Mirroring the economic growth of the Nigerian capital, the city of Port Harcourt in the Niger delta is also booming, at times with distressing outcomes such as pushing inhabitants of lower-class neighbourhoods towards the outskirts of the city.
In Port Harcourt, one of these areas is Chicoco, home to nearly half a million people who mainly live in huts built by the water or on stilts. The municipal government plans to destroy the neighbourhood in order to create room for prestigious new buildings. In order to keep residents informed about their rights in the face of such decisions, and to provide a platform for exchange and protest, a local NGO established the Chicoco Radio in 2014, with the support of Amnesty International. About 250 journalists and radio technicians have been trained to operate the radio station, which will be located in a building designed by architect Kunlé Adeyemi and his practice NLÉ, currently under construction. Cantilevering above the water, the building incorporates a radio station, computer centre, meeting room, cinema and amphitheatre. It was designed and built with the participation of local agents, using regional materials to demonstrate that threatened communities are also able to undertake such projects. The project integrates the African Water Cities movement, which explores challenges and possibilities of rapid urbanization and climate change for African coastal cities. It remains to be seen, however, if the building will ever be lived in or remain empty due to political dispute, much like NLÉ’s previous project for the Makoko Floating School in Lagos.