Lagos (pron. IPA: /ˈleɪgɒs/ or /ˈlɑːgoʊs/ overseas) is the most populous conurbation in Nigeria with 7,937,932 inhabitants at the 2006 census. It is the most populous in Africa, and currently estimated to be the second fastest growing city in Africa (7th fastest in the world), immediately following Bamako. Formerly the capital of Nigeria, Lagos is a huge metropolis which originated on islands separated by creeks, such as Lagos Island, that fringe the southwest mouth of Lagos Lagoon, protected from the Atlantic Ocean by long sand spits such as Bar Beach which stretch up to 100 km east and west of the mouth. From the beginning, Lagos has spread on the mainland west of the lagoon and the conurbation, including Ikeja and Agege, now reaches more than 40 km north-west of Lagos Island. The city is the economic and financial capital of Nigeria.
Lagos 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 Yoruba language. It is likely that the name ‘Lagos’ was given to the town by the first Portuguese settlers who navigated from a coastal town of the same name in Portugal. The present day Lagos state has a higher percent of Awori, who migrated to the area from Isheri along the Ogun river. Throughout history, it was home to a number of warring ethnic groups who had settled in the area. During its early settlement, it also saw periods of rule by the Kingdom of Benin. Portuguese explorer Rui de Sequeira visited the area in 1472, naming the area around the city Lago de Curamo; indeed the present name is Portuguese for “lakes”. Another explanation is that Lagos was named for Lagos, Portugal – a maritime town which at the time was the main centre of the Portuguese expeditions down the African coast and whose own name is derived from the Latin word Lacobriga. From 1404-1889 it served as a major centre of the slave trade, ruled over by Yoruba kings called the Oba of Lagos. In 1841 Oba Akitoye ascended to the throne of Lagos and tried to ban slave trading. Lagos merchants, most notably Madam Tinubu, resisted the ban, deposed the king and installed his brother Oba Kosoko. While exiled, Oba Akitoye met with the British, who had banned slave trading in 1807, and got their support to regain his throne. In 1851 he was reinstalled as the Oba of Lagos Lagos was formally annexed as a British colony in 1861. This had the dual effect of crushing the slave trade and establishing British control over palm and other trades. The remainder of modern-day Nigeria was seized in 1887, and when the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria was established in 1914, Lagos was declared its capital. It continued to be the capital when Nigeria gained its independence from Britain in 1960. Lagos experienced rapid growth throughout the 1960s and 1970s as a result of Nigeria’s economic boom prior to the Biafran War. Lagos was the capital of Nigeria from 1914 up to 1991; it was stripped of this title when the Federal Capital Territory was established at the purpose-built city of Abuja. However, most government functions (especially the head of state) stayed in Lagos for a time since Abuja was still under construction. In 1991, the head of state and other government functions finally moved to the newly built capital in a mass exodus. In 2002, an accidental detonation of military explosives killed more than 1100 people.
The city of Lagos lies in south-western Nigeria, on the Atlantic coast in the Gulf of Guinea, west of the Niger River delta, located on longitude 3° 24′ E and latitude 6° 27′ N. 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 of Lagos in Lagos Lagoon are Lagos Island and Victoria Island. These islands are separated from the mainland by the main channel draining the lagoon into the Atlantic, which forms Lagos Harbour. The islands are separated from each other by creeks of varying sizes and are connected to Lagos Island by bridges. However the smaller sections of some creeks have been sand filled and built over. 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 is a site of historical importance; it was here 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. It also has many hotels, and one of Africa’s largest golf courses. Originally a middle class neighbourhood, in recent years, it has become a fashionable enclave for the upper middle class to the upper class. The Victoria Island, situated to the south of Lagos Island. It boasts of several sizable commercial and shopping districts (including Nigeria’s largest mall and movie theater) and several trendy beaches.
Administration and demographics
In terms of administration, Lagos is not a municipality and has therefore no overall city administration. The Municipality of Lagos, which covered Lagos Island, Ikoyi and Victoria Island as well as some mainland territory, was managed by the Lagos City Council (LCC), but it was disbanded in 1976 and divided into several Local Government Areas (most notably Lagos Island LGA, Lagos Mainland LGA and Eti-Osa LGA). The mainland beyond the Municipality of Lagos, on the other hand, comprised several separate towns and settlements such as Mushin, Ikeja and Agege. In the wake of the 1970s Nigerian oil boom, Lagos experienced 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. The history of Lagos is still evidenced in the layout of the LGAs which display the unique identities of the cultures that established them. Today, the word Lagos most often refers to the urban area, called “Metropolitan Lagos” in Nigeria, 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 LGAs. Lagos State is responsible for utilities including roads and transportation, power, water, health, and education. Metropolitan Lagos (a statistical division, and not an administrative unit) extends over 16 of the 20 LGAs of Lagos State, and contains 88% of the population of Lagos State, and includes semi-rural areas. Lagos was the former capital city of Nigeria but it has since been replaced by Abuja. Abuja officially gained its status as the capital of Nigeria on 12 December 1991, although the decision to move the federal capital had been made in decree no. 6 of 1976. Lagos is also home to the High Court of the Lagos State Judiciary, housed in an old colonial building on Lagos Island.