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Life On The Murky Waters: Daily Mail UK’s Report on Makoko Slum in Lagos Reveals the Harsh Reality faced by Thousands of Nigerian Families



When the American rapper, Rick Ross, released the video of his Nigerian version of ‘Hold Me Back’, it elicited a range of reactions from Nigerians. The video showed in a very graphic way, the harsh reality of the pain and struggles of life in Lagos slums. Many people got angry with the rapper for portraying Nigeria to the world in such an insensitive way, saying it would give foreigners a wrong impression about our country.

Hold that thought about Rick Ross and his video for a second, let’s look at the reality for a minute.

I felt totally heartbroken to read the Daily Mail UK feature on Makoko slums. The article titled “The floating slum on stilts: Staggering pictures of the families who fight for survival on a sea of festering filth” also had pictures that showed the harsh living conditions families at the Makoko slum are faced with.

Growing up in shacks built on murky water in the midst of filth; men, women and children struggle through life each day.

Their canoes drift on the water as piles of rubbish float outside their shacks.
Shabby shacks on stilts, floating waste and rickety boats fill the expanse of murky water.
But for the thousands of poor people forced to live in Nigeria’s infamous Makoko slum in Lagos, this is their home.
Every day life for the many fishermen and their families revolves around paddling and rowing through the filthy, oily water in the slum – but this does not stop the young children from beaming when they see a camera.

In July, the Lagos state government began demolishing some parts of Makoko slum. A letter was served on residents giving them 72 hours to vacate their properties. The letter from the Lagos state authorities said the illegal constructions constituted an “environmental nuisance, security risk and an impediment to the economic and gainful utilisation of the waterfront” and undermined the “megacity status” of Lagos.

“Notice is hereby given to you to vacate and remove all illegal developments along the Makoko/Iwaya Waterfront within 72 hours,” said the letter from the Lagos state ministry of waterfront, infrastructure and development.

Several residents then, told the BBC they did not know where they and their families would sleep.

Makoko is one of Nigeria’s best known slums. Many residents are fishermen and some have migrated from neighbouring Togo and Benin.

The settlement is home to thousands of Nigerians. Although some houses were actually demolished in July, there are people who live there. The slum is clearly visible to traffic speeding past on the city’s Third Mainland Bridge each day.

In a bid to improve the lives of the youngsters who live in Makoko, a group led by Kunle Adeyemi hopes to build a three-story school capable of holding 100 students and teachers in the iconic slum.

San Fransisco Chronicle reports that  the school project, which has received notice from international groups, will cost about $6,250 to complete int he slum.

It would be recalled that  in 2010, the BBC did a film titled Welcome to Lagos, which angered the Nigerian government. The film makers were accused of showing Nigeria in a negative light. But despite the anger, nothing has been done to improve the lives of people living in the slum or provide alternative accommodation for them.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the international media continues to portray Nigeria in a “negative light”. If we desire better representation, we should work on it.

Photo Credit: Daily Mail UK

Adeola Adeyemo is a graduate of Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from University of Lagos. However, her passion is writing and she worked as a reporter with NEXT Newspaper. She believes that anything can be written about; anything can be a story depending on the angle it is seen from and the writer's imagination. When she is not writing news or feature articles, she slips into her fantasies and creates interesting fiction pieces. She blogs at


  1. Ginika

    September 28, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    OMG… and Senate is asking for an increase in their allowance, for what exactly? for their brilliant and excellent work? or because life is just sooo hard they need a raise? When we have this happening live and direct in Nig.

  2. Buki

    September 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    senate and even ordinary nigerian, present company included….once it doesnt concern us directly we ignore it. we are more interested in all the nollywood trash parties shown here, with musicians spending on cars and women. yet, around them are rotten and decay. what is there to be blinging around about. but its not our problems right? And were upset Rick Ross is making money off the misery…we gave him permission.

    • Purpleicious Babe

      September 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm

      u explained it well. the entertainment is the industry thriving at the moment (am sure others are but not popular).. whilst the average Nigerian of today are struggling impeccably….. so the govt… dont get me started.

  3. omolara

    September 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm


  4. adenike

    September 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    This is gangster!!! Makoko is something else. But I’ve read a couple of write-ups from people who have visited the place and all – and there’s a recurring line; the residents can’t seem to live elsewhere. And that,is a huge problem also.
    If truly the Lagos state government wrote that sort of eviction letter to the residents, then this government is tactless and insensitive. You don’t write such a letter without backup plans for the displaced residents. And also, they were given 72hrs to vacate their properties? We sure have clowns in government.
    They’ve known Makoko all their lives – we shouldn’t forget that.

  5. klaw

    September 28, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    lagos murky waters looks so black??wonder if lagos doesnt v crude oil deposits somewhere???anyways i c sickness and slavitude displayed in this pics…lagos state govt i hope has provided alternative houses for the indigenes b4 displacing them. @ginika… its sad d senators dat their total hours in ayear isnt up 2 14*26= 364hours..i sincerely doubt cuz plennary how many hours..tues/thurs den dey go on recess and all sorts of holidays…we d nigerian people should actually recall them since the money is 2 small or better still reduce the representative numbers or dissolve the senate or house…1house is gud enof dey r just repeating each others job functions. suffering and smiling….(fela) 9ce 2 c d kids from d area v teeth n can smile perhaps even better dan dose with slver spoons and drapes…..

  6. Olu

    September 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I’m waiting to see how many comments will show up here..compared to the hundreds of comments on wedding glam articles.

    • ij

      September 28, 2012 at 3:47 pm

      OH PLEASE, maybe people are TIRED of commenting on the same old problems this is not the first time this issue will be regurgitated as news , a whole documentary was made out out of it and it aired on BBC

    • Olu

      September 28, 2012 at 6:24 pm

      Oh…so it’s OK for these issues to be swept under the carpet because we are not directly affected? We need to keep talking about it until there is postive change. The more comments, the more the awareness and hopefully it will get to the people who can actually effect the change.

  7. Pamela

    September 28, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    This has been shown several times on TV, so those hungry and selfish politicians can not say they have never seen it. It is so sad that the foreign media always has to bring to our notice things like this. If you watch the local media of other countries, they will report all the bad stuff that goes on in their countries, but in Nigeria, they prefer to sugar coat their stories and leave many in ignorance. After reading the story about the senators wanting an increase, I ask myself, what do they want to do with the extra money, because they all already live BIG with all the money they are making by being senators. If teachers, doctors, civil servants etc cry for salary increase, they will not even bother discussing that. It is just absurd and extremely sad

  8. YeahIsaidit-And?

    September 28, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    this is why nigerians disgust me when they flaunt all their material wealth. Look how fcked up nigeria is . When God blesses you with money, no that its not all about you. Its about helping other people.

    And so to the local champion celebrities always flaunting your wealth, you disgust me. All the cars, the houses, the shoes, the bags, the brazilian weaves dont mean shyt to me, if there r ppl in your nation suffering like this.

    Opps ma bad, i bet you are saying its not my responsibility. Well Good for you. It is no ones responsibility in the nation of Nigeria. Selfish $#*&##

  9. Poju Wale

    September 28, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    What else can i say than to ask: what will it take the Lagos State Government to better the lots of these people living here in Makoko? Absolutely nothing! And honestly, i tell you the government is not ready to do anything for them, but instead they keep sending their children abroad to squander their loots and spend the rest on young girls and mistresses they fly to Dubai hotels every now and then! God help the people of Makoko! I really weep for them seeing the squalor in which they live!

  10. Hadassah

    September 28, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    This is so sad. Our leaders are plain selfish. The Lagos State government should make an alternative arrange for this people. Since they are (the govt) not happy with the kind of structures that these guys have built, they can help build better structures that would indeed help beautify Lagos. Building a school for them is a step in the right direction. At least these children would have the chance to lead better lives than the one they were introduced to.

  11. MissShayee

    September 28, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    It’s dicey really……It’s sad that there are many issues that Nigeria has to deal with. While it is NOT safe for those people to live under these dangerous and unhealthy conditions,the government should make provision for their eviction. The govt can’t just tell them to up and leave. For instance, months before they are sent notice of eviction,temporary shelter can be built to accommodate them so that after evacuation,the evictees can plan their next move. Secondly,while they are in temp shelters,the govt can find out those who are aliens( not Nigerians ),and contact their country’s government to come get their countrymen. It’s a fine idea for Lagos State govt to want Lagos to be a real city in the real sense of the word,but there has to be a balance,back up plans to cushion the effects of the decisions the state makes.

    On the matter of our ‘law makers’ asking for an increase in their allowances,i think they should all be impeached and removed from office. But,that is sentimental of me. What i think should be done is to have our constitution re-written. It’s full of many flaws;that’s why law makers can do whatever they want. Our laws are weak and shoddy,and even the good laws are unenforceable because we are a generally rebellious people…..Ok, next comment!

    • tk

      September 28, 2012 at 4:05 pm

      These people have always been there! They have their existence there! Same thing was done to Maroko and what happened after then? The place was sandfilled and shared amongst these politicians!! Same thing I foresee happening here!
      You can’t just tell them to up and go even if you are providing a better place for them!(which I know they will never do) Sensitize them on the need for them to leave! A policeman even killed one of their heads during the july-Aug demolition and i’m sure nothing was done! Why do you want them to leave? That’s the main question the LASG needs to ask themselves!
      Everyone keeps praising Fashola but Lagos is not just VI and Lekki! This is a part of Lagos too! There are places in Brazil where people live like this and it’s not this bad! My belief is LASG can make this place more habitable for these people rather than demolishing! My God! their Children take canoe rides just to attend schools! I know some1 who has his hospital there and most of these people visit but they cannot afford to pay! They beg just to get treatments! What is our government doing about this! Just 6,000 something dollars just to build them a school! My heart is heavy! Please anyone that knows the link to donate please paste here!
      For people always saying EKO O NI BAJE O, now you see!!
      Eagerly expecting the link to donate!!

  12. BrownSugah

    September 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Life on the murky wates, a daily struggle! It can’t be a joke living here? The good thing is that the children are still smiling even in the midst of so little! Imagine what they are exposed to on a day to day basis. All of life’s harsh conditions! Truly “Suffering and Smiling”

  13. Nnenna

    September 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Instead of a fashion show where people come and strut their tuff. Madam Bakassi, can wear her jeans, get the actresses to put on their boots and help this people. Buy a land and build homes. Even if it is 200 people that she relocates she would have done well. There is money in Nigeria, but we like fancy charity things. If we mean business lets stop this window dressing and get cracking. That is what we do in my village every year. We come home with doctors and they treat as many people as possible. We give them food. We build homes and yet, we are not even rich to say the least. Nigeria frustrates me honest!

  14. damsel

    September 28, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I totally agreed with u @MissShayee.

  15. lilz

    September 28, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    i keep saying for a city like Lagos there should be a home for the homeless..if these people had better places to stay they wont be here..who doesn’t like a level of comfort???? they say it is one of the most expensive cities yet u see people living in abject poverty..people living under the bridge and they all line up by canals bathing and pooping..i see these every morning and it just saddens me..
    theres alot to be done…you see able bodied mothers carrying suckling babes and begging on the streets..that cant happen in other countries those children would be taken from them…and then there was one that actually made me cry..i saw an old man..old enough to be my grand dad, he could nt even stand straight and he was selling plastic buckets and parkers i felt so terrible cos all i could do was imagine if he was my dad…
    its not enough to come here to make your own little way what have u done?????

    • lilz

      September 28, 2012 at 3:50 pm


  16. Gorgeous

    September 28, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Abegi, their original settlers are Ilaje people and it is a way of life for them. They culturally and have culturally lived on water. Just like the fulani are normads. No one should attribute this to poverty. They are water dwellers. The thing is just like running around with cattle, some cultural things are no longer feasible. So they need to put money together, buy land and resettle. The LASG does not owe them shishi. It was illegal to do this in Lagos anyway. Do we argue that the LASG should resettle or compensate any one that erects an illegal structure? LOL. BBC guys are jokers with their lack of knowledge.

    • Lioness

      September 28, 2012 at 8:36 pm

      You have not been there that’s why you make such statements. That place is highly polluted, I should know because it is one of my sampling points for pollution monitoring. What that place and other places like it (Sabonkoji etc) need is government presence in the form of basic amenities and training on environmental sanitation. Thumbs up to the NGO working there.

  17. missA

    September 28, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Too many reports have been done on this same makoko, if Nigerians were going to care, they would have since, obviously they dont hence why we read the reports/watch the videos and move on. if we were going to do something about their lot in life, we would have since. all these ones that once a report comes out, people start acting shocked like they never saw poverty before is pretty condescending to the people of makoko.

  18. Ugo

    September 28, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    I am so tired of reading comments on these articles where people are so quick to throw blame on celebrities, rich people, politicians, what have you. It’s as if there’s never been any change started by regular people who were not super-rich, politicians or celebrities whereas history shows that’s exactly where real, sustainable change has ever come from (check Mandela, Saro Wiwa, Gandhi etc…). Without a willingness to actually personally engage with the problem to start to make a difference, it’s completely useless & boring to start talking about how useless and ineffective everyone else is without any personal resolution for activity. These sort of articles are only worthwhile if we allow it to change our own individual priorities, not as a starting point for the same blame-game about how everyone else is insensitive and at fault for the current state of affairs.

  19. faith

    September 28, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    If we desire better representation, we should work on it.

  20. Le Dynamique Professeur

    September 28, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    When you see reports like this with detailed pictorial evidence of the day to day lifestyle of some people in Nigeria, you will have no strength to fight no matter how patriotic you are. It would be foolishness to fight really because these places exist and with the kind of Government we have in Nigeria, they don’t look like they will be phased out anytime soon. When I see pictures like these, I wonder and ask myself, does the Nigerian government care for the health and safety of its citizens at all?

    – LDP |

  21. Ngozi

    September 28, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    As much as it is easy for every one to jump on the bandwagon of ‘TAKE DOWN THE SLUMS’ we need to think about where these people will be placed. Truth is the Nigerian Government has failed the poorest of the poor, the destitute. Whats worse is the way in which every one seems to be hailing Fashola when people live like this in this day and age! A proper scheme must be set up to allow these people to be placed in proper homes and live in humane conditions. Nigeria is too endowed for people to live like this, haba! Even if Makoko is to become Africa’s Venice, lets do it up well, at least that way we can have our own little way of pulling in revenue through such a ‘by his grace refurbished’ Makoko. I did see the bit on Makoko in welcome to Lagos and these people are truly innovative, we need proper development o Goodluck, Fashola and crew abegi!

  22. iamfascinating

    September 28, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    its amazing how the rich despise the poor, “leave or you would be evacuated!, you are a nuisance to the Mega city plan!”. that’s all the Lagos government saw as a problem in Makoko.

  23. NNENNE

    September 29, 2012 at 3:12 am

    Am on your side Ugo. It looks as if Nollywood or rich people should be punished for these people’s misfortune.
    The truth is that everyone has a role to play, including the people of makoko.
    Nigerian problem is complex. How many public housing are you going to build for the poor in Nigeria? How many are they? How many of them are Nigerians? Is there a national identity?
    How many Nigerians really pay their taxes as they earn?
    Do some of these “poor” people in Nigeria have lands, ancestoral homes somewhere, while living in these places in the city? Can they possibly look for alternative livelihood in the villages if they cannot make it in the city. Can people begin to have as much kids as they can really care for? Can polygamy stop? When a man marries 4wives and tons of children, he has put poverty on himself and I have no pity on him.
    Our leaders must do their part… With our support, of course!

  24. may

    September 29, 2012 at 7:06 am

    Let’s put sentiments aside, I am happy that the international media is bringing this to light. Maybe, after this embarrassment, the government will step up and do something positive for this people. One senators aNnual salary wil provide a lot for all these people. It is a shame on Nigeria and a shame on Lagos especially! Nigeria is our mother, the citizens are her children. The government should realise that they are there to SERVE its people. If U can’t provide homes, then build homeless shelters. Nigeria is not really a capitalist country cos the government controls almost everything. Some People say government shiuldnt do everything, agreed, but the first priority of any government should be the welfare and security of its people. Without Nigerians, there will be no Nigeria. Are the upper and middle class more important than this people? Obviously not! Its the lower class that drives the economy of this *@’k+*# nation! Honestly, I am ashamed of this country.most Nigerians are a very enterprising and jolly lot. But our government lacks consience. They continue to loot and pillage her! Its so sad and it makes me soooooo angry! Honestly I’ve lost hope for this once great nation.

  25. i no send

    September 29, 2012 at 10:25 am

    every one so far has made valid comments so what is the way forward? will we after all this eloquent comments go to bed or attend the next “celebrity” bash? forgetting all about this post

  26. xoxo

    September 29, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Beautiful pictures. This looks like the Venice of Nigeria

  27. xoxo

    September 29, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    I see potential here. This is where Nigeria needs to form a Kayaking team, train them and make ’em compete in the Olympics

  28. NNENNE

    September 30, 2012 at 2:52 am

    We will start with having a rule of law. We will clean our immediate environment and not liter.Our government of at least dispose of refuse properly. We will pay our taxes accordingly, so that there will be money for the government to work. There will be accountability. Our unemployed youth will see dignity in labor and start businesses and/ jobs that put food on their tables without being too choosy.(I have cousins who do).
    Our government should develop a national ID for every Nigerian because that I the basic step to nation building.

  29. NNENNE

    September 30, 2012 at 2:54 am

    “that is the step to nation building.”

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