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Infrastructure Development and Urban Facilities in Lagos, 1861-2000

Ayodeji Olukoju


Ayodeji Olukoju

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1A substantial literature exists on various aspects of Lagos history and culture across time and space. While it can be claimed that the process of urbanization in Lagos has received and continues to receive justifiable scholarly attention, given the peculiarities of the city, it is clear that gaps still exist in the literature. Until now, there has been no specific study of the development of infrastructural and urban facilities in what is unquestionably West Africa’s premier city. The subject has not received the kind of focused attention it is getting in this book as there are only scattered references to aspects of it in various books and journal articles devoted to specific themes, which are listed in the bibliography at the end of this book. This provides the justification for the present focus on three important urban facilities - water, electricity and transport - in the period since the establishment of British colonial rule in 1861.

2In filling this gap, this study draws on primary and secondary material from a wide variety of sources: the colonial archives, newspapers, unpublished reports, oral data, and published and unpublished material of various types. The study is also informed by the author’s personal experience in Lagos since 1987, and his first-hand knowledge of the provision and usage of most of the three facilities being studied in various cities of Asia, Europe and North America. The author’s personal experience, which transcends political, economic and cultural frontiers, gives the study a special flavour and provides a good insight into the subject. Furthermore, as is evident from the literature consulted and listed in the bibliography, this study has adopted a decidedly interdisciplinary approach. It drew useful insights from cognate disciplines (geography, sociology, economies and anthropology), focusing on the general subject of urban life and specifically on the three facilities under consideration. Nevertheless, the work is rooted primarily at the interface of social and economic history as it traverses the colonial and post-Independence epochs of Lagos history. To be sure, the entire period of some 150 years is unevenly covered; but great care has been taken to provide broad coverage of the entire period. Consequently, this work is not a “parish and pump” history of the events being studied. It was not intended to and could not have covered every street or detailed every event. Owing to the unevenness of the data - hardly any major development before the 1890s and the poor archival documentation of the post-195 7 period - this study takes off from the late 1890s, when the first of the facilities made its debut in Lagos. Still, some attention has been paid to developments dating from the establishment of the colony in 1861.

3The book contains four main chapters, the first of which provides the conceptual and demographic context for the study. The remaining chapters deal with electricity, water supply and urban transport, respectively, from the late 1890s to the present. Each of these chapters pays attention to the critical issues of the supply, usage and socio-economic impact of the respective facilities. A concluding chapter summarizes and reflects on the discussion in the preceding chapters of the book and makes appropriate policy recommendations.

4Setting the book in a wider geographical context, it is the first to focus on the three urban facilities in a single city over a time span of such length. A comparable text, which however covers only French West Africa, is Les Investissements publics dans les villes africaines: 1930-1985, Sophie Dulucq and Odile Goerg (eds.), Paris: L’Harmattan, 1989. Even so, there is hardly any reference in it to electricity. This makes the present text on Lagos all the more crucial to an understanding of an important aspect of African urban history.

5The research leading to this publication would not have been completed without the support and financial assistance of several individuals and organizations. First and foremost, I am greatly indebted to Dr. Laurent Fourchard, Director, IFRA, Ibadan, for suggesting the topic and providing the funding for the research. His involvement went beyond the bounds of duty, for he made his flat available for my use while I was in Paris for the presentation of a part of the research report; he also organized another seminar for me at IFRA, Ibadan. In the same vein, I thank Professors Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch and Odile Goerg of the University of Paris VII, who visited the Department of History, University of Lagos, where I am Head of Department, and organized the Paris workshop already alluded to. I wish to thank participants in the seminars in Paris and Ibadan in June and October 2002 for their helpful comments and suggestions, and the informants (including those who preferred to be anonymous) for sparing their time and supplying valuable information. Drs Tayo Adesina of the University of Ibadan and Ademola Adeleke of the University of Lagos commented on early drafts of this work, while Drs Kehinde Faluyi and Taiwo Akinyele of the University of Lagos, and Kemi Rotimi of the Obafemi Awolowo University, among others, assisted in procuring some important source materials. I hereby register my deep appreciation to the Management of The PUNCH newspapers for granting me permission to use the two cartoons in Appendix 2 of this book. I cannot but acknowledge the contribution of my research assistants, Paul Osifodunrin, Toyin Ilori, Lanre Davies and Ikenna Obi, towards the completion of the research leading to this publication. I am, however, responsible for the opinions expressed in this work.

6The book is dedicated to my wife, Omowumi, and to our children, Oluwadamilola, Omolola, Oreoluwa and Oluwaseyi, for their sacrificial support of, and interest in, my academic endeavours by bearing with my unavoidable absences on many an academic safari. Above all, I thank God for preserving me and seeing me through the challenges and battles of life.

© IFRA-Nigeria, 2003

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