Lagos in Nigeria has one of the highest rates of rural-urban migration in the world and is struggling to manage the poor populations that end up in slums.
In the distance, it appears like a busy market on a railway. But coming closer, the noise intensifies with the sun bursting through the clouds.
A little boy around the age of twelve shouts: “Train! Train!” They remove their market sheds and step further way from the railway and then wait for the train to pass.
“Welcome to Badia Mr. Emmanuel.” Says Solomon Aladetan, an unemployed resident.
It’s a massive slum, built on the poorest of landscape consisting of two regions, Badia East and West. The majority of Lagos’s 17.5 Million inhabitants live in what is effectively one of Africa’s largest slum.
Every choice in this community is defined by the urgent need for survival.
For the people of Badia, life is an unending struggle against the increasing challenges of hunger and poverty. They live in a country which ranks 152 out of 187 on the United Nations Human Development Index and which has one of the world’s highest birth rate.
Overpopulation has long been an issue for Nigeria.
Thousands of people migrate from the countrysides and across Africa into Lagos daily, in search of work. The city’s rising population is putting massive pressure on housing, and the lack of it is the direct result of why places like Badia exists.
“….we had no choice than to stay in Badia”
Afusat Isiaka, Badia west dweller.
Afusat Isiaka, who lives in Badia West, moved from her home state to Lagos for a better life. “I bought a piece of ground with my late husband in 1993.”
“For us to rent a typical apartment was very expensive, and it is still very expensive. So we had no choice than to stay in Badia,” she said.
In recent years, however, with shanties built on illegal grounds, demolition, and forced evictions have become fiercer and more regular at Badia. According to Amnesty International, the State government demolished the homes of almost 10,000 of the slum’s population in February 2013 and September 2015 consecutively with a devastating loss of life and livelihood.
Most of the people in Badia have left. They have moved on to other slums, like Ajegunle and Makoko. But some hard-pressed families are still in Badia today, either sleeping in the remains of their homes or struggling even to find space to lay their beds.
“We have limited access to water, and sewage facility is non-existent. Most of all, some people who were petty traders have lost their businesses. For me, I lost seven small shanties which I had rented to other residents for money.” Jerry Arabamen, Badia East community leader.
Voices from the slum: Badia
Video: Voices from the Slum: Badia
Afusat Isiaka’s home once stood meters away from the railway.
Now she dwells in the ruins of her neighbour’s house prone to floods, with her eleven grandchildren and last son. They face daily struggles of finding as little as ₦500 (£2) to feed.
As a result of the demolition, children become vulnerable. Their stories are deeply rooted in poverty as parents are unable to provide.
Afusat Isiaka’s last son is a 16-year-old; Muheez Isiaka, a Junior Secondary School, drop out, who said he had used the little money meant for his final exam (£6) to start a trade for his family which he describes as “abject poor,” to survive.
Video: Afusat and Muheez Isiaka speaks.
Greed and inequality
The government says “The reason they demolished our homes is because they want to make way for the Home Ownership Mortgage Scheme (HOMS) which will benefit everyone.” said Bimbo Oshobe a 2013 Badia East evictee.
For her, “What they are trying to do is make money, not trying to improve lives of the people.”
Although left with no permanent roof over her head, Bimbo became a volunteer at an organisation, Justice, and Empowerment Initiative (JEI), which advocates for the urban poor like her.
Video: Bimbo Oshobe Speaks.
Bimbo recalled that after the demolition of 2013, many who lost their homes died in the process.
“There is a woman along the railway now, she had triplets, but because there was no care given, all the infants died. She became mentally ill and abandoned on the streets of Badia East by her husband. Her name is Mama Blieme.”
“Sometimes I ask myself, is this another way of the government to reduce the city’s population?” she said.
“Agbajowo Lafisanya” in the Yoruba language means “Together We Unite.” Megan Chapman is the director and co-founder of the organisation JEI, and together with the people of Badia, they “are trying to put right the things that have gone wrong. Always using peaceful means never taking the law into people’s hands.” – Megan Chapman
Megan Chapman said the primary driver of poverty in slums like Badia is greed and inequality, and can only reduce if there is a major change in policy.
Audio: Megan Chapman Speaks.
The measures needed to tackle such poverty would be daunting.
To children like Muheez living in absolute poverty, the prospects of having a better future are very bleak.
Video: Picture slides from the slums of Lagos.