Bringing color to city slums

The sprawling Ijora Badia slum on the outskirts of Nigeria’s bustling commercial hub Lagos has been a challenge to the authorities for years.

Two years back, with the aim of transforming the megacity and encouraging development of prime real estate, the Lagos State government had attempted to demolish and evict Ijora Badia. But peaceful protests by slum-dwellers and calls for a more sustainable approach, led by the Nigeria Slum and Informal Settlement Federation, an organization that advocates for the urban poor in 144 communities across Nigeria, led the authorities to cancel their demolition drive.

The federation raises funds to carry out development projects in the slums, where an estimated 65 percent of the 23 million population of Lagos lives. The Federation is currently building biofil toilets in several informal settlements. The biofil toilets rely on microorganisms to decompose the waste that was previously flushed into the coastal city’s waterways.

Gani Taiwo, a 41-year-old artist and social activist, and volunteer with the Federation is determined to use his talents to improve the settlement’s profile and raise the spirits of its residents. He paints colorful murals on the walls of the new biofil toilets.

“Everywhere is beautiful in as much as you can add a concept to it, not destroying it. So I feel like, okay the biofil toilet is a public toilet, let us make it something good, something cool so that people can even come around. The children around on the street, snap their photographs whenever they are having a birthday party or the kind of ceremonies around, so they can easily use the walls for all this kind of snapping, background all those things. I decided to say okay, let me use a different dimension,” Taiwo said.

Instead of sending us away you can come around, see what the problem is, and try to upgrade. You upgrade the slum, you don’t send the slum people away; you bring about development, the social amenities that are supposed to be there, water, good roads,” said Mr. Taiwo

A Gates Foundation report projected that by 2050 more than 40 percent of world’s extremely poor people will live in just two countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.