Family and Social Change in an African City: A Study of Rehousing in Lagos

Family and Social Change in an African City: A Study of Rehousing in Lagos

Family and Social Change in an African City: A Study of Rehousing in Lagos

Family and Social Change in an African City: A Study of Rehousing in Lagos

Excerpt

Every morning, dense files of cars and bicycles, lorries and buses, edge across Denton Causeway and Carter Bridge into Lagos Island. The office worker from the mainland rises at six to fight his way into an overcrowded bus, which, after an hour's journey, disgorges him ten minutes late with the lame excuse of another go-slow. A street plan which served a town of thirty thousand, travelling on foot, is now overwhelmed by the tenfold crowd of clerks, administrators, shoppers and traders who struggle to their work on wheels. But it is not only for their sake that the centre of Lagos is under pressure to rebuild. With the approach of independence, the people of Nigeria began to look more critically at their Federal capital, and saw in its congested lanes of ramshackle houses a poor reflection of their aspirations. As the Minister of Lagos Affairs remarked, 'it is the mirror through which foreigners make their initial appraisal of Nigeria and many regard it as an index of the progress and prosperity of Nigeria.' The condition of central Lagos, he said, was 'humiliating to any person with a sense of national pride.'

Certainly the visitor who explores the rambling footways behind the department stores and office blocks, will see much that is squalid. He must pick his way amongst rams and chickens rummaging in the garbage, as he seeks a dry foothold beside the open drains. The houses on either side are for the most part of one storey, with here and there a gabled attic thrusting out of the red-brown sheeting of the roof. Inside there may be anything from three to a dozen rooms, or more--some so piled with beds and baggage that there is hardly room to set a chair.

But the visitor will also notice the vitality of these overcrowded lanes. Since quarters are so cramped, families do little but sleep . . .

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