Lagos is a paradox in many aspects. It is the state with the smallest landmass in the country, yet it has the highest population. Over the years, its growth has been phenomenal, both demographically and spatially.

From a population of about 25,000 in 1866, Lagos reached 665,000 by 1963. It became over 10 million in 1995, thus attaining the status of a mega-city by the United Nations’ (UN) definition. The state is currently estimated to be the fifth largest city in the world.

At a growth rate of about 11 percent per annum, three times that of the entire country, Lagos is without doubt Nigeria’s most populous city.

The state occupies about 3,577km2 with about 787km2 (22 percent) covered by lagoons and water bodies. With a population of over 22 million people, Lagos is today categorized as the world’s fastest growing city.

With a projected population of about 30 million, according to the United Nations’ conjecture, the city-state is likely to be the third most populated city in the world by 2030.

The state’s exponential growth has serious implications on its urban space, resulting in several challenges of abuse and misuse.

This has manifested in the form of the deterioration of the quality of life, pressure on basic facilities, prevalence of urban poverty, rise of slums, unemployment and flash flooding, among others.

To compound its geographical lopsidedness, almost half of Lagos’ limited landmass is covered with water, which makes land a very scarce and highly coveted commodity.

Its huge population and limited landmass have brought a huge pressure on the state, as its sheer human population puts serious pressure on its infrastructure. For instance, the number of articulated vehicles that ply Lagos roads on a daily basis is more than those that ply roads across the country in a month.

This is aside from the number of pupils and students from other states that attend Lagos public schools in addition to patients that visit its hospitals on a regular basis. Consequently, the state spends more on infrastructural upgrading and provision of other basic life necessities than any state in the country.

Aside from the pressure on infrastructure, the growing Lagos population equally complicates urban development. In an attempt to live in Lagos at all cost, in view of its several fascinating offers, many people flagrantly flout building codes to live in disorganized settlements that make nonsense of the state’s urban planning. Before long, most of these settlements become slums that constitute serious socio-economic threats to the state.

This, of course, is where urban renewal comes in. Gleefully, the state has an agency that was specifically established to address urban renewal issues in the state.

The history and evolution of the Lagos State Urban Renewal Agency (LASURA) can be traced to the creation of Lagos Executive Development Board (LEDB). It was the first Town Planning Authority in Nigeria to be established under the Lagos Town Ordinance Cap 95 of 1928. That ordinance empowers LEDB to undertake comprehensive land use planning and development of the then Federal Territory (as Lagos was known then) due to the outbreak of the Bubonic Plague in 1924. The plague’s outbreak was a watershed in the history of Lagos. The epidemic, which began in 1924 and lasted until 1931, left 1,813 fatalities.

As a result of the fallout of the plague, the LEDB cleared the slums in Central Lagos and resettled the affected people to parts of Ebute-Metta and Yaba between 1928 and 1945. However, on 1st April 1972, the Board was phased out and its function of housing development transferred to the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC), while its town planning function was given to the then Ministry of Works.

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In 1982, the State Regional Plan came into effect and had a validity period of up to 2000. In the same year, the State Metropolitan Master Plan recommended urgent upgrading or total redevelopment of 42 identified blighted communities. Not much was achieved with these arrangements until 1985 when the Urban Renewal Division was created in the then Ministry of the Environment and Physical Planning.

In 1991, the Lagos State Urban Renewal Board was established by the Lagos State Urban Renewal Board Edict No. 7 of 1991 and published in Gazette No. 42 Vol. 24 of 10th October 1991.

The pioneer Board was inaugurated on 12th November 1991 with an office at the premises of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA). It had a branch office at STRABAG, Ikeja (the present location of Ikeja Shopping Mall) as well as an Area Office at Oluwole Street, Lagos Island in 1990. The Board was moved from STRABAG to Birrel Avenue Yaba in 1994/1995. In 2002, it was relocated to its present location, off Oba Akinjobi Way, Ikeja.

The Urban Renewal Board embarked on several development schemes across the state. Some of the schemes include Olaleye/Iponri, Otto, Sari/Iganmu and Lagos Central Redevelopment Scheme. The scheme was subdivided into 13 sub-areas. These include Sub-Areas 1-4, bounded by Balogun Street, Fred McEwen Street, Martin Street, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Broad Streets all in Lagos Island; Sub-Area 5, bounded by Martins Street, Alli Balogun, Nnamdi Azikiwe Street and Breadfruit Street also in Lagos Island; and Sub-Areas 6 and 7, which are bounded by Tinubu Square, Alli Street, Palm Church Street, Agarawu Street, and Nnamdi Azikiwe Street, all in Lagos Island.

Sub-Area 8 is bounded by Martins Street, Ereko Street, Nnamdi Azikiwe Street, and Alli Balogun Street, also in Lagos Island. Sub-Areas 9 and 10 are bounded by Fred McEwen, Martins, and Ereko Streets as well as Sanusi Olusi Street, Balogun Street, and John Street, also located in Lagos Island. Sub-Areas 11 and 12 are bounded by Pedro Street, Nnamdi Azikiwe Street, Idumota Cenotaph and Ereko Street as well as Idewu-Olo and Isale-Agbede Streets. Sub-Areas 13 and 14 are bounded by Isale-Gangan Street, Princess Street, Adeniji Adele Road, Enu-Owa Street, Dosunmu Street, Idumagbo Avenue, and Palm Church Street, all in Lagos Island.

Over the years, LASURA has undertaken several regeneration projects aimed at frontally addressing turning slums into urban and habitable hubs. One of such is the redevelopment of Oluwa Sub-Area 5, Central Lagos, whose major component comprised 2,000 Units Kee-Klamps and 2,000 Multi-Level Car Parking.

Another notable one is the redevelopment of Balogun Market Central Lagos, which comprises 1,000 Units Kee-Klamps and 210 Shops. There is also the Olaleye Iponri slum upgrading, which includes 24 Maisonettes Units, water of life (private sector partnership at Badia) as well as the provision of service plots. Another major urban renewal project that has been embarked upon in the past is the Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project (LMDGP) World Bank assisted). It involved the upgrading of blighted communities at Agege, Ijeshatedo, Ajegunle, Itire, Amukoko, Ilaje, Badia and Makoko.

The Lagos Island revitalization project, which includes infrastructure upgrade, mixed development and property reliability, is also worth mentioning.

Similarly, the Isale-Gangan regeneration exercise in Lagos Island, a land pooling regeneration strategy, represents another audacious urban renewal initiative that has been embarked upon. For the project to become a reality, thirteen families pooled and relinquished their land and properties for redevelopment.

The project is a block of 11-floor residential apartments designed to accommodate 56 Units of two-bedroom flats and three-bedroom flats on a total land area of 2,500 square meters. The phase 11 of the Isale-Gangan project will hopefully see the light of the day soon, barring all odds.

LASURA has also provided a resettlement programme in which four families opted out and they collected two years rent from the government to seek accommodation elsewhere.

Each of the 13 families was paid a relocation allowance, while ninety tenants residing in the buildings were paid a year’s rent of their accommodation at the prevailing market rate as at 2010 as relocation allowance.

There are also the Ogba Scheme, Agege facelift pilot project and Amuwo conservation project.

From 2019 till date, LASURA has done so much in its renewed quest for urban regeneration. This shall be the subject of discussion in the coming days.