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Lagos: Achieving Slum to Neighbourhood without Evictions

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Slum to Neighbourhood

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

Recently, the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA) announced that it would commence the demolition of illegal structures constructed under high tension cables and others.

The demolition exercise is expected to affect owners of structures constructed under power lines, which contravene the state’s Physical Planning Laws.

Significantly, there is no doubt that the present administrations in Lagos State, southwest, Nigeria, have a sincere desire to move the state forward through fair and far-reaching policies that bother particularly in creating an organized and liveable environment for the citizens of the state.

Out of so much evidence, the above move by the Lagos State Building Control Agency (LASBCA), appears newest.

Peripherally, there are also reasons that qualify this development as alluring.

Separate from the awareness that the Lagos State Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law prohibits building under the centre line of overhead electricity cables and should ensure that there should be a reasonable amount of distance between a property and high-tension wire, this opinion piece recognizes that this particular move again narrates the state government’s efforts to engineer sustainable development in ways that protect the present and the rights of the future generations, and most particularly help enthrone organised and liveable environment for the citizens of the state.

However, beyond this applaud, stems some concerns. The global communities, especially development practitioners do not think that what the state government is doing in the name of urban renewal/upgrade/regeneration is the best way of turning Slum to Neighbourhood.

To add context to the discourse, from recent reports by development practitioners, it is obvious that sustainable development and the related notion of sustainability are becoming increasingly important policy objectives for government at different levels as well as in the private sector.

They suggest that there is a growing need to strengthen the conceptual understanding of different notions of sustainability and their implications.

In particular, there is a need to design effective policies that aim to achieve sustainability objectives, and more importantly, to analyse the implications of proposed policies.

From the above flows the ill inherent in the development efforts of Lagos state.

Fundamentally, the state is yet to conceptualise governance as a business that requires a series of objective analyses of implications of proposed policies.

Tragically interesting is the awareness that the state has chronically become reputed for achieving urban-related upgrades, renewal and developmental programmes more from a reactionary perspective and evictions as against being a function of the proactive design of effective policies anchored on international best practices.

This, in the opinion of the piece, partially explains why they lie in wait for citizens to build in unapproved places before moving in with their bulldozers for demolition/eviction.

If not, why is it that the state finds it difficult nipping illegal constructions/unapproved buildings by the bud, but convenient to demolish after construction?

Which one is easier and more cost-effective; taking proactive mechanisms/steps that prevent Lagosians from building in unauthorised places, or deploying the state’s resources to effect demolition of structures built in the full glare of the state government?

Most importantly and strategic, as a government, which one is most noble and dignifying option; being reactive or proactive?

While answer(s) to the above is awaited, there is an urgent need to underline that this act is by no means unique to the present administration in the state.

It may be recalled that demolition/forced eviction gained entrance into the state leadership lexicon in July 1990 when Raji Rasaki, in his capacity as Military Governor of Lagos State and Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) as Military President, for yet to be identified reasons, destroyed Maroko. Over 300,000 people that inhabited Maroko then were reportedly affected.

About nine years after the Maroko experience, democracy came on board. But contrary to that expectation, even the dawn of democracy in May 1999 did not bring a shift in paradigm as successive democratically elected governors beginning with Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu (May 1999 to 2007), Babatunde Raji Fashola (2007 to 2015), Akinwunmi Ambode (2015 to 2019) and presently Mr Babajide Sanwoolu, stuck to the practice.

Broadly speaking, the above sad account is a symbol of governments that are unmindful of or consciously decided to flagrantly ignore the global framework on physical planning of liveable neighbourhood, slum upgrade and urban regeneration.

To buttress this claim, let’s cast a glance at how a similar slum challenge was creatively handled in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, without displacement or eviction of the original occupants.

Instead of removing the favelas, a people initially considered/described as illegal occupants, many of the government’s policies were made to focus more on improving the infrastructure of the people/the area.

The Inter-American Development Bank, for example, funded a $180 million “slum to neighbourhood” project in 1995, which sought to integrate existing favelas into the fabric of the city through infrastructure upgrading and service development. The project involved 253,000 residents in 73 favela neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro.

When a favela was selected, a master plan for upgrades was drafted and community organizations were contacted and asked to provide their input. When the final plan was approved, incentive plans were implemented for hiring construction companies that employed local community workers.

From Brazil to Spain and South Africa, the story and experience is the same.

Comparatively, when one juxtaposes the above accounts as recorded in Brazil, with that of July 1990 Maroko’s experience, there exists a gully of difference.

Essentially, aside from the imperative of drawing useful lessons from Brazil experience, why the above examples are important is that here in Lagos state, each time the government wants to achieve this heinous objective (forced eviction/demolition), they tag the targeted community as a highly populated urban residential area consisting decrepit housing units in a situation of deteriorated or incomplete infrastructures.

At this point, one may be tempted to ask; whose responsibility is it to provide infrastructures, government or the people/residents?

Similarly, under the above excuse, the following Lagos communities have between 2003 and 2015 partly or wholly fallen under the bulldozers of the Lagos State government; Makoko community, Yaba, Ijora East and Ijora Badiya, PURA-NPA Bar Beach, Ikota Housing Estate, Ogudu Ori-Oke, Mosafejo in Oshodi, Agric-Owutu communities, Ajelogo-Mile 12, and some communities along Mile 2 Okokomaiko to mention but a few. A population totalling about 300,000, according to the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Association was affected by this exercise.

To change this narrative, the state must be humble enough to admit that slums/illegal structures/unplanned settlements exist in the state as a result of the government’s inability to provide the needed, monitoring, enforcement and infrastructural needs of such localities.

More importantly, the state must commit to mind the fact that forced eviction is a brazen violation of the right to life, right to a fair hearing, right to dignity of the human person, the right to a private and family life, and the right to property guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and the African Charter of Human and peoples’ Right (Ratification and Enforcement Act 1990).

Most essentially, is that UN Resolution 2004/28, recommends clearance operations only when conservation arrangements and rehabilitation are not feasible, but relocation measures must stand made, governments must ensure that any eviction that is otherwise deemed lawful is carried out in a manner that does not violate any of the human rights of those evicted.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374.

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Money, Society, Development and Economics

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By Nneka Okumazie

For some people, all they will ever become is what money can make them.

For them, the power of everything money can do makes everything about money.

They often measure to money and measure for money. They talk for it and ensure it is what is seen about them.

Many of these people have money above all culture in some of the countries the people there have described as unbearable.

In most of these countries, the same reason government does not work is the same thing outsiders are about, bringing the country to a contiguous halt.

Government is all about who can grab for self and interests, around power, resources and money.

This same reason is why many organized crimes exist and several kinds of harmful practices across the private sector.

Money will never develop any country. Though some continue to say money is what is lacking.

Money will never change anything about anyone because if there are real changes at any point, money may have enhanced it but was never cause.

Things that look like changes that money made does not change; they are just more of how money keeps itself important.

For many things done because there was money to do it, they are many times purposeless. There are also others that should be been important, but because money was more important in that project, it also became purposeless.

If in some developing country, someone lives in a nice apartment or drives a cool vehicle, making that individual seem important, the importance of the individual is to whom, and what purpose does it serve, and for what it serves, what does it change, affect or improve?

The comfort that is lived in many of these places is a false peak.

It keeps them there and there is rarely much else to find meaning for.

Money continues to dictate how to be seen to have it, going around in circles, absent of progress, but ensuring participants are unaware.

Money, for what it can, makes people become a sunset. Money stays important using people as tools to itself.

[Ecclesiastes 6:7, All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.]

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5 Tips for Tackling Imposter Syndrome

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Aisha Pandor CEO SweepSouth Imposter Syndrome

By Aisha Pandor

Imposter syndrome is something that most of us have felt at one time or another. Even if you know you have all the right qualifications and experience to be in a position, it can be all too easy to feel like you don’t belong.

Whether it’s someone dismissing your work or even just casually telling you about something you’ve never heard of as if it’s common knowledge, it can be an incredibly difficult space to climb out of.

Imposter syndrome can be especially insidious among entrepreneurs, who already have to deal with ecstatic highs and crippling lows. In fact, a 2020 study found that 84% of entrepreneurs and small business owners experience imposter syndrome. Many also worry that they’ll be “found out” for their lack of knowledge and ability.

That chimes with my own experiences as an entrepreneur and investor. When Alen (my husband) and I first started SweepSouth back in 2013, I had no experience as an entrepreneur. I’d come from an academic background and everyone at the various startup events and pitching competitions we attended seemed so much calmer and more confident. I couldn’t help wondering what I was doing there and why I’d sacrificed a potentially comfortable life for something I was certain everyone else was doing better at.

While that feeling occasionally rears its head again, I’ve learned a number of strategies over the years to effectively tackle it. Here are five of them.

Remember that your journey is your own

For entrepreneurs especially, imposter syndrome can be fuelled by comparing yourself to others. It can strike when a business that started at the same time as you gets a batch of great write-ups in the press or when they raise a massive funding round. At times like that, it’s important to remember that you’re on your own business journey, no one else’s. By trying to match someone else’s success because it makes you feel inadequate, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Remember, if you’re making progress, you’re doing the right thing. Many of the entrepreneurs who seemed so confident at the early events I went to have seen their businesses not perform as well as they’d hoped. The same is true of those who raised headline-grabbing early funding rounds. If I’d let comparisons to them cause me to waiver from my focus, SweepSouth would be in a very different place today.

Address your weaknesses

Sometimes the feelings associated with imposter syndrome come about because someone brings up a legitimate issue that your business needs to address. It might, for instance, be something that a potential investor brings up. The trick is not to take it as a sign that you don’t belong, but as something fixable that you can address. Every person and every business has weaknesses. That doesn’t mean they don’t belong or shouldn’t exist.

Remember your accomplishments

Write them down if you have to. Chances are you’ve had to overcome a lot of obstacles to get where you are. This is especially important if you don’t look like everyone else in the room. If you’re a woman, for instance, nothing about your male peers’ maleness makes them any more suited to their jobs or running a business.

Have a support network

Remember that stat from the beginning of the article about 84% of entrepreneurs suffering from imposter syndrome? That’s not an indictment on entrepreneurs but an opportunity. By joining a local, regional, or even international entrepreneurs’ organisation, you expose yourself to people who’ve been through the same things as you (including imposter syndrome) and who can guide you through any issues you might face.

Turn it on its head

Finally, remember that real imposters are unlikely to feel imposter syndrome. Being a successful imposter depends on outsized levels of confidence. So, if you’re feeling like an imposter, you can take it as a sign that you’re probably on the right track.

Aisha Pandor is the CEO of SweepSouth

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Reminiscing on the Loss of a Friend, Dreams Deferred, and Bold New Beginnings

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Chris Ihidero loss of a friend

By Chris Ihidero

One evening some eight years ago, my good friend Steve Babaeko walked into a mutual friend’s office looking a little less than his usual uber-confident self.

You won’t find many people who can claim to have seen Steve looking any less than assured: He consistently cuts the picture of a supremely confident man and his achievements are a testament to how that confidence has been well earned. But that evening in 2012, Steve had just put in his resignation as Creative Director of 141 Worldwide, the advertising agency he helped build from scratch and made a market leader. He would have to start all over again and the future held no guarantees. We broke out a bottle of cognac and toasted to new possibilities. As our mutual friend said that evening, “What’s the worst that can happen? You may fail, but at least you would have tried.”

When Amaka Igwe passed on in 2014 just as we were about to launch the TV channel we had been working on for about four years, it soon became clear to me that if I was going to have any shot at realizing the dream we shared, I would have to say goodbye to Amaka Igwe Studios. AIS was my home for eight years. I started out as an apprentice TV director and rose to become Chief Operating Officer. It was the place that built me. On the day I made the decision to leave, I stood in the building we had just furnished for the TV station, gazed at the transmission equipment we had installed and knew I was walking away to start all over again. Walking into a future with no guarantees.

Like Steve that evening, I was a lot less assured.

It’s been seven years since that decision and I have had an incredible run. It hasn’t been a sunset stroll in the park but I’m grateful for my contributions to the TV and film industry in Africa so far. While I worked for different TV networks, wrote, produced, directed and consulted on many film projects (and continue to do so), I started quietly building PinPoint Media. I knew what had to come next. I knew what I wanted to do with my life was to build a content delivery machinery that delivered excellence repeatedly.

In September 2019 we cranked on the content machinery we had been working on for a year and hit the set to deliver the first product off our production line, season one of Man Pikin, a family comedy series. Man Pikin is my nod to Fuji House of Commotion, Nigeria’s longest running and highly popular family comedy series I was privileged to direct for five years.

Man Pikin is the story of a man’s daily struggles with raising his kids after his wife’s passing. We shot 26 episodes for a first season and recently, IROKO TV acquired the rights for broadcast on their ROK Channels, as well as a french version for francophone Africa on NollywoodTV. It premieres on the 12th and 20th of December respectively.

In Q3 2021, we shot season two, another 26 episodes, and that’s not all we’re working on. But for COVID-19 actually, we would have rounded off the first year of our PinPoint Content Fund execution with 104 episodes of TV series in the bag. That target will now be met in 2022, starting with season three of Man Pikin and season one of a new series. Three feature films will also be shot in 2022, and we will also deliver a digital TV channel. Yeah, we have been very busy!

As I watched final edits of the episodes of Man Pikin before shipping off to our distributors in France recently, I reminisced on the loss of a friend and dreams deferred. This propels me forward as I focus on polishing and further knocking our content machinery into shape in order to deliver a five-year plan that culminates in the production of five thousand hours of content yearly from five production centres across Nigeria and Africa.

Scary, right? Well, that was the dream I once shared with an amazing woman and now I must trudge on scared, but confident that we will deliver the reference point for TV/film content excellence, whatever the challenges we will face, because, like the original soundtrack for Man Pikin says “Every day we keep moving forward ooh ooh ooh, ‘cos someday our dreams will come true ooh ohh ooh, man pikin go fall but will stand up ooh oooh ohhhh, for together we are strong and we’ll always have each other, ah ah.”

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