Author (s): Oluwafemi Olajide, Muyiwa Agunbiade and Hakeem Bishi
Affiliated Institution: Journal of Urban Management
Type of Publication: Article
Date of Publication: 2018
Many of the sub-Saharan African major cities are rapidly going through a process of urban restructuring and physical transformation in their struggles to be integrated into the global economic system. Various assumptions, which described Africa as ‘rising’, the second fastest-growing region in the world and ‘last frontier of development’ are propelling many of the African governments to strategically position their major cities to take the advantage through the process of series of physical urban transformations, an idea which Goldman (2011), based on the experience of Bangalore, referred to as ‘speculative urbanism’.
Lagos, just like many other sub-Saharan Africa’s large cities, is cut in the struggles of managing population growth, urban development challenges and quest for urban modernity. Over the years, Lagos has witnessed urban growth, relating to its physical configuration, population and socioeconomic composition of its population. Lagos witnessed unprecedented population growth and largely unplanned urban expansion, from its original lagoon setting to encompass a vast expanse of mostly low-rise developments, including as many as 200 different slums ranging in size from clusters of shacks underneath highways to entire districts. By this, the majority of the population live in informal settlements and make their daily living through informal economic activities.
Rapid population growth and urban expansion exert heavy burden on urban facilities. The provision of housing, serviced land, infrastructure and urban services and livelihood opportunities have not kept pace with the population growth. Poverty, proliferation of informal settlements, overcrowding, and inadequate physical and social infrastructure are the most enduring spatial and socioeconomic manifestations and consequences of urbanisation in Lagos.
To address these challenges, in recent time, the state government embarked on the implementation of a series of what it calls ‘transformation urban development policies and projects.’ The vision of this transformation agenda is to make Lagos State ‘an African model megacity’ and a global economic and financial hub that is safe, secure, functional and productive, while the policy thrust is to achieving poverty alleviation and sustainable development through infrastructure renewal and urban development policies and projects.
However, with the majority of its population living in informal settlements and making their daily livelihoods through informality, in practice, the ongoing quest for urban modernity seems inconsistent with the livelihood realities of the majority. This paper, drawing on series of examples, argues that the Lagos megacity development aspiration contradicts complex livelihoods realities of the urban poor. Against this background, this paper examines the contradiction between the quest for urban transformation and livelihood realities of the majority who evidently rely on informality.
Urban Development and the Livelihood of the Urban Poor
Urban planning has a central role in achieving sustainable urban development. In the real sense, urban planning is about creating places that are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable, and that provide sufficient land for housing in appropriate locations, connected to the facilities people need to live (UN-HABITAT, 2012). The purpose of urban development is to improve the quality of life and standard of living of the urban residents by ensuring a balance between environmental quality, economic opportunity and social well-being.
Urban development can only be sustainable if people, particularly the poor, have adequate access to means of livelihoods. Institutions, particularly government has a major role in achieving these objectives. The Lagos State government seems to understand the whole essence of urban planning and development, at least in theory.
Rapid population growth and urban expansion exert heavy burden on urban facilities. The provision of housing, serviced land, infrastructure and urban services and livelihood opportunities have not kept pace with the population growth
This is well captured in the statement of the Lagos State Governor during a lecture he delivered at the London School of Economics on 19th November 2010: “Lagos will ultimately be a city where life is sustainable, where the expectations of those who live there and those who come to do business there can be realised in a safe and orderly manner. Where everybody irrespective of his status would find a place, that is the city we dream of.” This paper, however, argues that in practice, the actions and inactions of the state government contradict the whole essence of sustainable urban planning and development, but seem like deliberate attempts to punish the poor.
Methodological, Analytical and Theoretical Framework
The materials presented in this paper are based on data from a research project which seeks to understand the complexity of factors which influence the livelihoods of the urban poor in Lagos’ informal settlements, through the lens of Sustainable Livelihood Framework. The Sustainable Livelihoods Approach presents a theoretical and analytical framework for understanding livelihoods assets and vulnerability context as well as Policies, Institutions and Processes (PIPs) (sometimes refers to Transforming Structures and Processes) (DFID, 1999) that mediate both assets and vulnerability of the urban poor.
Research Results and Discussion
Urban planning and development policy frameworks and livelihoods of the urban poor
Urban planning and development regulatory frameworks in many developing countries are inconsistent with the socio-economic realities of the majority.
Imposition of inappropriate regulatory frameworks often results in lack of respect, by the majority, for the official regulations. The case of Lagos clearly reflects this, as development of the majority of urban housing occurs outside the official regulations. The existing planning and land administration procedures are inappropriate for the urban poor to get their buildings approved. For example, legal title document (Certificate of Occupancy or Governor’s Consent) is a prerequisite for building plan approval. However, informal settlements dwellers lack any of such documents. In addition, the stipulated conditions and the associated cost of meeting such conditions are out of the reach of the urban poor.
Lagos will ultimately be a city where life is sustainable, where the expectations of those who live there and those who come to do business there can be realised in a safe and orderly manner. Where everybody irrespective of his status would find a place, that is the city we dream of
Combined influence of the current land policy, and planning and building regulations perpetuate informality of the urban poor settlements. From both legal and planning perspectives, the settlements remain perpetually illegal and informal to the policymakers.
One of the key informants, an assistant director in the Lagos State Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development stated: “As far as we are concerned, people living in those settlements you are talking about are living there illegally. They do not have Certificate of Occupancy or governor’s consent to live there […] Even, common building plan approval, they do not have. We are professionally responsible for achieving harmonious physical development in the state…”.
The traffic regulation: ban of motorcycles as means of public transport in Lagos
On the 1st of September 2012, the Lagos State government signed into law a bill to provide for road traffic administration and make provision for road traffic and vehicle inspection in Lagos State (new traffic law), as part of its efforts to address transportation challenges in the state. Various reasons have been put forward for the promulgation of the new traffic Law. These include security, safety, environmental and economic reasons.
One of the major provisions of this law is the prohibition of motorcycle (okada) as a means of transportation (both commercial and private) on some specific roads. The law in Section 3 (1), which deals with the control of motorcycle and tricycle, states: “No person shall ride, drive or propel a cart, wheelbarrow, motorcycle or tricycle on any of the routes specified in Schedule II to this Law.” The Law also went further to ban commercial motorcyclists from Ikoyi, Victoria Island and Lekki.
Though the Law covers a wide range of traffic issues, the particular provision which bans okada was received with mixed feelings by the populace. On the one hand, a section of the society sees it as a welcome development that has been long overdue. On the other hand, another section of the society sees it as counterproductive and unrealistic provision, which does not take into consideration the economic realities of the majority, and transportation and mobility challenges of Lagos’ residents.
As far as we are concerned, people living in those settlements you are talking about are living there illegally. They do not have Certificate of Occupancy or governor’s consent to live there […] Even, common building plan approval, they do not have. We are professionally responsible for achieving harmonious physical development in the state…
This provision generated a lot of controversies and protests among the operators and the users. This is against the backdrop of the economic importance of commercial motorcycles. Commercial motorcycles provide means of livelihood for a large number of people in Lagos. Before the enactment of the law, the court had ruled that the proposed ban and restriction of the operations of the okada riders in Lagos by the state government constitute a violation of human rights, including freedom of movement and access to adequate means of livelihoods. Despite the ruling of the court in favour of the motorcyclists coupled with the fact that government is obliged to providing individuals with access to adequate means of living, the Lagos State government still went ahead to enact such law.
The Environmental law and environmental taskforce – hawking and street trading prohibited
The importance of informal sector to the livelihoods of the urban poor in Lagos is evident, as shown in Fig. 7. Street trading and hawking are forms of informal employment which are common in Lagos.
In recent times, the activities of street traders and hawkers have come under serious criticism from the Lagos State government. They have been accused of abusing the environment, which constitutes an environmental nuisance. Also, street traders and hawkers have been accused of engaging in criminal activities, such as robbery.
One of the major provisions of this law is the prohibition of motorcycle (okada) as a means of transportation (both commercial and private) on some specific roads
The Lagos State Commissioner for Environment, as posted on the Lagos State website on 28 November 2011, stated: “It will not be business as usual for street traders in Lagos State as the state government will commence a state-wide enforcement of the ban on street trading and other environmental sanitation offences along major highway and other roads in the state […] Our government will not sit by and allow our earned gains of the last four years to be eroded by unscrupulous elements with bad environmental habits.”
Though, the enforcement is erratic, as people still violate the law, its effects on the livelihoods of the actors (street traders and hawkers) cannot be denied, as exemplified by the responses of two different respondents in Sari-Iganmu and Oko-Baba respectively: “They (police and Kick Against Indiscipline brigades) come at will to scatter and take away our markets (goods). Many a times, they collect money from us so that we will not be arrested, while they still destroy our goods”
The future of the urban poor in Lagos continues to be blurred and remain uncertain, as urban planning and development regulatory frameworks and policies, across the state, are evicting them from their homes and where they make their daily living. Solutions to contemporary megacity aspiration of Lagos require different types of approaches and not the current ones that seek to run the poor out of the city. Informality and the urban poor are not the problem; rather it is an approach of intervention. Unarguably, the current urban planning and development policies must be modified to accommodate the complex realities of the majority and allow them to build on their strengths and use their assets productively.
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