City (pop., 1999: urban agglomeration, 12,763,000) and chief port, Nigeria. It is Nigeria's largest city, built on four main islands—Lagos, Iddo, Ikoyi, and Victoria—that are connected to each other and to the mainland by bridges. Its population is centered on Lagos Island, on the Bight of Benin. Part of the kingdom of Benin in the 16th century, it was inhabited largely by the Yoruba. Beginning in 1808, as Britain attempted to end the slave trade, Lagos came into increasingly greater contact with the British. It was ceded to Britain in 1861, became a crown colony, and was governed from Sierra Leone (1866–74) and as part of the Gold Coast colony (1874–86). Joined with the protectorate of Southern Nigeria in 1906, it was made the capital of the colony of Nigeria in 1914. It was the capital (1960–91) of independent Nigeria until Abuja became the new capital. It is a major trade and industrial centre.
Learn more about Lagos with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Lagos (pron. 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 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 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. Across the main channel of the lagoon from Lagos Island, a smaller island called Iddo Island lay close to the mainland, and today is connected to the mainland like a peninsula. Three large bridges join Lagos Island to the mainland: Eko Bridge and Carter Bridge which start from Iddo Island, and the Third Mainland Bridge which by-passes congested mainland suburbs through the lagoon.
Most of the population of Lagos lives on the mainland, which is the site of industry and known for its music and nightlife, notably in areas around Yaba and Surulere, as well as the National Stadium Complex. Mainland districts include Ebute-Meta, Surulere, Yaba (Lagos) (site of the University of Lagos), Mushin, Maryland, Isolo, Ikotun, Ipaja, Ejigbo and Ikeja, site of Murtala Muhammed International Airport and the capital of Lagos State.
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.
According to the preliminary results of the 2006 census, there are 14,937,932 inhabitants in Metropolitan Lagos. This figure is lower than what had been anticipated and has created a controversy in Nigeria. Lagos Island, the central LGA and historic centre of Metropolitan Lagos, had a population of 209,437 as of the 2006 Census.
Authorities of Lagos State have attacked the results of the 2006 census, accusing the National Population Commission of having undercounted the population of Lagos State, an accusation strongly denied by the National Population Commission.
Lagos is, by most estimates, one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. Lagos State is currently experiencing a population increase of about 275,000 persons per annum. In 1999 the United Nations predicted that the city's metropolitan area, which had only about 290,000 inhabitants in 1950, would exceed 20 million by 2010 and thus become one of the ten most populated cities in the world. This projection, however, must now be revised downward due to the results of the 2006 census.
Like most cities, there is a huge spectrum of wealth distribution among the people that reside in Lagos. It ranges from the very wealthy to the very poor. Lagos has attracted many young entrepreneurs and families seeking a better life from throughout Nigeria and beyond.
|Local Government Area|| Land area|
(inh. per km²)
(home of the main port of Lagos)
(home of one of Lagos's largest business centres and of the upscale communities of Victoria Island and Ikoyi, formerly the residence of the Nigerian federal government)
| Lagos Island|
(the historical centre and commercial core of the Lagos agglomeration)
|Somolu (aka Shomolu)||11.6||402,673||34,862|
Lagos is Nigeria's most prosperous city, and much of the nation's wealth and economic activity are concentrated there. The commercial, financial and business centre 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. The standard of living is higher in Lagos than in the rest of Nigeria.
The Port of Lagos is Nigeria's leading port and one of the largest in Africa. It is administered by the Nigerian Port Authority and 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. The port features a railhead.
The port handles imports of consumer goods, foodstuffs, motor vehicles, machinery, and industrial raw materials. Its export trade in timber and agricultural products such as cacao and groundnuts has declined since the early 1970s, although the port has seen growing amounts of crude oil exported, with export figures rising between 1997 and 2000. Oil and petroleum products provide 20% of GDP and 95% of foreign exchange earnings in Nigeria as a whole.
Local roads in Lagos vary in quality from well-maintained to pothole-ridden. Most freeways are currently in working shape. 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 (see below).
It is projected that the system will carry up to 10,000 passengers per direction per hour during peak travel hours. The LAMATA BRT corridor is about 22 kilometres in length. Two operators, NURTW Cooperative (Nigerian Union of Road Transport Workers) and LAGBUS, a Lagos State Government owned Asset Management Company are contributing about 180 high capacity buses for the implementation of the first phase Mile 12 to CMS BRT Lite system.
Lagos is served by Murtala Mohammed International Airport, one of the largest airports in Africa and the top international air passenger gateway to Nigeria. The airport is located in the northern suburb of Ikeja and consists of a domestic and international terminal. With 3.8 million passengers in 2005 the airport accounts for almost fifty percent of all air traffic in Nigeria. Furthermore, outbound international travel from Murtala Mohammed accounts for 73 percent of all air passengers travelling internationally to and from Nigeria.
Lagos is the centre of the Nigerian film industry, often referred to as 'Nollywood.' Idumota market on Lagos Island is the primary distribution centre. Also many films are shot in the Festac area of Lagos.
The cinemas are gradually losing their supporters to the movie industry. Yoruba films happen to be the most watched in the cinemas, followed by Indian films. Films are not premiered for a long period of time in the western sense, especially with Yoruba films. The English spoken films move directly from the studios to the market.
Iganmu is home to the National Arts Theatre — the primary centre for the performing arts in Nigeria.
The Nigerian national football team, also known as the Super Eagles, used to play almost all of their home games in Lagos; however, games are now split between the Surelere Stadium in Lagos and the larger, newer Abuja Stadium in Abuja, which may soon become the default home of the Super Eagles.
Lagos is not a popular tourist destination, as it is primarily business-oriented and also has a reputation for being a fast paced community. Safety issues at Lagos' Murtala Mohammed International Airport have also hampered tourism. Despite these problems visitors are still attracted to some of the culture, entertainment scenes and vitality that the city has to offer. Tourist attractions include Oba's Palace, the National Museum, and the beach resorts.
Lagos is home to several secondary schools, universities and other vocational institutions that are either operated by the government or private entities. Some examples are listed below.