment, education, health, good food, etc. leads automatically to inequality of political and social status. The most powerful, economically dominant class becomes also the politically dominant class, and thus acquires new means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class. The crucial point, which I want our rulers, planners, and official advisors to bear in mind, is that man is the sole dynamic in nature; and that accordingly, every individual Nigerian constitutes the supreme economic potential which this country possesses.

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It is axiomatic that man can create nothing. But, by an intelligent and purposive application of the exertion of his body and mind, he can exploit natural resources to produce goods and services for immediate consumption and for capital outlay. Therefore, other things being equal, the heathier his body and the more educated his mind, the greater will be his morale and the more efficient and economical he becomes as a producer and consumer”.

Thousands of years ago Plato, one of the world’s greatest minds, identified the willingness for division of labour, food, dwelling and clothing, in that order as the greatest necessity in the creation of a State in The Republic. There is no doubt that a people coexists on economic benefits while political arrangements in the forms of governance and laws help to ensure economic growth, stability, and prosperity. Thus, the origin of any community for that matter remains economy-driven regardless of its location, and that quality of governance determines its growth, stability and the social well-being of the people. Hence, it is crucial to bare this in mind in the creation or repair of a community.


The aboriginal inhabitants of Makoko settled in the area for the economic benefits being derived from the shores of the Lagos Lagoon. This is evident in the character and tradition of its residents. A link exists between the attributes responsible for the community’s growth and its geographical location and this transcends into its architecture and socioeconomic character. Makoko expanded from the swampy shores of the Lagos Lagoon after the arrival of Ramatu Emmanuel (its founder) and the Igu people who were predominantly fishermen and fisherwomen in the late 18th century to cover a large portion of the shallow ends of the Lagoon today. Secluded from globalization for decades of years, the community has been self-sufficient and evolving without the aid of the government but primarily on the fishing and sawmilling activities.

As the community grew, the building pattern of the houses exerted an architectural presence distinctive to Makoko. Perhaps, this could be traced to the swampy nature of its lands; the exploitation of the available building material; the expansion of the region over the lagoon; or the restriction enforced on the construction of permanent structures. The houses are characterised with facades constructed by either bamboo or wooden plank and roofs constructed with either aluminium or thatch. Practically, the growth of the fishing activities in Makoko can be linked to the growth of its landscape. Building congestion increases inwards from the deeper ends of the lagoon to the landed areas to accommodate the movement of harvested fish to the shores for processing and for easy access to potential consumer from other communities across Lagos.\nMakoko faces a couple of challenges such as the lack of basic infrastructural facilities for education, shelter, health, and waste management. In addition, is the constant threat of the effects of climate change, increasing rainfall, and rising sea level. The limitation of Government services places majority of the community’s issue and affairs in the domain of community leader (i.e. Baale of Makoko). Perhaps, this could be linked to the development of the then fish village into a slum. Recently, the locational advantage of Makoko to the growing city of Lagos for high-value redevelopment has come to fore. Both the Government and private investors are becoming more interested in the redevelopment of the community. However, the attempt to evacuate the residences of Makoko in 2013 by the Lagos State authorities led to the destruction of houses, protests, and the fatal shooting of a community chief.


Makoko among many other informal settlements sprang up sporadically because of the urbanization in the city of Lagos. Increased fishing farming business in the slum has transformed Makoko economically into a fish village in the slum. It’s estimated population grew from 51,336 in 1995 to 85,840 and 113,740 in 2002 and 2006, respectively. This development has brought Makoko to limelight and for repositioning for high-value development. Consequently, Government Agencies and Private Investor have in recent time recognized the locational advantage of Makoko for high-value redevelopment for the growing city of Lagos. This perhaps was the reason for the evacuation order served on the residences of Makoko by the Lagos State authorities in 2013. However, the evacuation attempt was resisted by the residences of Makoko in 2013, and the struggle led to the destruction of houses, protests, and the fatal shooting of a community chief (Al Jazeera, 2012).

A vase portion the community lies on wooden stilts driven deep into the waterbed along the polluted shallow ends of the Lagos lagoon. The neighbour faces a number of challenges including the lack of basic infrastructural facilities for education, shelter, health, and waste management. In addition, is the constant threat of the effects of climate change, increasing rainfall, and rising sea level (Riise and Adeyemi, 2015). The limitation of Government services places majority of the community’s issues and affairs in the domain community leader (i.e. Baale of Makoko). Besides the problem of infrastructure deficit in the swampy Makoko, the slum is bedeviled by environmental degradation due to air and water pollution, congested transportation system, population explosion and overcrowding, shortage of portable water, poor drainage, and excessive garbage generation and poor disposal system. The enumerated problems are described as follows.

Air pollution

Woodchips and sawdust, waste generated from the sawmilling industry in Okobaba, a neighbouring community, are disposed by open burning or flaring every 3 to 4 days. The toxic gases released during the burning process are harmful to both the residence and ecosystem. However, Okobaba remain relevant to Makoko as the sawmilling industry provides employment for its residence as well as timber for its built environment.

Water Pollution

The Lagos Lagoon is an overflow of the Atlantic Ocean. Over the years, the Lagos Lagoon has accumulated garbage in its bank from the rise and fall of the Ocean’s tides. Makoko is located on one of the extremely polluted banks. The poor waste management system in Makoko further exacerbates the problem as wastes generated by residence are disposed directly into the Lagoon. The stagnated water is characterised by a blackish colour and unpleasant smell that spreads various diseases in Makoko evident by recorded outbreaks of malaria, cholera and other water borne diseases in the region.

Congested transportation system

The sporadic growth of the community has led to the congestion of the waterways in Makoko. Building congestion increases inwards from the deeper ends of the lagoon to the landed areas of Makoko. Practically, the growth pattern of the building can be linked to the economic activities of the fishermen. Fishes harvested at sea are processed and sold by women in houses and the market at shore for easy access to potential buyers from other communities. Consequently, the demand for housing spaces along the shoreline increased and thus narrowing the waterways towards the shores. In addition commercial boats constantly selling goods along the waterways aggravated traffic congestion in the area. Each household in Makoko owns approximately two canoes that contribute to traffic congestion when deployed for fishing and other commercial activates during the day.

Over crowding

Makoko community is a highly communal society; households know each other and share properties and possessions. A typical household is an overcrowded house. For instance, an average household consists of about 6 people living in a two-bedroom house of approximately 46.45sqm. In such instance a person has 7.74sqm space against the ideal living space of 44sqm (Williams, 2009). In severe cases, the entire household shares a one-bedroom house! This problem is further compounded by the cooking activities carried out in houses without decks. Furthermore, the limitation of spaces between the buildings and the construction techniques employed for the construction of the building limit the possibility of building expansion as the family grows.

Limited access to clean portable water

Makoko is located in a polluted water environment that is unfit for consumption and beyond purification because of their limited resources. Thus, the availability of potable water is limited. Instead, residents have to purchase potable water from local vendors. Ten litres of potable water cost 5 Naira, an equivalent of 1 Pence Sterling. Still, portable water remains a luxurious commodity with the level of hardship faced by the residents. An average person survives on 585 Naira per day, an equivalent of 1.17 Pound Sterling.

 Poor Drainage on land

It appears that the residents’ knowledge of rise and fall of the ocean tides across all seasons hence those living on water rarely experience adverse effects of flooding. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the residents on land. The narrow gutters are constantly clogged with refuse due to poor waste management. In the rainy season, the gutters and landed areas are filled with stagnated waters that bread bacteria that expose the residents to various diseases. However, this can be identified as a problem not just peculiar to Makoko but Lagos city in general.

Excessive garbage and poor circulation

Many of the problems faced by the residents of Makoko today can be traced to the lack of proper waste management. Wastes improperly disposed have accumulated overtime both on land and water leaving majority of the area filthy, reeking, and an inhumane habitation. Even though some individuals collect useful wastes for recycling purpose the site is still plague with filthy sceneries. Although, a couple of pedestrian paths and structures exist across Makoko both on land and water that connects buildings. Unfortunately, most of this paths and structures are poorly constructed and poses great threat as they are prone to collapse anytime.

Fellowship (NGO’s, and Cooperate bodies & concerned citizens)
Write on the development made by any of this good of people in Makoko with illustrations\nMakoko lies along the right axis of one of the most travelled bridges in West Africa (i.e. Third Mainland Bridge). A view from the bridge displays an image of a maze of wooden shacks connected by narrow waterway that spreads along the shallow ends of the Lagos Lagoon. On first glance, one cannot help but fascinate about living on water – of course, not in the horrific and inhumane state before ones eye.
Intimacy (closeness of observation or knowledge of Makoko)
Write on the experience about the place at a particular moment (i.e. Descending from bridge in a jungle called Makoko)
The situation for survival in Makoko is beyond humane, it’s almost a threat to human existence. Miraculously, its inhabitants have survived for decades with little or no access to basic infrastructures. 
Closure (a sense of resolution or conclusion of the entire article)
Write a few notes to conclude along with the quote below
The fundamentals for human survival revolves around locations, surrounding resources, and the determination to live and stay alive no matter the situation. Makoko was created as a result of people acclimatising and adapting to hardship to create opportunities and possibilities as a result of the government’s negligence of its cooperate responsibilities to provides. The eviction of Informal Urban Settlers from a location without provision of an alternative shelter will only lead to the creation of another Informal Urban Settlement. Lagos has its own identity, which transcends from the inner fabric of its constantly bubbling streets, the endless display of energy of its dwellers, and the possibilities of different tribes to coexist.

In Makoko, children are taught to swim before they walk on land. The settlement provides over a third of the aquatic animal protein foods consumed in the city of Lagos. Unfortunately, its activities pose a great deal of benefits and threats to the city and its ecosystem. Improving the conditions that defines Makoko as a slum could be achieved if the humanity and agency of its dwellers are understood. When these earlier settlers arrived the shores of these islands known as Lagos today, they never envisioned a city that would grow up to displace them. The current generation of Lagosians and Government, therefore owe the history of this emerging city a duty to keep what is left of its history, character and dignity.

The remedy for our ignominious failures lies quite clearly in rigorous re-education, unsparing self-discipline, and unselfish patriotism on the part of Nigeria’s leaders. In other words, the present parade of loose and indulgent living, diffuse and desultory thinking, and self-seeking patriotism, which pervade the top-echelons of the country, both in the private and public sectors, must be terminated with the least possible delay. Otherwise we would remain incapable of applying the correct solutions to our acute [problems which would, in consequence, be aggravated to the grave prejudice of all of us”.

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Environment Problems in Makoko, Lagos State. (2021, Oct 31). Retrieved from http://envrexperts.com/free-essays/essay-about-environment-problems-makoko-lagos-state

Environment Problems in Makoko, Lagos State
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