The Makoko slum is located on the 3rd bridge, in the Lagos coastal mainland. It includes six distinct villages: Oko Agbon, Adogbo, Migbewhe, Yanshiwhe, Sogunro and Apollo scattered over land and water. It is the most fascinating slum that lies on the water with a hive of activity throughout the year.
The slum began as a fishing village over a hundred years ago when Benin fishermen settled in the lagoon reclaimed by human debris on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Today, the slum of Makoko is home to more than 100,000 people, most of whom are migrant workers from West African countries trying to make a living in Nigeria. Makoko residents depend mainly on fishing as their main economic activity.
Slum tourism is an important activity in the Makoko slum as tourists are fascinated by the nature of the floating slum. The most fascinating attraction is the floating school that was designed by a team of architects who built it from plastic barrels that have room for classrooms and a playground. They hope the function can be adopted in the construction of barracks for security purposes. Residents are not welcome to visitors because they perceive them primarily as government spies. They are also cynical about photography because they think their photos are sold for profit.
Makoko habitats include immigrants from Benin and Togo who settled in the reclaimed lagoon in the 18th century. The Makoko lagoon was the main supplier of tilapia fish in Lagos and neighboring countries. The lagoon is also surrounded by mangrove forests from which the architecture of the stilt houses in the region originates. Despite the growing population, residents have found the way through which they coexist with their natural habitat even when it poses environmental risks to their existence.
The fascinating thing about the Venice of Africa is life on water. All the Makoko structures rest on wooden piles built in solid wood immersed in the water bed. Every family in Makoko has a canoe that is used for transport around the village. Children learn to paddle canoes as young as 5 years old because it is one of the greatest skills required to survive in the slum. Makoko waterways are a hive of activity as residents move to conduct commercial activities in their canoes, making it the most dynamic slum in Africa.
Makoko’s slum is in itself a threat to human existence due to its crumbling conditions. For decades, residents have not had access to infrastructure ranging from clean drinking water, electricity and waste disposal, which has created serious environmental risks for residents and the surrounding aquatic life. Communal latrines are shared between families and wastewater flows directly into the water in which they live. The oily black water resulting from greater waste disposal over the years no longer supports marine life. The efforts made by the government to eradicate the population in the past years have been futile as it creates a bigger problem of homeless transfer.