Developing Alternatives to Waterfront Evictions in Lagos

by James Tayler



As of 2017, the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation has organized 162 groups in 2 cities. As with most federations in the SDI network, combating evictions is the federation’s key mobilizing force. In the past 5 years, waterfront evictions have escalated owing to land grabs associated with an inflow of finance for luxury coastal development projects. The federation has used a combination of organizing strategies to try to stop the brutal evictions – evictions characterized by the overnight bulldozing of settlements housing tens of thousands, police setting fire to peoples’ homes and belongings, and the firing of live and rubber bullets to drive communities off the land. Federation profiling data on 40 waterfront communities with an estimated combined population of over 300,000 has been essential to informing the #SaveTheWaterfronts campaign to end forced evictions and ensure eviction alternatives are prioritized.


Despite a highly hostile environment, the federation has continued to work to build relationships with government. In the past year, progress has been made with the Lagos State Ministry of Health and the Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA) with whom the federation has signed MOUs and is undertaking pilot projects to demonstrate eviction alternatives and city development that is in line with New Urban Agenda commitments. Peer-to-peer exchanges with other SDI federations and their government partners have been an important contributors to shifting perceptions in some government circles. Collaboration with other civil society actors has also been critical for raising awareness among the Nigerian public that – aside from contravening national and international law – the demolitions of peoples’ homes and livelihoods is neither a strategy for eliminating slums nor a strategy for building secure and prosperous cities.


Much is at stake in these efforts to demonstrate eviction alternatives and show there is another way. Since the absence of services in informal settlements is often used to justify removals, an effective first step in navigating the land tenure continuum can be the extension of these services to informal communities and the setting in motion of processes to upgrade in situ. It is an uphill struggle to say the least. In a city such as Lagos, with some of the most expensive land and housing markets on the continent, the forces against the federation are fierce. Poverty and deepening inequality are acute threats to the resilience of Lagos.

The Nigeria slum dweller federation efforts contribute to improved city resilience by reducing acute human vulnerability resulting from forced eviction, mobilizing cohesive communities, and organizing them to act as engaged citizens. These efforts are geared toward driving proactive multi-stakeholder engagements and building mechanisms for community engagement with government in pursuit of inclusive safety, security, and wellbeing in the megacity.

This post is part of a series of case studies from our 2017 Annual Report titled ‘The Road to Resilience.’ Emerging from the field of ecology,  ‘resilience’  describes the capacity of a system to maintain or recover from disruption or disturbance. Cities are also complex systems and a resilience framework addresses the inter- connectedness of formal and informal city futures. Moreover, it enables a nuanced reflection on the nature of shocks and chronic stressors – recognising that the latter are particularly acute in slum dweller communities and that this critically undermines the entire city’s economic, social, political, and environmental resilience.As with personal resilience, city resilience demands awareness, acknowledgment of reality, and a capacity to move beyond reactivity to responses that are proactive, thoughtful, and beneficial to the whole. The most enlightened individuals and cities will be those that understand their responsibility to the most vulnerable and to the planet. Our 2017 Annual Report showcases some of SDI’s achievements over the past year on the road to resilience. Click here for the full report.