Lagos City, Lagos State, Nigeria, Africa

Founded: As "Oko" (farmland), precise date unknown; later corrupted as "Èkó." Christened Lagos, probably after lagoon, by Portuguese traders sometime after the mid-15th century.
Incorporated: October 1, 1963.
Location: Lagos State, Southwest Nigeria, Africa
Time Zone: Noon = 11:00 AM GMT = 6:00 AM US Eastern Standard Time
Ethnic Composition: About two-thirds Yorùbá; remainder mixed from within Nigeria and outside
Elevation: Generally at or below sea level, some parts already under threat
Coastline: 100 miles
Climate: Tropical; rainy season May through October; dry season November through April
Annual Mean Temperature: 70–79°F [23–26°C] minimum and 78–90°F [28–32°C] maximum
Government: City-state; town clerk-city council; appointed administrators
Weights and Measures: Standard metric
Monetary Units: Standard Nigerian Naira equals 100 Kobo ; 100 Naira = US$ 1.00 as of January 2000
Telephone Area Codes: 234

2. Getting There

Lagos can be reached by air, water, and land transport. However, Nigeria's railroad system, built from the mid-1880s onwards, has not been expanded substantially since. The passenger-carrying ocean liner is no longer popular either. The two best ways to reach Lagos are thus by air and by road.


Three main bridges connect the city with the mainland. The first is the Carter Bridge, built in 1901. Èkó and Third Mainland bridges have been constructed only since the 1970s. All three provide easy and relatively fast access to the island. In general Lagos has by far the highest road density in Nigeria.

Lagos Population Profile

City Proper

Population: 1,200,000
Area: 69.7 sq km (27 sq mi)
Ethnic composition: About 67% Yorùbá; remainder cosmopolitan, including from outside Nigeria
Nicknames: " Èkó ar'omi sa l'egbelegbe " Èkó, The Island City; " Èkó ilé ogbón " Fountain of Common Sense; Gateway to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Center of Excellence

Metropolitan Area

Population: 13,488,000
Description: Èbúté Métta, Surùlérè, Àpápá, Yábã, Mushin, Oshòdì, Ìkejà, Bàrígà
Area: 264.18 sq km (102 sq mi)
World population rank1: 7
Percentage of national population2: 10.5%
Average yearly growth rate: 5.4%
Ethnic composition: 70–80% Yorùbá; 15% Nigerians; remainder non-Africans


  1. The Lagos metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of Nigeria's total population living in the Lagos metropolitan area.

Bus and Railroad Service

There are no train services in the city, the closest train station being at Ìddó, on the bridgehead to the island. The automobile is thus the best means by which to get to the city. There are traffic tailbacks, or "go slow" in Nigerian popular language, in part because large numbers of people and vehicles compete for space. In the city some major streets are estimated to take up to 15,000 pedestrians and 7,500 vehicles per hour. Commercial vehicles, both buses and taxicabs, are available in reasonable number—many in bad shape physically. Parking space can be difficult to find.


The Lagos airport lies northwest of the city. Also known as the Murtala Muhammed Airport, it is also a major hub for flights within West Africa and between the sub-region and Europe.

Cargo traffic averaged nearly 725,760 metric tons (800,000 tons) per month in January–March 1980. In the same months during 1983, over half of all outbound passengers in Nigeria's airports (total 498,313) used the Lagos airport. Its average monthly share of inbound passengers (monthly average 190,000) was about 47 percent. In 1986, about 1.1 million international passengers used the Lagos airport; this was 85 percent of the total for all three international airports. The figures for domestic passengers are 2.7 million, or 72 percent of the total. The Lagos airport is thus Nigeria's busiest point for international and local air travel.


For long until the eighteenth century, the Lagos creek system provided the only outlet to sea-borne trade on the African West Coast. By 1907, construction work on moles for the Àpápá harbor had begun using rock brought in by rail from Abéòkúta. Its extension to the northern city of Kano in 1912 assured Lagos' long-term role as important entrêpot to Nigeria.

Lagos ports handle for four-fifths of Nigeria's imports and 70 percent of exports. The Àpápá port is estimated to be the fifth busiest in West Africa.

3. Getting Around

Lagos City is a picturesque mix of the modern and the traditional, with skyscrapers and glass houses sitting alongside old residential buildings. Construction activity makes parts of the city seem rather poorly planned physically.

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

Mini-and midi-buses, as well as larger lorries (motortrucks), known as molue, are the most widely used means of transport. The Lagos City Council owned stock in a private transport company until 1974 when the Lagos State Transport Corporation took over its operations. Despite large-scale public investment, commercial vehicles have been and remain largely privately owned. In the late 1970s, according to survey estimates, about 53 percent of all workers depended on the bus to get to their workplaces; one-fifth or 20 percent commuted by private automobile; another 20 percent walked to work while less than one percent traveled to work by train or water transport. The number of private cars has increased over time; in 1960, 8,800 licensed cars existed in the city; between 1970 and 1974, over 42,000 cars were registered. In 1985, nearly 20,000 minibuses, 6,000 midi-buses, and 30,000 taxis were estimated to run in metropolitan Lagos.

Bulk goods—industrial material, foodstuff, and export produce—have traditionally been transported by truck and train; in recent times, the railways have all but paled into insignificance in its share of business in this sector. Still, the trains have often provided very cheap, alternative transport for people commuting to Àpápá and Yábã from high-density residential areas, such as Mushin, Oshòdì, Ìkejà, and Agége. A metro conceived in the 1980s has yet to be built. Ferries run between Marina and Àpápá and from Victoria Island to Tarkwa Bay.

City Fact Comparison
Indicator Lagos Cairo Rome Beijing
(Nigeria) (Egypt) (Italy) (China)
Population of urban area1 13,488,000 10,772,000 2,688,000 12,033,000
Date the city was founded c. 1450 AD 969 753 BC 723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy) $232 $193 $172 $129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) $57 $56 $59 $62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.) $14 $14 $15 $16
Total daily costs $303 $173 $246 $207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city 8 13 20 11
Largest newspaper Daily Times/Sunday Times/Evening Times Akhbar El Yom/Al Akhbar La Repubblica Renmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper 400,000 1,159,339 754,930 3,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established 1925 1944 1976 1948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.


Organized commercial sightseeing tours of the city are rare, yet the island is full of historical sites. A major monument is the Iga Ìdúngànràn, official residence of the Oba of Lagos on Upper King Street. Another is The Old Secretariat, built in 1906 to house colonial offices. It still stands a short distance from the Lagos Island Hospital.

On the Marina stands NITEL House, Africa's tallest building and home to some magnificent sculpture. Not far off is the State House where colonial governors lived until 1960. The General Post Office building and the Anglican Church, built in the eighteenth century, are worth seeing too. The NEPA building has a bronze statue of Shàngó, god of thunder, before it. The Elder Dempster building, originally the main office block for the passenger and freight steamship service to London and the West African coast, also stands on the Marina.

The Tafawa Balewa Square now stands where once was the racecourse. Nearby are King's College and old Supreme Court buildings. There is also Lagos City Hall, seat of the island's local government. Nearly every street on the island symbolizes history; the interested sightseer cannot want for insights on life past.

On the mainland, the National Theatre, main venue of the Second World Black and African Festival held in 1977, stands out among many other monuments. An exhibition on Nigeria's political history runs permanently.

16. Parks and Recreation

The city is well built up, so open space is a rarity. In 1976, according to some estimates, open space amounted to only three percent of the city's land surface, which translates to 0.01 hectare (0.02 acre) for each 1,000 people. A lot of recreation does take place on land not allocated for such purposes; social gatherings or parties also provide opportunities for recreation.

22. For Further Study


Amman, Richard. Lagos Walking Tours. Port-Har-court: Riverside Communications, 1994.

Barnes, Sandra. Patrons and Power: Creating a Political Community in Metropolitan Lagos. 1986.

Fagbamiye, E. O. ed. Educational Development in Lagos State. Lagos: Okanlawon Publishers, 1990.

Lierberman, Irving. A Survey of the Lagos City Library. Lagos: Lagos City Council, 1964.

Odumosu, O. Assessing the Quality of Working Life: Case of Lagos and Ibadan Cities. Ibadan: Nigerian Institute for Economic and Social Research, 1996.

Olajumoke, Remi. The Spring of a Monarch: The Epic Struggle of Oba Adeyinka Oyekan II of Lagos. Lagos: Lawebod (Nig.) Ltd., 1990.

Olomu, Olukayode A. Lagos State: The Cornerstone of Nigeria's Economic Development. Lagos: International Management and Research Institute Limited, 1983.

Olowu, Dele. Lagos State: Governance, society and Economy. Lagos: Malthouse Press, 1990.

Onikoyi, Agboola A. The History of Lagos. Published by author, 1975.

Peil, Margaret. Lagos: The City is the People. London: Belhaven Press, 1991.

Shitta-Bey, S. A. The Origin and Birth of Lagos State. Lagos: Maybao Enterprises, 1979.

Watson, G. D. A Human Geography of Nigeria. London: Longman, 1960.