Rural & Urban Development Initiative (RUDI) is one of the key Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) in Nigeria’s capital city, Lagos.
Pioneered by Agbodemu Ishola Musbau, a development worker who has been actively involved in community work and right advocacy for over a decade, RUDI has over the year serve as a movement of the urban poor for dignity and development with members in over 40 poor and marginalised communities across the state. The organisation is also a member of Slum/Shack Dwellers International (SDI).
Oluwabusayo Sotunde had an interesting chat with Mr Agbodemu on how RUDI has been able to contribute to the country’s development, especially in advocating for the rural poor.
What is the inspiration behind RUDI’s work?
RUDI is a Lagos-based grassroots membership organisation comprising of slum dwellers and marginalised communities working for the protection of human rights. It is a movement that brings together over 42 slums, evicted and marginalised groups and communities across Lagos State to tackle social exclusion and enhance collective citizenship as well as share ideas, experiences and strengthen solidarity amongst them. RUDI is a forum where all marginalised communities in Lagos State can meet to dialogue and proffer solution to identified challenges that they face. We work directly with the poor in Lagos State (Nigeria) to provide succor, support, and relief to every member community and other communities that fall victim to natural and man-made disasters. We seek to build the capacity of communities to demand protection of their fundamental rights.
What are some of the success stories of your organisation over the years?
In 2014, our forum underwent important structural changes including the adoption of a new constitution, election of new leadership, and establishment of an ongoing partnership with Slum/Shack Dwellers International, and the local support human rights NGO in Nigeria, Justice & Empowerment Initiatives. We have also charged the Lagos State Government and the Lagos state Ministry of Environment and Enforcement Unit for attempting to demolish a community in 2011. The case was charged to court through Social and Economic Rights Action Centre (SERAC), a legal partner of RUDI and the case was won. Hence, the threat of evicting the residents of the community came to naught, after two and half year’s legal battle. We have also been able to stop the residents of Temidire Community in Adekunle-Yaba from being forcefully evicted. That was in December 23, 2010.
At a point, we noticed that the whole of Ifesowapo Community Development Area (CDA), there is no school, and parents cannot afford to send their children to the schools far away from the community. This was what initiated the idea of creating learning facilities for the children in Ifesowapo otto/ilogbo extension community.
In 2012, we created a school at otto/ilogbo community (a slum area) called Young Leaders Academy, to help the children within the community access education since there is no school within or around the community. Young Leaders Academy was made affordable for all parents with adequate teaching facilities.
RUDI have also partnered with and helped ijora badia and Badagry communities to kick against inhumane demolition before Amnesty International, competent court of law and international body came in to help.
What is your organisation doing on rural-urban development in Nigeria?
Over the years, we have set up 80 ‘saving groups’ in 42 communities and we are monitoring their activities. We also initiated a non interest soft loan to indigent and vulnerable downtrodden masses, in which 150 people benefited so far.
Since August 2014, RUDI member communities have embarked on a community-led, citywide and we have engaged in slum profiling exercise, which captures key data from slums to help them identify shared priorities. From the profiling completed thus far, ‘land tenure’ has been the number one priority for 60% of slum communities. Other key priorities noted include electricity, housing, water/drainage, sewage/sanitation, and schools.
Why must people be conscious of development, especially in rural communities?
Over time, RUDI advocacy has provided more enlightenment and awareness programme to the poor and marginalised communities in Lagos State to ensure dialogue and help them take common actions, in pursuit of empowerment of its members. Today, the forum is stronger and bigger than ever, but the challenges we face remain enormous.
The Lagos State Government’s policies and practices too often disregard the rights of the poor – for example, carrying out regular forced evictions and slum clearances, without providing any alternative accommodation for the urban poor. With a population of over 22 million, an estimated two-third of which live in slums, the scale of the problems are enormous. Accordingly, RUDI’s work remains critical.
What are the challenges faced by your organisation and how have you been able to tackle these challenges?
Our leadership is still at local network level. Giving it time to evolve into regional and national structure is thus slowing down our movement to attain a national posture.
Also, the ‘I-don’t-care’ attitude of government officials to respond to our needs often affects our dreams and aspirations (government bureaucracies) as we are not too informed about government policy and network or council.
The socio-economic hardship across the country is another issue affecting the members’ cooperation to save and contribute to development of their communities. Not forgetting that certain communities are vulnerable to seasonal disasters, causing destruction to their social and economic resources and there is also lack of support to access funding to execute our projects.
We have however been able to tackle these challenges through persistence action, which seek to force the government to change their action from forced eviction to relocation.
Also, since we are dealing with different of set of people with different orientations, we put up mechanism to curtail all the differences and issues.
The following instruments were also used that brought about this change: mass media engagement, documentary, collaboration, peaceful strike actions such as; all slum dwellers sit at home, dialogue, structured leadership, profiling and enumeration, mass mobilisation (village/settlement forums), create as much awareness as possible through regular meetings, establish committees, information gathering through mapping, profiling and enumeration, negotiation/dialogue, land sharing and compensation to be translated to a housing project, political and policy influence, demonstration and petition, community projects and sometimes court actions to stop unlawful eviction of rural dwellers.
What do you consider the most important aspect of advocating for rural development and how is your organisation doing this?
Mass mobilisation (village/settlement forums) and creating as much awareness as possible through regular meetings, establish committees.
What project is your organisation working on?
We are currently working on mass mobilisation, profiling, enumeration, saving and soft loans (non interest empowerment scheme).
How can people, individual or organisation support your work?
People can support our work by joining us in advocacy, legal aids, funding and partnership that build strong tie and viable development.