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Lekki’s stinky shanty where poverty screams

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Spectacularly dingy side of Lekki

IKENNA EMEWU

When you hear that Lagos Island is the hub of upscale Lagos, please visit places before you let that sink.

Beyond the flashy streets of Lekki, at least before the rains submerge all of them, there is the poverty and ramshackle underbelly.

Off the broad highway of Victoria Island that leads to Epe, there is a shanty too parlous to describe. The street that leads off the Polystar Electronics Tower to the right of the road before the Lekki 2 roundabout ends at the squalor headquarters ever imagined.

Finding survival

This neighbourhood sits just by the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean and is marked off by a concrete wall.

Behind the high concrete wall, the ocean waves are jubilant and scenic. But before getting there, the stench of dirt that oozes from the terribly poor spot reaches the heavens. It’s so dense that no nose mask can shield you from having your fill.

What an awful spot that even if you a visitor had been famished for days, you can’t accept water served there.

In a battle with poverty

The whole spot is creeping with low-income residents and squatters who engage in all sorts of menial jobs to eke out a living. They sell little wares, most of them edible and drinkable, cigarettes, charcoal for making fire, suya, food etc. Nigeria’s trademark power generators are also their lot. They have so many of them to support their businesses.

Young men also wash cars by the roadside, engage in laundry, taxi motorcycle business, etc. However, these people live and do their business right on top of the refuse they generate that litters every spot.

When contrasted with the affluent neighbourhood, just steps away, it baffles how unequal Nigeria is. Standing tall and imposing like a watchtower at a far end behind the slum is a beautiful 18-story tower of living apartments. That is the extent of contrasts.

This slum is poles away from the Lekki Event Centre for the economically powerful and also on the same location with the Lagos Arbitration Court, with a ring road that takes you on an arc drive by the edge of the rolling ocean waves.

That would no doubt be a breeding ground for sundry heinous deals in the city.

Life is warfare here

The common language is Hausa, a sign of the people that dominate the little slum with okada and the matchbox-sized micro commuter buses everywhere, all painted white, in the Lekki commuter vehicle spec.

Walking around here while on a mission in the upscale adjacent neighbourhood opened one’s eyes to how poor Nigeria is to live with such economic and social imbalance – the topmost and the lowest at the same spot, struggling in the same space.

Abuja has it too

That recalled a similar observation at another upscale Abuja’s Life Camp district, right in the capital city.

In the middle of the beautiful and expensive mansions, most of which are laid out in colourful modern housing estates, there is a spot at the back of the Mbora Garden, close to the Life Camp EFAB Estate gate.

That spot is totally out of Abuja and feels like a thousand miles away from the flashy city.

The buildings in this shanty are made of planks and bamboo stilts covered with torn Dangote Cement bags. These synthetic fibre bags form the walls and roofs of the horrible structures all clustered together.

Abuja’s fair share at the Life Camp district

Taking a walk through there was a dumbfounding discovery of how pervading poverty is in Nigeria even within Abuja.

The kids run around barely clad in very dirty clothing and on barefoot, padding through the dirt-strewn streets. They are everywhere even on school days and hours, a pointer that those kids have no business with attending schools. The uncanny coincidence is that the common language of this place is the same as the slum in Lekki.

The businesses or livelihood of this Life Camp shanty is akin to that at the Lekki slum. The people sit around, mending clothes, riding okada or keke, vending prepared food, alcoholic drinks of all shades, cigarettes etc, with loud music blaring from some shops.

Theirs is a different world from the Abuja you know or hear about. That is where the poverty characteristic of Nigeria is defined. And so bad, all these exist within the big cities of Nigeria.

How painful it is to insist on living in these locations of the city in an effort to find the mirage of good city life rather than remain in the rural areas and have some dignity and peace of mind.

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