From New World Encyclopedia
Lagos Island as seen from the harbor near Victoria Island.
Lagos Island as seen from the harbor near Victoria Island.
Flag of Lagos
Official seal of Lagos
Nickname: lag city, Lasgidi, Gidi
Lagos (Nigeria)
Lagos shown within Nigeria
Coordinates: 6°27′N 3°24′E
Country Flag of Nigeria Nigeria
State Lagos State
LGA Lagos Island
Lagos Mainland
 - Oba Rilwan Akiolu I
Area [1]
 - Urban 999.6 km² (385.9 sq mi)
Population (2006 census)[4]
 - City 8,048,430
 - Density 6,871/km² (17,800/sq mi)
 - Urban 15,487,000[2]
 - Urban Density 7,878/km² (20,404/sq mi)
 - Metro 21,320,000 (estimated)[3]
 - Metro Density 7,759/km² (20,100/sq mi)
Time zone WAT (UTC+1) (UTC+1)

Lagos, is the most populous conurbation in Nigeria. The city began on Lagos Island in the fifteenth century, but has spread onto the mainland west of the lagoon. The metropolitan area, including Ikeja and Agege, now reaches more than 25 miles (40 km) northwest of Lagos Island. The city is the commercial and industrial hub of Nigeria, and has greatly benefited from the nation's natural resources in oil, natural gas, coal, fuel-wood, and water.

The original settlers of Lagos Island were Yoruba fishermen, who founded the city. It developed into a Portuguese trading post exporting ivory, peppers, and slaves. The Yoruba were replaced in the sixteenth century by the Benin Empire. The colonial city developed into a busy cosmopolitan port, welcoming emancipated slaves repatriated from Brazil and Cuba. In the last half of the nineteenth century, it came under British domination.

Although Nigeria gained independence in 1960, a two-and-a-half year civil war broke out in 1967, after which huge waves of refugees and migrants from other African countries flooded into Lagos. Formerly the capital of Nigeria, the city's problems with overpopulation prompted the creation of the city of Abuja, in the center of the country, to replace Lagos as national capital.


Victoria Island
One of the lagoons surrounding Lagos

Lagos, a Portuguese word for "lakes," was a Yoruba settlement of Awori people initially called Oko. The name was later changed to Eko (Edo: "cassava farm") or Eko ("war camp") during the Kingdom of Benin occupation. The Yoruba still use the name Eko when they speak of "Lagos," a name which never existed in the Yoruba language. It is likely that the name "Lagos" was given by Portuguese settlers who navigated from a coastal town of the same name in Portugal.

The city of Lagos lies in southwestern Nigeria, on the Atlantic coast in the Gulf of Guinea, west of the Niger River delta. On this stretch of the high-rainfall West African coast, rivers flowing to the sea form swampy lagoons, like Lagos Lagoon, behind long coastal sand spits or sand bars. Some rivers, like Badagry Creek, flow parallel to the coast for some distance before finding an exit through the sand bars to the sea.

The two major urban islands in Lagos Lagoon are Lagos Island and Victoria Island, which are separated from the mainland by the main channel draining the lagoon into the Atlantic, which forms Lagos Harbour. The islands are connected to Lagos Island by bridges. The smaller sections of some creeks between the islands have been sand filled and built over.

Lagos has a total of 1380.7 square miles (3577 square kilometers), of which 303.8 square miles (787 square kilometers) is made up of lagoons and creeks.

Lagos has two rainy seasons, with the heaviest rains falling from April to July, and a weaker rainy season in October and November. There is a brief relatively dry spell in August and September and a longer dry season from December to March. The hottest month is March, with a mean temperature of 84°F (29°C), while July is the coolest month, when it is 77°F (25°C). Harmattan winds from the Sahara Desert blow between December and early February. Monthly rainfall between May and July averages over 12 inches (300 mm), while in January as low as 1.5 inches (35 mm). Annual precipitation totals 59.33 inches (1507 mm).

Lagos Island contains many of the largest markets in Lagos, its central business district, the central mosque, and the Oba's palace. Though largely derelict, Tinubu Square on Lagos Island has historical importance, since it was there that the amalgamation ceremony that unified the north and south took place in 1914.

Ikoyi, situated on the eastern half of Lagos Island, housed the headquarters of the federal government and all other government buildings, has numerous hotels, and one of Africa's largest golf courses. Originally a middle class neighborhood, it has become a fashionable enclave for the upper middle class to the upper class.

Victoria Island, situated to the south of Lagos Island, boasts of several sizable commercial and shopping districts (including Nigeria's largest mall and movie theater) and several trendy beaches.

The smaller Iddo Island is connected to the mainland like a peninsula. Three major bridges join Lagos Island to the mainland: Eko Bridge and Carter Bridge which start from Iddo Island, and the Third Mainland Bridge which passes through densely populated mainland suburbs through the lagoon. Most of the population and most industry is on the mainland.

Lagos has been called the filthiest city in the world. The influx of people into the metropolitan area without plans to cope with the solid waste generated by this influx, plus the lack of knowledge of the composition and generation rate of the refuse has led to mismanagement of the environment.


Flag of the Kingdom of Benin captured by British forces during the Benin campaign 1897. The flag was said to have been brought back by Admiral F.W. Kennedy.[5]

Southwestern Nigeria was inhabited as early as 9000 B.C.E., according to archaeological evidence. The earliest identified Nigerian culture is that of the Nok people who thrived between 500 B.C.E. and 200 C.E. on the Jos Plateau in northeastern Nigeria. Information is lacking from the first millennium C.E. following the Nok ascendancy, but by the second millennium C.E., there was active trade from North Africa through the Sahara to the forest.

Yoruba fishermen and hunters settled Lagos Island by the late fifteenth century, calling the island Oko. From the late sixteenth century to the mid-nineteenth century the Kingdom of Benin dominated the area, calling it Eko.

Portuguese explorer Rui de Sequeira visited the area in 1472, naming the area around the city Lago de Curamo.

From 1404 to 1861, Lagos served as a center of the slave trade, ruled over by Yoruba kings called the Oba of Lagos. The slave trade, which peaked in the eighteenth century, disrupted indigenous cultures, resulting in the emergence of new political, economic, and cultural structures.

Colonial Lagos was a busy, cosmopolitan port, reflecting Victorian and distinctively Brazilian architecture and the varied backgrounds of a black elite, composed of English-speakers from Sierra Leone and of emancipated slaves repatriated from Brazil and Cuba. Its residents were employed in official capacities and were active in business. Africans also were represented on the Lagos Legislative Council, a largely appointed assembly.

In 1841, Oba Akitoye ascended to the throne of Lagos and attempted to ban slave trading. Lagos merchants, most notably Madam Tinubu (died 1887), resisted the ban, deposed the king and installed his brother Oba Kosoko.

While exiled, Oba Akitoye met the British, who had banned slave trading in 1807, and attained their support to regain his throne. A British naval attack on Lagos in 1851 reinstalled Akitoye as the Oba of Lagos.

The slave trade continued until Lagos was formally annexed as a British colony in 1861, which also established British control over palm oil and other trades.

Governed as a crown colony, Lagos was part of the United Kingdom’s West African Settlements from 1866 to 1874, when it became part of the Gold Coast Colony, which later became Ghana.

In 1886, Lagos achieved separate status under a British governor, and the remainder of modern-day Nigeria was seized in 1887. In 1906, Lagos was amalgamated with the Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. When Southern and Northern Nigeria were amalgamated in 1914, Lagos was declared the capital of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria.

In 1954, the Lagos hinterland was incorporated into Western Nigeria, while the city was designated a federal territory.

On October 1, 1960, Nigeria gained its independence from the United Kingdom, and Lagos continued to be the capital.

The nation parted with its British legacy in 1963 by declaring itself a federal republic, with Nnamdi Azikiwe (1904–1996) as the first president. Perceived corruption of the electoral and political process led in 1966 to several military coups.

Lagos state was created in 1967, and control of the hinterland returned to the city. Lagos experienced rapid growth throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

By May 1967, the Eastern Region had declared itself an independent state called the Republic of Biafra under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Emeka Ojukwu. The Nigerian Civil War began as the Nigerian (Western and Northern) side attacked Biafra (Southeastern) on July 6, 1967, at Garkem, signaling the beginning of the 30-month war that ended in January 1970.

During the oil boom of the 1970s, Nigeria joined the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC) and billions of dollars generated by production in the oil-rich Niger Delta flowed into the coffers of the Nigerian state. However, increasing corruption at all levels of government squandered most of these earnings.

From 1975, construction began on a centrally situated new national capital near Abuja. In 1991, the head of state and other government functions were moved to Abuja city.

Nigeria re-achieved democracy in 1999 when it elected Olusegun Obasanjo, a Yoruba and former military head of state, as the new president, ending almost 33 years of military rule (between from 1966 until 1999) excluding the short-lived second republic (between 1979-1983) by military dictators who seized power in coups d'état and counter-coups during the Nigerian military juntas of 1966-1979 and 1983-1998.


Map showing the 16 LGAs making up Metropolitan Lagos. Note that Metropolitan Lagos is a statistical area and not an administrative entity unlike Lagos State. Lagos State is made up of these 16 LGAs and four other larger LGAs not shown on the map.

Nigeria is a federal republic. The president, who is is both the chief of state and head of government, is elected by popular vote for a four-year term and is eligible for a second term. The bicameral National Assembly consists of the Senate, of 109 members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms, and the House of Representatives, of 360 members elected by popular vote also to serve four-year terms.

Since Lagos is not a municipality it has no overall city administration. The Municipality of Lagos, which covered Lagos Island, Ikoyi, and Victoria Island as well as some mainland territory, was disbanded in 1976 and divided into several local government areas (most notably the Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, and Eti-Osa).

Today, the name Lagos refers to the urban area, called "metropolitan Lagos," which includes both the islands of the former Municipality of Lagos and the mainland suburbs. All of these are part of Lagos State, which now comprises 20 local government areas, and which is responsible for roads and transportation, power, water, health, and education.

Metropolitan Lagos (a statistical division, and not an administrative unit) extends over 16 of the 20 local government areas of Lagos State, and contains 88 percent of the population of Lagos State, and includes semi-rural areas.

Lagos is home to the High Court of the Lagos State Judiciary, housed in an old colonial building on Lagos Island.


Oil-rich Nigeria has long been hobbled by political instability, corruption, inadequate infrastructure, and poor macroeconomic management.[6] In 2000, Nigeria entered into a debt-restructuring deal with the Paris Club and received a $1-billion credit from the International Monetary Fund, both contingent on economic reforms. The nation pulled out of the IMF program in 2002, after failing to meet spending and exchange rate targets, making it ineligible for additional debt forgiveness from the Paris Club. Since 2008, the government has implemented reforms urged by the IMF, such as modernizing the banking system, curbing inflation by blocking excessive wage demands, and by resolving regional disputes over the distribution of oil earnings.

Lagos is Nigeria's most prosperous city, and much of the nation's wealth and economic activity are concentrated there. Lagos has one of the highest standard of living as compared to other cities in Nigeria. The commercial, financial and business center of Lagos and of Nigeria remains the business district of Lagos Island, where most of the country's largest banks and financial institutions are located.

More than half of Nigeria's industrial capacity is located in Lagos's mainland suburbs, particularly in the Ikeja industrial estate. A wide range of manufactured goods are produced in the city, including machinery, motor vehicles, electronic equipment, chemicals, beer, processed food, and textiles.

Lagos is the hub of three Trans-African Highway routes: The Trans-West African Coastal Highway to Benin, Dakar, and Nouakchott; the Trans-Sahara Highway to Algiers; and the Lagos-Mombasa Highway, which in 2009 only went to neighboring Cameroon.

The Lagos–Ibadan expressway and the Lagos–Abeokuta expressway are the major arterial routes in the north of the city and serve as inter-state highways to Oyo State and Ogun State respectively. To the west the congested Badagry Expressway serves outlying suburbs such as Festac Town as well as being an international highway.

The city is teeming with transit buses known as Danfos and Molues, as well as taxi motorcycles known as Okadas. Lagos State implemented a bus rapid transit system, the first phase of which was completed in February 2008. It is expected to operate along eight routes using specially designated lanes.

Lagos is served by Murtala Mohammed International Airport, which is located in the northern suburb of Ikeja and has domestic and international terminals. A few regular ferry routes run between Lagos Island and the mainland. Private boats run irregular passenger services on the lagoon and on some creeks.

The Port of Lagos is Nigeria's leading port and one of the largest in Africa. It is split into three main sections: Lagos port, in the main channel next to Lagos Island, no longer used much, Apapa Port (site of the container terminal) and Tin Can Port, both located in Badagry Creek which flows into the Lagos Harbour from the west.


University of Lagos.
Third Mainland Bridge.

After the 1970s Nigerian oil boom, Lagos underwent a population explosion, untamed economic growth, and unmitigated rural migration. This caused the outlying towns and settlements to develop rapidly, thus forming the greater Lagos metropolis seen today.

Lagos is home to the very wealthy and the very poor, and has attracted numerous young entrepreneurs and families seeking a better life.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, is composed of more than 250 ethnic groups. The Hausa and Fulani make up the largest group in the population, followed by Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Ijaw, Kanuri, Ibibio, and Tiv.

English is the official language, although Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), and Fulan are also spoken. About 50 percent of the population is Muslim, 40 percent Christian, and 10 percent follow indigenous beliefs.

Lagos City University (formerly Yaba College of Technology) was the first tertiary education institute in the country, and one of the first in Africa. The Pan-African University, founded in 1996, is primarily a business school, offering two MBA programs. The University of Lagos was founded 1962. Lagos State University is a multi-campus university established in 1984. National Open University is the first open university in Nigeria, Lagos State College of Health Technology runs health courses, and Lagos State Polytechnic comprises five schools.


Lagos, which is famous throughout West Africa for its music scene, has given birth to a variety of styles such as highlife, juju, fuji, and Afrobeat. Lagos has been the fore-runner with African styled hip-hop branded Afrohip-hop.

Lagos is the center of the Nigerian film industry, often referred to as Nollywood. Idumota market on Lagos Island is the primary distribution center, and many films are shot in the Festac area of Lagos. Yoruba films are the most popular movies, followed by Indian films.

Iganmu is home to the National Arts Theater—the primary center for the performing arts in Nigeria.

Lagos is not a popular tourist destination, as it is primarily business-oriented and also has a reputation for being a fast-paced community. Lagos is blessed with a number of sandy beaches by the Atlantic Ocean, including Bar Beach and Lekki Beach.

football is the most popular sport. The Nigeria Football Association (NFA) and the Lagos State Football Association (LAFA) are both based in Lagos.

Looking ahead

The Nigerian government continues to face the daunting task of reforming a petroleum-based economy, whose revenues have been squandered through corruption and mismanagement, and institutionalizing democracy.[6] Lagos faces a large environmental challenge resulting from its rapid growth without consideration for disposal of human waste. As Nigeria's most prosperous city, and with much of the nation's wealth and economic activity concentrated there, Lagos will remain at the forefront of efforts at economic reform.


  1. Summing the 16 LGAs making up Metropolitan Lagos (Agege, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, Alimosho, Amuwo-Odofin, Apapa, Eti-Osa, Ifako-Ijaiye, Ikeja, Kosofe, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland, Mushin, Ojo, Oshodi-Isolo, Shomolu, Surulere)
  2. Demographia World Urban Areas Demographia, June 2021. Retrieved December 28, 2021.
  3. 2019 Abstract of Local Government Statistics Lagos Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved December 28, 2021.
  4. Metropolitan Lagos consists of 16 of Lagos State's 20 LGAs, which excludes Badagry, Epe, Ibeju-Lekki and Ikorodu.
  5. West African flag. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 CIA, Nigeria World Factbook. Retrieved December 28, 2021.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Falola, Toyin. The History of Nigeria. The Greenwood histories of the modern nations. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999. ISBN 0313306826
  • Iliffe, John. Africans: The History of a Continent. African studies series, 85. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. ISBN 9780521482356
  • Levy, Patricia. Nigeria. New York: Benchmark Books/Marshall Cavendish, 2004. ISBN 0761417036.

External links

All links retrieved October 21, 2022.


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