In the city of Lagos, Nigeria, progress promises economic growth and reform. Yet, as the ambitious governor Babatunde Fashola regenerates the city, progress also threatens to destabilize the 70% of residents in poverty.

Future plans range from building more than 1,000 additional housing units to constructing a light-rail network across the city. In the financial district, a Porsche dealership recently opened.

Yet, the growing homeless population contrasts with this economic expansion. In its quest for a Lagos “that glitters,” the government forced an estimated 10,000 from the Badia East slum. While men, women and children search through the rubble for any salvageable remnants, most residents feel shocked at the loss, but others direct anger at the governor.

“This is the home I am staying in before Fashola demolished it,” asserts 28-year-old John Momoh.

Badia East continues a 15-year trend, according to activists. In the summer of 2012, the government dispatched machete-carrying men to remove about 30,000 residents of the Makoko neighborhood. Residents report receiving a 20-minute warning before the government backhoes arrived.

The regeneration of slums promises economic growth, but limited protection for those in poverty. As the New York Times notes, “the government had destroyed their present…without making any provision for their future.”

Badia East collapsed a year ago. Today, though, Lagos progresses with plans to benefit every resident.

With more than 21 million residents, this Nigerian city generates an estimated 10,000 metric tons of waste per day. The National Population Commission projects a 3% to 6% annual growth rate. As population rises, the government invests in a more efficient management of waste to provide housing and electricity to its residents.

A severe shortage in electricity led to a reliance on diesel generators, which pollute the air and threaten the health of low-income residents. Those in poverty often live in the more polluted districts and cannot afford healthcare to combat potential health complications.

There is progress, however. A pilot program converts the waste into methane gas, providing the much-needed electricity. At the Olusosun waste site, pipes plunge vertically into the ground to collect the gas.

One day, these pipes will fire boilers to generate electricity, reports Abimbola Jijoho-Ogun of the Lagos State Waste Management Authority. Though not a new innovation, this policy reflects an understanding of the environment. With more than 45% of its waste organic, the city can use this high moisture to provide for its residents.

As chief executive of the waste management program, Ola Oresanya highlights the benefits of this program. It converts “waste to energy, which is in demand, and over time might also be viable as job creation.”

The recycling program offers this solution to unemployment in Lagos. Referred to as “resource providers” by the city, 500 men and women search through the waste and collect items to sell.

“We go through the scraps and look for shoes, iron, plastic, which we sort and sell it to companies,” Samuel Jatel reports.

Jatel, 29, provides for his wife and 3-year-old child as a resource provider. In four years, he can earn about 5,000 naira (roughly $30) per day.

Yet, thousands remain homeless.

Though the city employed residents in its waste management reform, it has not released plans for building new housing units. Those forcibly removed from their neighborhoods cannot afford to return. The Social and Economic Rights Action Center reports Badia residents earn less than $100 a month, adding “there’s not a chance they can afford it.”

Employing these residents in the construction of the new houses. Labor and payment program offers security to those who lost their homes at the hand of progress.

– Ellery Spahr

Sources: Associated Press, New York Times
Photo: Nadim Chidiac