Changing the narratives of ‘blighted areas, low-income areas, ghettos and slums’

According to UN-HABITAT, about a third (32%) of the world’s expected population dwell in slums or places characterized as one; a projection that by 2030, about 1.7 billion people will be living in slums in under developed countries. Nigeria has hundreds of slums in the country; this is because at least every state has an average of five slums with Lagos having as much as ten slums such as Makoko, Ajegunle, Bariga, Badia, Mushin, Ebute-metta, Otodo-Gbame etc.

Slums occur throughout practically all the cities of the world, including Lagos, only with few exceptions. Noteworthy is that, all ‘megacities’ in the world have slums. Lagos alone is estimated to have nothing less than 100 slums, with 2 out of every 3 Lagosians living in slums (IRIN 2006). Davis (2006) refers to slums as an ‘area and dwellings predominated by dilapidation, overcrowding, inadequate building management and design systems, poor or lack of ventilation, insufficient sanitation facilities and poor space management, all or some of which constitute hazards to healthy living of the people’. Although what constitutes slums vary according to cities and their idiosyncrasies, a representative slum is described as having the following characteristics:

  • Poor or complete absence of basic infrastructure such as good road, electricity, good water and planned environment, among others.

  • Temporary or poor shelters resulting from poor planning and system of approval, if any.

  • High population density and overcrowding also result from either poor space management or insufficient space for building. In some cases, a room is used for different purposes like cooking, dining, sleeping and even for commercial purposes.

  • High tendency for deviant behaviour such as prostitution, criminal acts, bunkering, illicit sexuality, drug abuse, beggary and juvenile delinquencies, among others.

  • Because of poor integration of slum dwellers into the mainstream urban life, it is believed that resentments, apathy and isolation characterise slum areas.

In other words, slums are often ignored in the urban development process because slum dwellers are seen as an inferior set of people (IRIN 2006).

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