Lagos, Nigeria

Reference work entry


Nigeria’s largest city and until Dec. 1991 the federal capital, Lagos retains many of the features of a centre of government. It extends over the islands of Lagos, Iddo, Ikoyi and Victoria.


Yoruba fishermen had settled on Lagos Island by the late fifteenth century. At this time Portuguese slave traders became active in the area, extending their activities until 1861 when the British took possession of Lagos. The city then came under the jurisdiction of various successive colonial administrations until 1914 when it became capital of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria. In 1960 it became the capital of independent Nigeria, and 7 years later the capital of the newly-created provincial state of Lagos. Troubled by congestion and over-population, it was decided to move the federal capital in 1975.

Modern City

The city is concentrated on Lagos Island, in southwestern Nigeria, on the Bight of Benin. The mainly Yoruba population has become more heterogeneous as other Nigerians and West Africans have moved to the city. As one of Africa’s most populous cities, Lagos has an inadequate infrastructure with most of the northwestern part (the original settlement) now a slum. Crime is a major concern.

The heart of the city lies on the southwestern shore of Lagos Island, the centre of commerce, finance, administration and education. The main industries are vehicle and radio assembly, food and beverage processing, metalworks, paints and soap. Textile, cosmetic and pharmaceutical manufacturing are also important. The traditional fishing industry survives. Street vendors crowd the city, taking advantage of traffic jams to find clients. There is an international airport and shipping terminals at Apapa and Tin Can Island.

Places of Interest

The southwest of Lagos Island is home to the national museum, whose treasures include traditional Benin Bronzes, sculptures and carvings. The University of Lagos and several major libraries are located in the city. Many government institutions remain in Lagos, with Victoria and Ikoyi Islands home to numerous embassies.

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© Springer Nature Limited 2019

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