Monday October 6, 2014 was World Habi
tat Day. As it has become the tradition
of the United Nations since 1985, the first Monday of October every year is used to reflect on the state of cities and towns across the world as it relates to basic rights of all to adequate shelter.
The United Nations also uses the day to celebrate, draw attention to this all important human need as it reminds the world that people have the power and responsibility to shape the future of their cities and towns. The focus this year is on “Voices in the Slum.”
According to the United Nations, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have cut the number of slum dwellers by more than half across the globe, but that within the same period there has been rapid urbanisation with a resultant rise in slum population, especially in developing countries.
Like the United Nations, governments and peoples across the globe should be worried by the voices that come from the slums, but very little is even done to at least, listen to them. According to studies, in some cases as much as 70 per cent of the population lives under slum conditions.
Of course, the cities cannot fully function as one and provide the needed benefits of its elevated status, if it continues to cohabit with an overwhelming slum population. As the cities continue to collect ordour from the slums and expose themselves to the ill-feelings of the slums, the best interest of the population cannot be achieved.
Slums all over the world have the characteristic of poor and inadequate housing; poor sanitary environment and disregard for human dignity. In some cases, slums provide the hiding place for criminals and the training ground for social deviants and violent characters.
In realisation of this ugly situation, the Federal Government undertook a major offensive against persons that did things that tended to deface Abuja the nation’s capital. Of course, whole slum communities and illegal structures, markets and parks were removed.
A similar urban renewal exercise also took place in many States, including Rivers State where illegal structures and some water front settlements were demolished. In some places, streets blocked with buildings were re-opened, while high fences were pulled down.
But the success of those actions is what society is yet to enjoy. In some places, the displaced people simply create new slums because the authorities did not provide a credible alternative. In others, the operation just did not conclude and very little appears to have changed.
The Tide thinks that the authorities need to take advantage of the World Habitat Day to re-visit the accommodation needs of Nigerians across the board. The glaring housing deficit in Nigeria should concern the government just as the dehumanising condition under which a huge percentage of Nigerians live.
In Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, a lot has changed but the city is surrounded by un-healthy water brazing conversion, occupation and defacing of uncompleted public buildings by hoodlums still remains a key challenge.
The over-powering influence of urban slum is best typified by the oddity in the government estates at Orije and Oromenike, all in the high brow D/Line area of Port Harcourt. The peculiarity of this place is that the hoodlums that have turned the place to some den deny some legitimate allottees of the flats to take possession.
The case of persons, even from other states taking up open spaces for trading or residential purposes with impunity has become un-acceptable. But the failure of government Ministries, especially those of Housing and Urban Development to deal with the situation is simply scandalous.
While the inner-city of the once famous Garden City of Port Harcourt hosts the competition between finest houses and the most audacious slums, the fringes of the city are being developed without plan and without the supervision of the authorities.
We think that the issue of slum settlements in some States, including Rivers State should be addressed with all seriousness and sense of purpose. This is moreso because the negative influence from those slums has already started impacting on the health, safety and security of the cities.
As a way of urgently reversing the trend, government should quickly complete all on-going housing programmes and embark on more while ridding estates like the ones in Oromenike, Orije and Oyigbo, etc of hoodlums.
Monday October 6, 2014 was World Habi