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The Architecture of Fear

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Tunde Agbola

3. Lagos: A Socio-economic Profile of Selected neighbourhoods

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Lagos: The context of the study

1It is an undisputable fact that in Nigeria today, Lagos remains the most complex metropolitan centre of regional population and organization; a major focus of political, financial and cultural power for its own residents, and for people in neighbouring states; and after Abuja — the Federal Capital — it is the commercial/industrial capital, the major port of entry and exit from Nigeria, and the most significant city in the country.

2On the one hand, the role which Lagos plays, both locally and nationally, comes from the complex set of functions carried out within the metropolis. These functions range from essentially economic activities such as manufacturing to more socially oriented ones like government housing projects. Major decisions affecting social and economic changes in Nigeria are made in Lagos, as in Abuja, while Lagos remains a major point of origin for the development and diffusion elsewhere, of significant innovations of all kinds.

3The human density of the metropolis, its pace of daily life, the complexity of its transactions, and the cosmopolitan reach of its flow of products, and people, have all combined to project Lagos as a member of the world metropolitan club. These attributes of the metropolis are usually regarded as the stimulants to cultural creativity and change that maintain the metropolis as a dynamic node within the national settlement system.

4On the other hand, however, the housing situation in many parts of Lagos leaves much to be desired. Many residents are homeless or live in housing units described by the United Nations as a menace to health and to human dignity. Overcrowded slums in the metropolis have been found to contribute to a high rate of juvenile delinquency; high rates of family dependence on members of the public for assistance; high levels of illiteracy; high proportions of unemployed women; greater levels of unemployment, poverty, and divorce; more non support cases, alcoholism, drug abuse; a higher rate of psychological disorders and mental deficiency; low marriage rates; a low average educational level; low residential mobility (due to acute shortage of residential building and land); and a generally higher degree of social abnormality, lawlessness, crime and fear.

5Here then lies a public policy paradox: Many Nigerians dread the increasing rate of urban violence in the city, while some would not even wish to live there; yet, according to statistical records, Lagos has more police stations than any other town or city in Nigeria. How then could this rate of urban violence be stemmed, and how could the solution found be replicated in other towns and cities in Nigeria? These are some of the issues which prompted the eventual selection of Lagos as a case study.

A History of the Growth of Lagos

6Lagos is located in a lagoon along the southwestern coast between latitudes 6° and 7° north of the Equator, and between longitudes 3° and 4° east of Greenwich. This lagoon extends from Cotonou (Republic of Benin) in the west, to the Niger Delta in Nigeria. As the only natural break along some 2°500 kilometres of the West African coastline, Lagos became a very important seaport during the trading activities of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The expansion of Lagos was due to the growth of the colonial economy of Nigeria. Having served as the seat of government between 1914 and 1992, after which the federal capital was relocated to Abuja, Lagos remains the largest seaport and the most important railway terminus, and enjoys prominence in the export-oriented economy of Nigeria. The city acquired the status of a municipality in 1950, and its area was subsequently extended to incorporate parts of the mainland (figure 1). Today, metropolitan Lagos is made up of 13 local government areas, covering about 32 per cent of the total area of Lagos State, that is, about 1088 square kilometres. About 209 square kilometres of the area is covered by water and unreclaimed mangrove swamps.

7First inhabited in the 15th century A.D., Lagos grew from a small fishing and farming settlement on an island that was chosen primarily because of its safety from attacks during the inter-tribal wars. Lagos, meaning lakes or lagoons, was the name given to the settlement by the early Portuguese traders (1472) and was subsequently adopted by the English colonisers. Although the indigenous inhabitants called the settlement Eko, the origin of this word is unknown and has no meaning in Yoruba. Even so, many indigenes still use the traditional name, Eko. Brazilian traders who arrived in Lagos in the 1880s settled in an area which is still known as the Brazilian Quarter or Popo Aguda (another Portuguese name, see figure 1). Brazilian forms of architecture are still apparent today, and they can be found around Campus Square in the centre of Lagos Island, a less advantageous, but more sanitary, part of the city.

8Three crucial factors have been identified as being responsible for the subsequent growth of the city of Lagos and surrounding settlements, namely:

  1. the construction, in 1895, of a railway line as a means of linking the city and port with the hinterland

  2. the development of the Lagos harbour into the best on the West African Coast between 1906 and 1917

  3. the construction, in 1900, of Carter Bridge, which was reconstructed in 1933 and again in 1979, to link the island with the mainland, and hinterland

Figure 1. Map of metropolitan Lagos

Source: Modified after J.A. Babarinde, (1995).

9Only recently (1992), the Third Mainland Bridge was officially commissioned to link Lagos Island with Oworonsoki, an area which has since become another growth point in the metropolis.

10These factors were crucial in that, not only did goods from the hinterland come in by rail, roads, and waterways, finding outlets through the Lagos harbour, but immigrants also came to settle in Lagos. This city then became not only an important commercial/industrial centre in Nigeria and West Africa, but also the seat of government and learning, as well as an important cultural centre. Thus began the trend in rural-urban migration and the beginning of a distinctive type of urbanism.

11As the population of Lagos increased, expansion became inevitable. In 1871, Lagos Island was 4 km2 and had an estimated population of 28,518. By 1931, the population of the city had increased to 126,108 and the area had expanded to 62.8 km2, encompassing areas immediately outside the Lagos Island – a phenomenal increase of 342.2 per cent in population and 1,470 per cent expansion in area over the 1871 figures.

12According to information gathered from the Lagos State Property Development Corporation (LSDPC), it was not only the city that expanded, but the largely rural settlements such as Mushin, Oshodi-, Ikeja, Agege, Shomolu and Bariga. Surulere village and villages west of Apapa, which were then outside the urban area, were also expanding, so much so that the total population of Metropolitan Lagos, whose boundary had by then become fairly well established to include these rural settlements, reached 346.137 by 1952. By 1963, the controversial post-independence census recorded a population of 665,246 for the city of Lagos and a figure of 457,487 for the settlements outside it, thus making a total population of 1,122,733 for Metropolitan Lagos. This figure excluded the 110735 recorded for Ikorodu and Baiyeku, two settlements about 40 km from the city centre – settlements that are now gradually becoming merged with Metropolitan Lagos as the green-belt, mainly marshlands, which separates them from Lagos, is being eaten away by the expansion of farm settlements as well as other new developments.

Table 3.1 Population of Lagos, 1800-1993

Table 3.1 Population of Lagos, 1800-1993

Note * : n.a. not available
Notes: 1 Estimate 2 Probably an overestimation 3 Adjusted census figures

Sources: 1800-1952/53: A.L. Mabogunje, Urbanisation in Nigeria, University of London Press, London, 1968, pp. 239, 241, 244, 257 and 329; 1963: I.I. Ekanem, The 1963 Nigerian Census: A critical appraisal, Ethiope Publishing Corp., Benin City, 1972, p.63 (cited in Federal Office of Statistics, The Population Census of Nigeria, 1963, 3); 1973- 92: Federal Office of Statistics, Lagos.

13In fact, some scholars regard Ikorodu and Baiyeku as part of Metropolitan Lagos, whose area is, at present, imprecise. Thus far, the phenomenal rise in the population of Metropolitan Lagos can be attributed more to migration from the hinterland as a response to the relative abundance of job opportunities, than to natural increase and foreign immigration. In fact, it has been confirmed that 74.5 per cent of those who migrated to Lagos came in search of employment (LSDPC, 1978). Tables 3.1-3.3 show the historical growth pattern of the population of Lagos.

Table 3.2 Population of Greater Lagos, 1952 and 1963

Table 3.2 Population of Greater Lagos, 1952 and 1963

Source: Federal Office of Statistics, Lagos, 1996.

14The social heterogeneity of Lagos is reflected in the residential pattern. The urban class structure affects residential patterns in different degrees, depending on ethnicity, kinship, and time of settlement. Class and ethnicity tend to be inversely proportional among higher income groups and directly proportional among lower income groups. Put another way, the higher one’s income, the less important it is to live with one’s ethnic group. The lower one’s income, the more important it becomes to reside with one’s own ethnic or communal group. However, this generalization applies to all but one significant section of Lagos community — the traditional quarter of the city. In sections of Lagos Island, where over 75 per cent of the residents are indigenes, kinship is still a very prominent criterion of residential location, and in many cases it supersedes class considerations.

Table 3.3 Population of Greater Lagos, 1991

Table 3.3 Population of Greater Lagos, 1991

Source: Federal Office of Statistics, Lagos, 1996

15For instance, the Yoruba are found in all areas of Lagos but are more concentrated in Lagos Island and Ebute Metta, one of the oldest districts of the city. The Igbo have generally settled near their places of work, in Obalende, Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Ojuelegba behind the railway compound, in Apapa near the industrial plants, and in some sections of Yaba. The Edo have established roots in Epetedo and Ita Faji, in the traditional districts of Lagos Island; the Urhobo in Ereko; the Efik in Araromi and Ojuelegba.

16However, there is no place in the metropolis today where ethnic segregation is complete, not even in the traditional core areas, where scattered mixtures of ethnic groups exist. The pattern of separate communities for strangers commonly found in many other Nigerian cities has not emerged in Lagos, although records show that during the colonial era, a separate Hausa community, a Sabon Gari, was once contemplated. Today, even though a Sabo ward exists in the Lagos Mainland local government area, the Hausa constitute a very small proportion of the urban population.

17Two other factors have discouraged the establishment of separate ‘stranger settlements’ in Lagos: the shortage of land and the high mobility of the resident population. Lagos is a congested metropolis, it would be almost impossible for a community to eut itself off from the rest of the city. Such a community, in the face of scarcity of land and severe overcrowding, would be inundated by the constant flow of new immigrants. Again, it has been reported that the majority of immigrants to Lagos stay there for no less than ten years, a fact which undermines the stability and solidarity of ethnic or communal enclaves. Therefore, it can be concluded that although Lagos is built around a permanent traditional community, the majority of urban dwellers are transients in a perpetual state of relocation.

18The phenomenon of the urban ghetto is apparent in the Lagos inner city, as is the case in many Western cities; for exactly the opposite reasons. In Britain or the USA for instance, urban ghettos result from a middle-class exodus and a lower-class influx. Conversely, in Lagos, the inner city is dominated by land owning native-born residents living in the heart of the city which has accommodated their families for generations. These indigenes form a lower-class, while the urban migrants who provide most of the skilled labour for the commercial and industrial sectors of the metropolitan economy, are forced to reside in the peri-urban areas of the city.

19Consequently, the social divisions existing in Lagos are exacerbated by the spatial distribution of the separate social groups. In sum, the contemporary metropolis is a community of basic contradictions and various orders of differentiation. Its modernity is anchored on a strong base of tradition; its prosperity rests on pillars of poverty; its cosmopolitanism cloaks a society of provincial groupings. Perhaps, most contradictory of all, the oldest and most solidified segment of the metropolis is, essentially, an urban village which still retains the traditional characteristics of ethnic homogeneity, communal land tenure, close kinship ties, and primary group relationships. Lagos, indeed, has dual character.

The Socio-economic Profile of Residents

20The socio-economic profile of residents, both landlords and tenants, of Lagos can be explained empirically using data obtained from the survey conducted to ascertain the sex, age, educational attainment, occupation and length of stay of the residents in the city. A total of 1184 residents, (landlords and tenants), were interviewed as shown in tables 3.4-3.7.

Table 3.4 Sex of respondents

Table 3.4 Sex of respondents

Source: Fieldwork, 1996.

21In table 3.5, it is evident that respondents aged between 21 and 40 years (63.26%), dominate the residential property market in Lagos. This is followed by those aged between 41-60 years (20.61%). Residents above 60, (8.95%) and those below 20 years (7.18%), are smaller in number. Thus, it would generally appear that, as the age of Lagosians increases from adolescence through the age of 40 years, the probability of becoming a residential property owner rises and vice versa. This has several implications for the vulnerability of certain groups of home- owners to urban violence, particularly armed attack, by the less privileged people in the society.

Table 3.5 Age of respondents

Table 3.5 Age of respondents

Source: Fieldwork, 1996.

22Home ownership is positively correlated with the level of education of residents of Lagos. In table 3.6, as the level of education rises, the number of residential property owners increases. Owners with educational attainments above secondary education are the largest in number, at 43.92 per cent. This is followed by secondary school leavers, 31.08 per cent and primary school leavers at 15.46 per cent. Those residents with no educational qualifications, 4.05 per cent and those with other qualifications, 5.48 per cent are not very significant residential property owners. Essentially, therefore, entry into the Lagos residential property ownership club is highly competitive and elitist in nature.

23Table 3.7 reveals that those residents who could not be identified with any type of job account for the largest number of respondents. This probably means that many residents were either not willing or ready to disclose their true jobs, or alternatively, they were out of work or had been retrenched/ retired at the time of the fieldwork. Self-employed artisans and professionals, ranked second, (27.70%) in the list of home owners interviewed in Lagos, while traders ranked third (23.82%).

Table 3.6 Educational attainment and home ownership

Table 3.6 Educational attainment and home ownership

Source-, Fieldwork, 1996.

Table 3.7 Occupation of respondents and home ownership

Table 3.7 Occupation of respondents and home ownership

Source: Fieldwork, 1996.

24In sum, therefore, white-collar workers, teachers, lecturers, medical workers, company workers, clergymen, military/police officers and civil servants— fare very poorly in their ranking as home-owners in Lagos, whilst self employed artisans, professionals and traders are dominant.

Índice de ilustraciones

Leyenda Figure 1. Map of metropolitan Lagos
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/498/img-1.jpg
Archivo image/jpeg, 268k
Título Table 3.1 Population of Lagos, 1800-1993
Leyenda Note * : n.a. not available Notes: 1 Estimate 2 Probably an overestimation 3 Adjusted census figures
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/498/img-2.jpg
Archivo image/jpeg, 268k
Título Table 3.2 Population of Greater Lagos, 1952 and 1963
Leyenda Source: Federal Office of Statistics, Lagos, 1996.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/498/img-3.jpg
Archivo image/jpeg, 204k
Título Table 3.3 Population of Greater Lagos, 1991
Leyenda Source: Federal Office of Statistics, Lagos, 1996
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/498/img-4.jpg
Archivo image/jpeg, 196k
Título Table 3.4 Sex of respondents
Leyenda Source: Fieldwork, 1996.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/498/img-5.jpg
Archivo image/jpeg, 72k
Título Table 3.5 Age of respondents
Leyenda Source: Fieldwork, 1996.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/498/img-6.jpg
Archivo image/jpeg, 100k
Título Table 3.6 Educational attainment and home ownership
Leyenda Source-, Fieldwork, 1996.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/498/img-7.jpg
Archivo image/jpeg, 124k
Título Table 3.7 Occupation of respondents and home ownership
Leyenda Source: Fieldwork, 1996.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifra/docannexe/image/498/img-8.jpg
Archivo image/jpeg, 207k

© IFRA-Nigeria, 1997

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