Nigeria: Challenges of Lagos As a Mega-City

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Brief History of the Growth of Lagos Metropolis

First inhabited before the 15th Century A.D, Lagos as a coastal town grew from a small fishing and farming settlement on an island chosen primarily for its comparative safety from attack - a frequent feature of the then inter-tribal warfare. The advent of the Portuguese in 1472 gave the island its present name of Lagos. The Brazilian traders who came to Lagos in the 1880s settled in the area (on Lagos Island) that is known as Brazilian Quarters, where Brazilian architecture is still much in evidence.

As Lagos became a trade centre, the nation's capital and a seat of learning, migrants came to settle there. Thus began the trend in rural-urban migration. As the population of Lagos increased, spatial expansion became inevitable. From a land area of 4km on the island, and an estimated population of 28,518 in 1871; the population of the city grew to 126,108 in 1931 and the land area expanded to 62.8km. It is significant to note that Lagos grew at a rate of 3.3 percent per annum between 1901 and 1950 but its growth rate per annum between 1950 and 1963 had risen to 18.6 percent. By 1952, the population of Metropolitan Lagos, (whose boundary had expanded to include some rural settlements) had reached 346,137. By the 1963 census, a population of 1,122,733 was recorded for Metropolitan Lagos which at that time did not include Ikorodu.

While by 1971, some Nigerian urban centers were growing at an annual rate of 2-3 percent, Lagos metropolis was experiencing a growth of 14 percent (Lagos Executive Development Board, 1971).

By 1978, the population of Metropolitan Lagos had risen to 3.8 million, and by 1979 it was 4.13 million. The various economic activities encouraged population growth. This phenomenal population growth was not due to natural increase alone but also to rural-urban migration and foreign immigration. The migrants are mainly in their reproductive years and are in search of better opportunities.

Lagos remained the nation's administrative capital till December 1991, when the seat of government moved to Abuja. However, up till now it is still the nation's nerve centre for economic activities, and it has the status of the financial center of West Africa. It is centre of gravity for professionals, semiprofessionals, skilled and unskilled labour and also unfortunately criminals! Lagos also has a vibrant and aggressive informal economic sector.

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