Thursday, August 18, 2005

Squatters = Commerce

Squatters -- even those who are desperately poor -- are among the most entrepreneurial and hard-working people around. As this article, from, points out, the Nigerian government and a road contractor want to stop commercial squatters from taking over most of a local highway. The squatters have apparently taken over several lanes of Onitsha Road and have also invaded the shoulders and drainage areas to erect shops and kiosks.

Architect Emeka O. Ejikeme, the Anambra State Commissioner of Works, said that squatters have refused to accept a state promise to build an ultra-modern alternative market for them. Because of this, he added, the government was considering setting up a security task force to rid the road of the squatters.

It's nice that the government has proposed relocating the squatters. But where? And how much will stalls at this 'ultra-modern' establishment cost. I haven't seen the intersection in person, but it sounds similar to much of the bustle and hubbub I saw alongside Kenyan roads. Certainly squatters should not be encouraged to block highways with their kiosks. But can't this thriving marketplace (it's obviously doing well if people keep building more stalls) simply be given space adjacent to the road? Why evict the squatters when you can work with them?

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