Lagos Nigeria | History, Geography, Tourism, Economy and Hotels In Lagos

Lagos, the fastest growing city in the world, existed long before the creation of Lagos State in Nigeria. Now, Lagos is a city amongst many others in Lagos State. Lagos is the largest city in Nigeria with the population running into several million.

Lagos prides not just on numbers but has sprawls of businesses spanning its nooks and crannies. Thus, making it a major financial center in Africa. Lagos houses one of the largest and busiest ports on the African continent.lagos

Lagos first existed as a port city with just a collection of islands, which are contained in the present day Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Lagos Island, Eti-Osa, Amuwo-Odofin and Apapa; the islands are separated by creeks, fringing the southwest mouth of Lagos Lagoon, while protected from the Atlantic Ocean by barrier islands and long sand spits such as Bar Beach.

Due to rapid urbanization, the city expanded to the west of the lagoon to include areas in the present day Lagos Mainland, Ajeromi-Ifelodun and Surulere. This led to the classification of Lagos into two main areas – the Island, which was the initial city of Lagos, before it expanded into the area known as the Mainland.

If the origin of Lagos is not explained explicitly, it will be hard to understand let alone, define Lagos.

History Of Lagos

Lagos, call it a city or metropolis has its origin tied to the Awori subgroup of the Yoruba who inhabited it in the 15th century. Under the leadership of the Oloye Olofin, the Awori moved to an island now called Iddo and then to the larger Lagos Island. Following the conquest of the Awori settlement by the Benin Empire in the 16th century, the area was turned it into a Benin war-camp called Eko.

The Oba of Benin then was Oba Orhogbua. Eko, however, still remains the native name of Lagos till date. Lagos state presently has a high percentage 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.

The conquest by the Benin warlords drew the attention of Portuguese who sojourned to the area for slave trading in the 15th century. The Portuguese explorer, Rui de Sequeira, visited the Eko in 1472 and christened it Lagos, meaning Lakes. Portuguese at the time, had a maritime town that was the main centre of their expeditions down the African coast called Lagos, Portugal. So they named Lagos after it.

In the 19th century, Britain in her fight against the trans-Atlantic slave trade in West Africa saw to the flight of Portuguese, American, French and Cuban slave ships with its West Africa Squadron or Preventative Squadron. They imposed anti-slavery treaties along the West African coast from Sierra Leone all the way to the Niger Delta (today’s Nigeria) and as far south as Congo.

At that time the kingdom of Lagos was under Oba Kosoko. In 1849, Britain appointed John Beecroft Consul of the Bights of Benin and Biafra, a position he held (along with his governorship of Fernando Po) until his death in 1854. John Duncan was appointed Vice Consul and was located at Wydah. At the time of Beecroft’s appointment, the Kingdom of Lagos was in the western part of the Consulate of the Bights of Benin and Biafra and was a key slave trading port.

Not until 1851, Britain, under the pressure from liberated slaves who now wielded political and business influence, intervened and captured Lagos in what was called the Bombardment of Lagos or Capture of Lagos, resulting in the installation of Oba Akitoye and the ouster of Oba Kosoko. Oba Akitoye then signed the Treaty between Great Britain and Lagos abolishing slavery. The signing of the 1852 treaty ushered in the Consular Period in Lagos’ history wherein Britain provided military protection to Lagos.

In 1861 it became expedient to make Lagos a Protectorate following threats from Kosoko and the French at Wydah. The British Minister, Lord Palmerston made this decision which led to a meeting between William McCoskry, the Acting Consul in Lagos and Commander Bedingfield with Oba Dosunmu on 30 July 1861 aboard HMS Prometheus. Oba Dosunmu resisted the terms of the treaty but under the threat to unleash violence on Lagos by Commander Bedingfield, Dosunmu relented and signed the Lagos Treaty of Cession on August 6, 1861.

But years after in 1887, Nigeria was seized as a colony by Britain and when the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria were established in 1914, Lagos was declared its capital. This remained so even after Nigeria’s independence from Britain in 1960. Along with migrants from all over Nigeria and other West African nations were the liberated slaves known as Creoles, who came from Freetown, Sierra Leone, Brazil and the West Indies to Lagos.

The Creoles contributed to Lagos’ modernization and their knowledge of Portuguese architecture can still be seen from the architecture on Lagos Island. Since the 19th century, Lagos gradually transformed to a melting pot of Africans and Europeans. Railway links and telephone cables connecting Lagos to London had been established by 1886. Electric street lighting was introduced in the city in 1898. Lagos experienced rapid growth throughout the 1960s and 1970s as a result of Nigeria’s economic boom.

Lagos as the country’s capital was administered directly by the Federal Government as a Federal Territory through the Federal Ministry of Lagos Affairs, while the Lagos City Council (LCC) governed the city until the creation of Lagos State on May 27, 1967. Lagos, along with the towns from the then Western region (Ikeja, Agege, Mushin, Ikorodu, Epe, and Badagry), were eventually captured to create Lagos State. Lagos city was split into the present day seven Local Government Areas (LGAs), while the other towns now make up 13 LGAs in the state.

Lagos remained the capital of Nigeria and the state until 1976 when the state capital was moved to Ikeja. Then, on 12 December 1991, the seat of the Federal Government was also formally relocated to Abuja. Even though Lagos is still widely referred to as a city, the present day Lagos, known officially as “Lagos Metropolitan Area” is an urban agglomeration or conurbation, consisting of 16 LGAs, including Ikeja, the state capital of Lagos State. This conurbation makes up 37% of Lagos State’s total land area, but houses about 85% of the state’s total population.

Lagos was adversely affected during Nigeria’s military rule. However, Lagos still remains the financial centre of the country, and also grew to become the most populous conurbation in the country.

Lagos Geography

Lagos can be classified into two main geographical areas – the “Island” and the “Mainland”.

The Island

The Island is basically a collection of islands that are separated from each other by creeks of varying sizes and are connected together by bridges. The Island is separated from the “mainland” by the main channel draining the lagoon into the Atlantic Ocean, which forms Lagos Harbour. Three major bridges join the island to the mainland. They are the Carter Bridge, which starts from Iddo; the Eko Bridge (formerly called the Second Mainland Bridge); and the Third Mainland Bridge, which passes through densely populated mainland suburbs to the Lagos Lagoon.

The Local Government areas that are considered to be in the Island include Lagos Island, Amuwo-Odofin, Apapa (sometimes also regarded as being on the mainland), and Eti-Osa. The major upscale island neighborhoods within these LGAs include Ikoyi and Victoria Island.

  • Lagos Island

Lagos Island is the area where most business activities and entertainment events in Lagos takes place. It also houses most of the upscale residential areas in Lagos.  This district is characterized by high-rise buildings. The island also contains many of the city’s largest wholesale marketplaces such as Idumota and Balogun Markets. It also has the National Museum of Nigeria, the Oba’s Palace and many other historical areas of attraction. Another major part of Lagos Island is Marina. It borders around the Idumota and Balogun markets and houses major Banking institutions. Though formerly in a derelict condition, Lagos Island’s Tinubu Square is a site of historical importance; it was here that the Amalgamation Ceremony that unified the North and South protectorate to form Nigeria took place in 1914.

Across the main channel of the lagoon from Lagos Island, there is a smaller settlement called Iddo. Iddo is also a railroad terminus and it is now situated in the Lagos Mainland local government area after it was connected to the mainland like a peninsula.


  • Ikoyi

Ikoyi is located on the eastern half of Lagos Island and joined to it by a landfill. This area is also connected to Victoria Island by Falomo bridge, which carries the main road over Five Cowrie creek. Ikoyi housed the headquarters of the Federal Government of Nigeria and other buildings owned by the government, including the old Federal Secretariat Complex which today, is on reestablishment.

There are military and police barracks in Ikoyi, a top-security prison and a Federal High Court of Nigeria. Ikoyi also has a number of hotels, nightclubs, a recreational park and one of Africa’s largest golf courses. Ikoyi used to be residential for the middle class. However, it has now become a fashionable residential neighborhood for the upper middle class to the upper class. There are also commercial activities in Ikoyi, which is spotted in an increasing number of offices, banks, and shopping complexes. The commercial section is concentrated in the South-West.

  • Victoria Island

Victoria Island is situated to the south of Lagos Island together with its annex. It contains expensive real estate properties and for that reason, many new luxury condos and apartments are blooming up everywhere. Along with Ikoyi, Victoria Island occupies a major area in Lagos that boasts of several sizeable shopping districts. On its seashore along the Atlantic front, there is environmentally reconstructed Bar Beach.

The Mainland

The mainland is situated on the west of the Lagoon. It is equally booming with activities and a large population. The mainland is known for its music and nightlife, which used to be located in areas around Yaba and Surulere. However, in recent years more night clubs have sprung up on the Island, making the Island (particularly Victoria Island) the main nightlife attractions. Mainland LGAs include Surulere, Ajeromi-Ifelodun, and Lagos Mainland. Metropolitan Lagos suburban LGAs include Agege, Apapa, Mushin, Oshodi-Isolo and Ikeja (site of Murtala Muhammed International Airport and the capital of Lagos State).

Major Areas on the mainland include Ebute Metta, Yaba, and Ejigbo. Some rivers, like Badagry Creek, flow parallel to the coast for some distance before exiting through the sandbars to the sea.

Architecture of Lagos

Lagos can be defined as an architectural masterpiece which houses the tallest skyline in Nigeria. The architectural styles in Lagos are diverse and range from tropical, vernacular to colonial European and ultramodern buildings or a mixture. Brazilian style architecture brought by the creoles is evident in buildings such as Water House, Shitta Bey Mosque to mention a few. Skyscrapers and most high rise buildings are centered more on the island than in the mainland. In recent years, the Lagos State government has renovated existing parks and green areas, with a long-term goal of expansion.


According to the Köppen climate classification, Lagos experiences tropical savanna climate (Aw), as there’s a significant precipitation difference between the wet season and the dry season. The wet season starts in April and ends in October, while the dry season starts in November and ends in March. The wettest month is June with precipitation total 315.5 millimeters (12.42 in), while the driest month is January with precipitation total 13.2 millimeters (0.52 in).

However, there is no significant difference between the hottest month and the coolest month because the city is located near the equator. The hottest month is March with an average temperature of 28.5 °C (83.3 °F), while the coolest month is August with an average temperature of 25.0 °C (77.0 °F).

Lagos Administration And Demographics

Lagos State is made up of 20 LGAs including Lagos City or Metropolitan Lagos. Hence, there is no overall city administration since Lagos is not a single municipality. Lagos State provides the overall government for the metropolitan region. 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 present day “Lagos Metropolitan Area”, also known as “Metropolitan Lagos”. The history of Lagos is still evidenced in the layout of the LGAs that display the unique identities of the cultures that created them.

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 people and families seeking a better life from all other parts of Nigeria and beyond and this has also contributed to its cosmopolitan status.

Census Data For Lagos

The 2006 National Population Census of Nigeria credited the metropolitan area with a population figure of 7,937,932. This figure was highly disputed because of its variance with some projections by the United Nations and other population agencies worldwide. After conducting it’s own review, the Lagos State Government presented 17,553,924 as the population figure.

However, a study found that research carried out by Africapolis (the African subsidiary of e-Geopolis backed by the Agence française de développement), in addition to the cross-referencing of official figures with more scientific independent research concluded that the 2006 census figures for Lagos State of about 9 million were valid and that the state’s own assessments are inflated.

Lagos is, by most estimates, one of the fastest-growing cities in the world. Lagos is currently experiencing a population increase of about 275,000 persons per annum.


Lagos is a major financial centre in Africa, generating the highest GDP. It is a sizzling pot of commercial and financial businesses. The Island is the central business district where most of the country’s commercial banks, financial institutions, and major corporations are headquartered. Lagos is also the major Information Communications and Telecommunications (ICT) hub of West Africa and potentially, the biggest ICT market in the continent.

Lagos also houses the largest and busiest ports in Africa under the administration of the Nigerian Ports Authority. The port is divided into three main sections: Lagos port, in the main channel next to Lagos Island, Apapa Port (site of the container terminal) and Tin Can Port, both located in Badagry Creek, which flows into Lagos Harbour from the west. The port features a railhead. The port has seen growing amounts of crude oil exported, with export figures rising between 1997 and 2000. Oil and petroleum products provide 14% of GDP and 90% of foreign exchange earnings in Nigeria as a whole.

Hotels In Lagos

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Educational System And Institutions In Lagos State

The Lagos State Government operates state schools. The education system is the 6-3-3-4 system, which is practiced throughout the country (as well as by many other members of the Economic Community of West African States). The levels are Primary, Junior Secondary School (JSS), Senior Secondary School (SSS) and university. The state of Lagos also has schools funded by the Federal government which include: Federal government college Ijanikin also known as FGC Lagos, Kings College, and Queens College.

Lagos houses various post-secondary schools, universities and other vocational institutions that are either operated by the government or private entities.

Vocational schools

Institute for Industrial Technology (IIT) : IIT is a technical vocational school for male youth from families with limited resources. It was founded in 2000 and its educational model is based on the Dual Training System.


Yaba College of Technology (YABATECH): This is Nigeria’s first higher educational institution and third in Africa. The college, a center of culture and heritage was founded in 1934.

Lagos State Polytechnic is a polytechnic comprising more than six schools including private polytechnics and was founded 25 years ago. Its main campus resides at Ikorodu, along Shagamu road.

Lagos City Polytechnic, located in Ikeja – This is the first private Polytechnic in Nigeria. It was established in 1990 by Engr. Babatunde Odufuwa.

Other polytechnics in Lagos State include Federal College of Education (Tech) Akoka, Grace Polytechnic, Wolex Polytechnic and the Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology which is more of a monotechnic.


  • University of Lagos (UNILAG): The University of Lagos (UNILAG) Akoka, is a large institution dating from 1962, with over 55,000 students. It comprises 13 faculties, run by over 4,000 staff.
  • Lagos State University (LASU): This is a multi-campus university founded in 1983. It is owned by the Lagos State government. The main campus is located at Ojo, along with the Lagos-Badagry Expressway.
  • Pan-Atlantic University formerly known as Pan-African University has a Business School (LBS), a School of Media and Communication (SMC) and an Entrepreneurial Development Center (EDC), specialized in providing short courses for SMEs.

Lagos Business School (LBS) is the most famous of them all, awarding world-class MBA and EMBA. The School of Media and Communication is also known for its pragmatic communication courses in the field of journalism, media and marketing. SMC awards BSc., MSc., and PHD in social science courses. Founded in 1996 and awarded University status in 2002. The University also places some emphasis on the study of art, running the Virtual Museum of Modern Nigerian Art.

  • National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) is the first open university in Nigeria; it is located on Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos.
  • Caleb University is a private university located at Imota, Lagos.
  • Lagos State College of Health Technology (LASCOHET) is an institution that runs health courses such as Health Information Management, Pharmacist Tech, Medical Laboratory Tech, Community Health Extension and Environmental Health Technology; it is located in Yaba.
  • Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM),
  • Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba-Mushin, Lagos.


The Lagos healthcare system is generally divided into public and private sectors that provide medical services at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. Lagos has many hospitals and medical facilities, some of which have accomplished feats in Nigeria’s medical history. For example, the oldest Nigerian hospital is located in the city as well as West Africa’s first air-operated emergency medical service, which commenced in the city.


Lagos has one of the largest and most extensive road networks in West Africa. As a densely populated area, the highways are usually congested in peak hours. The Lagos–Ibadan Expressway and the Lagos–Abeokuta Expressway are the major controlled-access highways in the north of the city and serve as inter-state highways to Oyo State and Ogun State respectively. To the west, the congested Lagos–Badagry Expressway serves outlying towns such as Festival Town, which was the location for the 1977 Festival of Black Arts and Culture 77.

Lagos’s importance as a commercial centre and port and its strategic location have led to it being the end-point of three Trans-African Highway routes using Nigeria’s national roads. The Trans-West African Coastal Highway leaves the city as the Badagry Expressway to Benin and beyond as far as Dakar and Nouakchott; the Trans-Sahara Highway to Algiers, which is close to completion, leaves the city as the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

Lagos has suburban trains, some ferry services, and a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system; along with the 14-seater bus with signature color of yellow with a touch of black, known as Danfo.


An extensive urban rail system, Lagos Rail Mass Transit, running through the Lagos metropolis is currently under construction. Several intercity and commuter trains serve Lagos through the Lagos Terminus railway station.


Lagos State Ferry Services Corporation runs a few regular routes, served by modern ferries and wharves. Private boats run irregular passenger services on the lagoon and on some creeks.

Air Transportation

Lagos is served by Murtala Muhammed International Airport, one of the largest and busiest airports in Africa. The airport is located in the northern suburb of Ikeja and has Domestic and International Terminals. With 5.1 million passengers in 2008, the airport accounts for almost fifty percent of all air traffic in Nigeria.

Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, is known as the largest west African airport that serves million of Nigerian expatriates from all over the world. The airport is the main hub of Medview Airline and Arik Air but other major airlines like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, KLM, Air France, Lufthansa and Turkish airlines operate daily flights to Lagos from all over the globe. Outbound international travel from Murtala Mohammed Airport accounts for the majority of all air passengers traveling to and from Nigeria. The airport has recently undergone upgrades along with the addition of a new terminal.

Tourism And Entertainment

Lagos is a major tourist destination, with historical monuments as well as modern architectural edifices. Lagos has become an important location for African and “black” cultural identity. Lots of festivals are held in Lagos such as: Festac Food Fair held in Festac Town Annually, Eyo Festival, Lagos Black Heritage Carnival, Lagos Carnival, Eko International Film Festival, Lagos Seafood Festac Festival, Lagos Photo Festival and the Lagos Jazz Series, which is a unique franchise for high-quality live music in all genres with a focus on jazz. The festivals are entertaining and attended by people from different parts of the country and the world at large.

The beaches are tourist sites as well. Lagos has a number of sandy beaches by the Atlantic Ocean, including Elegushi Beach and Alpha Beach and a number of private beach resorts such as Inagbe Grand Beach Resort and several others in the outskirts.

Lagos has a variety of hotels ranging from three star to five star hotels, with a mixture of local hotels such as Eko Hotels and Suites, Federal Palace Hotel and franchises of multinational chains such as Intercontinental Hotel, Sheraton and Four Points by Hilton. Other sites of attraction include the Tafawa Balewa Square, Festac town, The Nike Art Gallery, Freedom Park, Lagos and the Cathedral Church of Christ, Lagos.

Lagos Music and Film Industry

Lagos is famous throughout Africa for its music scene. Lagos has a vibrant nightlife and has given birth to a variety of styles such as Sakara music, Nigerian hip hop, highlife, juju, fuji, and Afrobeat.

Lagos is the centre of the Nigerian movie industry, often referred to as ‘Nollywood’. Idumota market on Lagos Island is the primary distribution centre. Many films are shot in the Festac area of Lagos.

Iganmu is home to the primary centre for the performing arts and artists in Nigeria: the National Arts Theatre.

Several foreign musicians have performed in the city such as: James Brown (in 1970), Sean Paul, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Akon, Jarule, Ashanti, Usher, Shaggy, R Kelly, Shakira, John Legend, Boyz II Men, T-Pain, Brian McKnight, JayZ, Mary J. Blige, Beyoncé, Brandy, Ciara, Keri Hilson and Lauryn Hill, among others.


Football is Lagos’ most popular sport. Prominent Lagos football clubs include Bridge Boys F.C. MFM F.C. and First Bank: both play in Nigeria National League, the second tier of Nigerian football.

The Nigeria National Football Team, also known as the Super Eagles, used to play almost all of their home games in Lagos at the National Stadium in Surulere; however, games are now mostly played at the larger and newer Abuja National Stadium in Abuja. Lagos also hosted the 2nd All-African games in 1973.

Cycling is increasingly becoming a sport to be reckoned with. About three years ago, Cycology Riding Club started a club in Lagos to promote cycling as a lifestyle and create awareness through social initiatives in their communities.

Lagos Cuisine

Some of the famous cuisines in Lagos include indigenous delicacies such as amala and ewedu; eba and egusil; Iyan (pounded yam) and vegetable soup; jollof; ofada rice; plantains (locally called dodo); beans; amongst other foreign cuisines.

Notable Personalities

  • Akinwunmi Ambode, Lagos State Governor.
  • Babatunde Fashola, Former Governor of Lagos and Minister of Power, Works and Housing.
  • Funsho Williams, politician and one time aspirant to the office of Lagos state governor.
  • Hakeem Olajuwon, professional basketball player.
  • Bola Tinubu, Former Governor of Lagos State.
  • Bode George, Politician.

International Relations

Lagos has twin towns and sister cities such as:

  • United States Gary, Indiana, United States, since 1991.
  • The United States Atlanta, Georgia, United States, since 1974.