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Infrastructure, services, and housing


Up to 1981, there was no urban transportation plan for the whole Lagos metropolitan area. What often happened was that road networks were laid out in specific areas as they became incorporated into the built-up area of the city. There are about 2,700 km of road, about 40 per cent of which are tarred, and three main bridges linking Lagos Island and the mainland. However, inadequate land was generally reserved for road networks, with the result that some houses cannot be reached by motorable roads. In many cases the provision of parking spaces for motor vehicles was virtually ignored.

The problems of providing an efficient transportation system in metropolitan Lagos are threefold. First, there are the institutional problems, which seem to constitute by far the greatest problem. At least six different public agencies are responsible for the supply of transport facilities and the provision of transport services in the metropolis. These include the Federal Ministry of Works and Planning, the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation, the Nigerian Railway Corporation, and Lagos City Transport Services. Institutional reforms to improve the capacity for transport programme development and administration are clearly needed (Federal Ministry of Transport, Aviation and Communication, 1993). The lack of coordination between federal, state, and local council networks results in the existence of sharp breaks in road quality and maintenance standard. Similarly, the failure of the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation to integrate development of government layouts with those of private developers has produced ineffective integration of road networks within the metropolis. The inherent physical characteristics of many areas, especially the swampy terrain, constitute a second important challenge for efficient transportation networks. This involves technical problems in providing efficient drainage networks and in building roads of a high standard. This problem can be surmounted, provided the necessary financial resources are available and contracts for the construction works are awarded on merit to capable and experienced civil engineering firms. An integrated network of underground drainage channels, though costly for the whole of the metropolitan road network, would eliminate the perennial problem of street flooding during the rainy season in the metropolis. The social problems of traffic control, traffic discipline, and the observance of traffic laws and regulations constitute the third main problem. There is generally a low standard of traffic discipline on the part of motorists. This is aggravated by the extremely low standard of traffic control at strategic four-way intersections. In addition, traffic safety measures are poor, especially with respect to cyclists and pedestrians, particularly schoolchildren.

During the oil boom period in the early 1970s, commuters who earned over 600 naira per month normally owned private means of transport, thus reducing the demand for public transport. However, the current economic situation in the country has turned many marginal car owners into public transport users. The emerging trend is that more people, irrespective of their income levels, now depend on public transport services for mobility. This trend is bound to increase, because car ownership is now beyond the reach of many workers, thus leading to rapidly expanding demand for public transport.

Estimates of transport demand in metropolitan Lagos in 1990 ranged from 7 to 10 million passenger trips daily, of which over 95 per cent were undertaken by road, primarily by car, bus, and taxi. Of these, 80-85 per cent were made by public transport. However, there has been a considerable decline in the number of vehicles available for public transport, particularly since the mid-1980s. The total vehicle fleet in Lagos State declined from 165,000 in 1984 to 100,000 in 1988. Newly registered vehicles declined from 72,000 in 1982 to 17,000 in 1986 and 10,000 in 1988. New public transport vehicles declined from 16,500 in 1983 to 1,500 in 1988 (Lagos State Government, 1990). Imported used cars and buses have partially filled the gap. In 1991, 80 per cent of the 35,000 used vehicles imported into Nigeria were concentrated in Lagos. Many of these are used to operate the unconventional, unregulated, and unregistered services called kabu-kabu. A survey of the kabu-kabu services in December 1991 recorded 3,961 such minibuses on 24 of the over 300 public transport routes in metropolitan Lagos (The Guardian, 11 February 1994, p. 18).

Total annual passengers carried by the Lagos State Transport Corporation have fluctuated from 90 million in 1978 to 53 million in 1983, 76 million in 1989, and possibly fewer than 60 million in 1992 (The Guardian, 11 February 1994, p. 18). Consequent upon the SAP riots in 1989, the federal government introduced the Mass Transit Scheme, under which buses were distributed to states to assist in both inter-urban and inter-state transportation. Lagos metropolis benefited from this. In addition, in 1991, the Lagos State government introduced new fleets of buses for metropolitan Lagos. In 1992, the state government bought 90 buses and leased them to private operators to help ease the acute transportation problem. However, the scheme appears to have been grounded owing largely to default by many beneficiaries. A Task Force has been set up to recover payments. As of June 1994, four buses had been seized by the Task Force. Other bus operations sponsored by Lagos local government, which started in 1991, have reached more than half of the Lagos State Transport Corporation's capacity. Eventually, in 1993, the Corporation was dissolved and its staff laid off owing to inefficiencies and frequent breakdown of the buses. A few local governments continue to operate their own intra-city bus services. However, the services remain grossly inadequate and private sector operators have taken advantage of the vacuum to increase their operations. The 14,000 taxis in operation carried about 1.1 million passengers in 1989. In contrast, the minibus and midi-bus operators may be carrying about 4.5 to 5 million passengers daily. They are thus the most significant means of public transport. This major adaptive service comprises mostly old, often rickety used cars and minibuses used to operate largely unregulated public transport and accounts for the bulk of the public transport service in metropolitan Lagos. They are the only means of transport available in some localities. The second adaptive service is the use of motor-cycles to carry passengers from the suburbs to the main transport interchanges or terminals. These two adaptive services have provided substantial relief to the working class and the urban poor unserved by conventional public transport.

Urban railways, even since mass transit rail passenger services were introduced in 1988 and 1990, carry fewer than 1 million passengers per year. In recognition of the acute need for commuter transportation, the Nigerian Railway Corporation, which already has a commuter service between Agege and Apapa Wharf, commissioned a commuter line from Iju to Ebute Metta on 21 April 1994 (fig. 6.1). This was the first such effort since 1965. It is claimed that the service will add 10,000 passengers per day to the commuter passenger capacity of the railway service. The most recent policy emphasis, however, is on greater use of the private sector to provide affordable public transport services (Federal Ministry of Transport, Aviation and Communication, 1993).

Apart from inadequate public transport, other problems of the road system in metropolitan Lagos include poor maintenance, and traffic congestion (Onakomaiya, 1978). Many roads within the metropolis need repairing. Potholes are often left too long before being repaired and such delays tend to increase the cost of maintenance. In addition, roads are often damaged in the process of laying water pipes and electricity cables.

Efforts made in the past to solve the perennial problems of traffic congestion have included the construction of bridges, ring roads, and expressways; restriction of access to the city centre on alternate days of vehicles with odd and even registration numbers; and the conversion of hitherto two-way roads to one-way. Although these are commendable efforts, they have not solved the problem of traffic congestion, particularly during peak periods. It was hoped that the proposed Metroline Project would have helped in reducing the congestion. However, with the cancellation and later resuscitation and drastic modification of the original project, other measures may be needed to tackle the problem. It is hoped that traffic restraint measures will be introduced in Lagos Island (Federal Ministry of Transport, Aviation and Communication, 1993). In addition, a comprehensive study of land use within Lagos Island, Ikoyi, and Victoria Island is needed, with a view to introducing policy instruments that would stimulate the relocation of certain activities to other parts of the metropolis, thereby reducing the pressure for commuter transport to the central area.

Water supply

Inadequate water supply creates a continuing headache for both private residents and entrepreneurs in metropolitan Lagos. Table 6.4 shows the installed capacity, production in September 1994, and problems of production. There are 17 waterworks in Lagos State, with a total installed capacity of 4,119.3 million gallons of water per month (MGM). In September 1994 less than half of the potential was supplied and typically only 50-55 per cent of the water demand of the metropolis is being met. Private individuals as well as industrial and other establishments tend to supplement the piped supply by sinking boreholes or wells. In addition to the problems noted in the table, pipe breakages, inefficiency, and lack of spare parts inhibit greater output. Mini-waterworks were introduced during the period of the civilian administration between 1979 and 1983. Their capacities ranged between 2.5 million and 3 million gallons per day. They are currently not functioning properly and need upgrading. The Adiyan waterworks, the first phase of which was opened in 1991, has a capacity of 70 million gallons per day. A second phase with the same capacity is being evaluated. There are also problems of water distribution. A project assisted by the World Bank to improve the secondary and tertiary distribution network is currently being implemented. When completed, it is hoped that up to 65 per cent of the demand will be met. The state government is currently embarking on a state water supply expansion programme aimed at supplying water for all, including its rural areas, by the year 2000. There are, of course, spatial variations in the adequacy of the service. For example, the old-established neighbourhoods of Yaba and Ebute Metta, with a well-laid-out grid-iron pattern of development, are better serviced than slum neighbourhoods such as Ajegunle (fig. 6.1).

Table 6.4 Monthly production of water for metropolitan Lagos' September 1994

Name of waterworks Designed capacity in MGMa Production in MGM, September 1994 % of designed capacity Remarks
Adiyan 2,100 1,715.05 81.67  
Iju 1,350 294.67 21.83 Irregular power supplies
Isashi 120 91.93 76.61  
Agege 72 - - Faulty borehole and NEPA problem
Shomolu 72 - -  
Apapa 72 - - Major NEPA fault
Surulere 72 - - Major NEPA fault
Shasha 72 - - Undergoing rehabilitation
Isolo 90 24.00 26.67 Faulty clear-water pumps
Amuwo Odofin 90 - -  
Alausa Ikeja 9.3 3.92 42.15 Production interruption owing to a burst main
Total 4,119.3 2,129.57 49.3  

Source: Lagos State Water Corporation, October 1994.

a. MGM = million gallons per month.


Metropolitan Lagos accounts for about 40 per cent of the total electric power consumption in Nigeria, but inadequate and erratic power supply for industrial, commercial, and domestic demands has characterized the service provided by the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA), now renamed after commercialization as National Electric Power plc. The regular occurrence of intermittent power outages has led to nearly all industrial establishments in the metropolis acquiring their own stand-by generators (Lee and Anas, 1992). Some industrialists have claimed that, in recent times, they have had to depend on their generators and now regard NEPA as a stand-by. The ultimate consequences of this undesirable situation are low capacity utilization and higher costs of production. It was hoped that Egbin Thermal Power Station, which was commissioned in the late 1980s purposely to meet the electricity requirements of metropolitan Lagos, would improve the situation. It did for a while, until the station developed problems and could not obtain the necessary funds for spare parts. Efforts are currently being made to address the problems in collaboration with the federal government.


In terms of telecommunication facilities, which could relieve the pressure on intra-urban transportation, the NITEL telephone facilities are grossly inadequate. Although metropolitan Lagos is the best serviced area in Nigeria, with most of the lines in Lagos State (which itself has 40 per cent of the national total), demand far exceeds supply and some areas are much better served than others. Although the installed capacity (155,000 connections in 1994) is yet to be exhausted (80 per cent of potential connections have been made), there are demands that cannot be met (NITEL, Lagos, October 1994). The problems include the need to replace underground cables and to expand and modernize existing external networks. A World Bank assisted programme to provide an additional 132,000 lines for metropolitan Lagos and to modernize existing lines is being pursued in three phases. Efforts to improve the efficiency of the service included the provision of digital exchanges for Lagos Island, Victoria Island, Apapa, Ikeja, and Surulere in 1992. This has considerably improved international links. However, there is still a lot to be done to ensure the availability and reliability of the service for internal communication.

Environmental sanitation

Lagos seems to have acquired the unenviable status of being one of the dirtiest cities in the world. An important element in this regard is the inability of the city management authorities to cope effectively with waste disposal. The Waste Disposal Board was established in 1977 to coordinate refuse disposal activities in Lagos State. Initially it was mandated to take charge of general environmental sanitation and the collection, disposal, and management of domestic refuse. Subsequently, it was assigned responsibility for cleaning primary and secondary drains, the collection and disposal of industrial wastes, flood relief activities, and the collection and disposal of scrap and derelict vehicles.

With the inauguration of the Board in 1978, these duties were contracted out to a firm of pollution control experts. The situation improved slightly. However, the contract was terminated in 1984 and the Waste Disposal Board assumed direct responsibility. The national environmental sanitation exercise has also made an impact on the level of cleanliness in the metropolis. On average the Waste Disposal Board collects an additional 55,000 tonnes of refuse monthly as a result of this exercise. However, the Waste Disposal Board has recently run into problems, because the vehicles and other equipment it initially acquired have broken down and need replacement. The cost of replacement has proved prohibitive because of the considerable decline in the value of the national currency. The problem of uncleared accumulated refuse has once again surfaced in various parts of the metropolis, and task forces are being set up to clear it, but it is estimated that one-third of the city has no refuse collection service (Aina et al., 1994).

The Board, now named the Lagos State Waste Management Authority, has adopted the strategy of clearing refuse at night, since traffic congestion hinders effective operation during the day. The target is to collect 5,000 tonnes of refuse daily, which is about 75 per cent of the total solid waste generated daily. Another problem that acts as a constraint on efficient operation by the Waste Management Authority is the fact that up to 60 per cent of the inhabitants of the metropolis live in inaccessible areas. It has been claimed that for each day the refuse van is unable to reach any area, it takes an additional three days to clear the backlog. A 42 ha piece of land is being developed in the outer metropolitan area as a modern landfill site capable of handling solid waste for the next 40 years.

Although the pail system of sewerage has now been eliminated and the majority of Lagos residents have access to a water-flushed toilet, the supply of water is insufficient and waste water has to be used for flushing. Treatment facilities are totally inadequate and untreated or inadequately treated effluent is discharged into the Lagoon and pollutes groundwater (Aina et al., 1994). In 1993 the World Bank approved a credit of US$63 million through the International Development Association for a Lagos Drainage and Sanitation Project. This is aimed at improving living conditions in parts of Lagos that presently suffer from regular inundation, by improving storm water drainage. It will also provide assistance to the Lagos Waste Management Authority.


One of the great challenges facing metropolitan Lagos is housing (Abiodun, 1974, 1976). The considerable gap between supply and demand has found expression in the astronomical cost of rented dwellings. Overcrowding, slums, and substandard housing are expressions of this problem. Prior to 1928, planned residential areas in Lagos were limited. They included Ikoyi, which was a reservation area for expatriates who were colonial administrators and executives of foreign firms, and had a population of 4,000, or 3 per cent of the population of the city in 1931 (fig. 6.1). Apapa, Ebute Metta, and Yaba, with a combined population of 22,000, or 17 per cent of the total, also had some element of planning, in the sense that road networks in Ebute Metta and Yaba were laid out on a grid and residential development was confined to the blocks within the road pattern. On Lagos Island, apart from the areas around the racecourse and marina, the indigenous housing was unplanned and was left to develop haphazardly, with houses built quite close together. Such overcrowded, unhealthy housing and poor environmental conditions stimulated the rapid spread of influenza epidemics and bubonic plague, which ravaged the city between 1924 and 1930. These led to the emergence, in 1928, of the pioneer planning authority in Nigeria, the Lagos Executive Development Board (LEDB), which embarked on slum clearance and the relocation of families from the Island to the Mainland at Surulere (fig. 6.1; see also Peil, 1991). Since then, the activities of planning authorities have assumed considerable importance in metropolitan Lagos.

The Ikeja Area Planning Authority (IAPA) (fig 6.1) was established in 1956 to control development in the part of the metropolis outside the then Federal Capital Territory. In 1958, the Western Nigeria Housing Corporation was created by the former Western Region government with the responsibility of providing housing finance. In 1972, the LEDB, the IAPA, and the Epe Town Planning Authority were merged to form the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC) to stimulate greater efficiency and eliminate delay, waste, and duplication of responsibilities in the housing sector (LSDPC, n.d. (a), (b), (c)). Table 6.5 summarizes the housing units constructed by some of these authorities. The period 1979-1983 under the Jakande administration witnessed a massive housing development programme. Nevertheless, the problem persists - mostly because of rapid population growth, but also because of the introduction of the SAP in 1986 and the threefold increase in the price of petroleum fuel in 1994. The federal government housing programme for Lagos, which was launched in 1994 under the National Housing Scheme, has stalled, amongst other reasons because of the spiralling cost of building materials.

Table 6.5 Planned housing schemes in metropolitan Lagos

Housing agency Scheme Remarks
Lagos Executive Development Board, 1955 -1975 Slum clearance of Central Lagos, 1955 to early 1960s, Olowogbowo Rehousing Scheme, Lagos Housing Scheme 1,847 families housed in Surulere. 1,337 families resettled in low-income rented houses. Subsidized by Ministry of Lagos Affairs
  Other housing schemes in Surulere 14,537 family units(dwellings) provided. In all, 128,800 people were provided with housing
Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC), 1972-1979 Resettlement of slum dwellers from Central Lagos to Ogba and low-income housing in Isolo 1,000 families housed
Federal housing Under 1975-1980 and 1981-1985 plan periods 6,000 housing unitsa
LSDPC, 1979 to date Low-income housing 16,878 housing units
  Medium-income housing 1,790 housing units

Source: LSDPC (n.d.(b)).

a. Each housing unit may accommodate one or more households.

Despite the efforts of the various housing authorities, over 90 per cent of the housing in metropolitan Lagos is still provided by the private sector and individual effort. Housing has been widely seen as a secure and lucrative investment, which enhances the owner's status in the community (Barnes, 1979). Whereas access to privately owned land through customary channels or purchase has made it possible for a relatively large stock of owner-occupied housing to be built, opportunities for those excluded from these means of access to land have been limited to areas in public ownership. As a result, squatting is limited and over 60 per cent of residents are tenants, some in tenements constructed by absentee landlords, but the majority in houses occupied by landlords of modest means (Aina, 1990; Peil, 1991; Aina et al., 1994). During the 1970s it was usual for a man earning the average salary or above to build his own house, while, as profits and speculation increased, interest in providing rented rooms for the poor declined. In recent years, declining real wages and high inflation, particularly rapid increases in the prices of building materials, have resulted in workers living so close to subsistence level that they have nothing left for investment. Today only the very rich construct new housing units. In response to the slower rate of new house construction, tenancy has increased and rents have increased more than fivefold since the introduction of the SAP. High densities, overcrowding, and multi-family occupancy of dwellings have long characterized Lagos and have intensified in recent years (Ayeni, 1981; Peil, 1991).

Residential districts range from low-density areas that have been able to retain their characteristics, through medium-density districts such as Surulere and Ikeja, to substandard settlements that lack basic amenities. Some former low-density areas near the centre of the city have been penetrated by banking, commercial, and office uses, leading to a recent state government order that houses in parts of Ikoyi and Victoria Island should revert to their originally approved use. Many low-income areas were villages or peripheral settlements that have been engulfed as the city has grown. Some settlements, such as Maroko on Victoria Island, have been demolished, typically without any arrangement for resettlement, with the result that the displaced residents merely move on to already overcrowded neighbourhoods elsewhere. In addition, in response to astronomical rent increases, the rapidly increasing cost of living, and the increasing insecurity of life and property, a drift of population to villages and towns in adjacent Ogun State has been detected, increasing pressure on commuter transport links from these towns to the city.

Crucial influences on the ability of the private sector to supply sufficient housing to meet demand are access to land and the delivery of services. The inadequacy of the latter has been demonstrated above. To conclude, mechanisms for obtaining access to land will be briefly discussed. Hitherto, land for urban development could be obtained from any of the following: the Land Use and Allocation Committee based in the Governor's Office, the metropolitan development agency (the LSDPC), or indigenous landowning families and individuals. Although the Land Use Decree of 1978 vested the ownership of all undeveloped land in the state, attempts to regulate the ownership of land and transfer of rights have never been effective. Interested parties, including professionals, tend to connive to backdate transactions to make them appear to have preceded the Decree. Currently, no more distributable land is available within Lagos metropolis through the Land Use and Allocation Committee (LSDPC, 1983). Today, land for development is obtained primarily through the private sector. Large landowners may in some cases rent land for the construction of temporary housing while they wait for its value to increase, as described by Aina (1990) for Olaleye-Iponri. Although there are examples of squatting and illegal subdivision, such cases are limited. Land rights in Lagos have historically been a route to political power and a source of wealth and conflict (Peil, 1991).

Conflicts over rights of ownership between the state and private individuals or village or family groups, or between members of families, which arise in part out of the lack of a comprehensive land register, sometimes lead to sales of the same plot to more than one buyer or to the demolition of structures by the state. For example, more than 100 well-built houses were demolished by the military state government at Ala village, about 20 km east of Victoria Island, in August 1995, despite a court order that attempted to restrain the government. Land acquired by the state in this way may benefit powerful and well-connected individuals, rather than ordinary residents. Land scarcity has become a constraint on the ability of both the public and private sectors to respond to demand for housing and accounts, in major part, for the predominance of small rental dwellings in the housing stock.

It has been claimed that, unless more vigorous actions are taken now by the relevant authorities, in concert with the inhabitants, to combat the appalling living conditions in many localities, similar to those that produced epidemics before the 1930s, metropolitan Lagos may face outbreaks of disease more devastating than ever before.


Undoubtedly, there has been a spectacular growth in the spatial expansion and development of metropolitan Lagos within the past three or four decades. However, the indications are that the population growth rate has slowed down in the most recent decade from an estimated 14 per cent per annum in the 1960s and early 1970s to an estimated 4.5 per cent per annum in the late 1980s. Thus migration to the metropolis is tending to contribute less to its population growth than the rate of natural increase. This trend is likely to continue as the cost of living in the city continues to rise.

Nevertheless, over the decades, metropolitan Lagos has become the pre-eminent city in the Nigerian system. Lagos functioned as the political and administrative capital of Nigeria from the time the Northern and Southern provinces of Nigeria were amalgamated in 1914, through political independence in 1960, until the federal capital moved to Abuja in 1990. During this period it acquired leadership among Nigerian cities in terms of economic and social activities, particularly in manufacturing, trade, other services, and, most recently, finance, banking, and insurance. Despite the downturn in economic activities at the national level, metropolitan Lagos is still the premier manufacturing city not only in Nigeria, but also at a regional scale, for the west coast of Africa. It is the most important seaport, both in Nigeria and on the west coast of Africa, with substantial import and export trade both nationally and internationally. Metropolitan Lagos is the most important node for telecommunications and the most accessible city in Nigeria by land, air, and sea. It has thus attracted to itself the largest concentration of multinational corporations in Nigeria. It has become not only a West African regional centre but also a focus of international interaction at continental and to some extent at the world scale.

Certain issues were identified in this study, resulting from the above developments. Among these are the problems of the liveability of the city and its sustainable growth and development, including problems of unemployment, and the emergence of an increasingly marginalized and economically pauperized group. The survival strategies of its inhabitants, especially the poor, were noted. The manageability of the metropolis and the problems associated with its governance also attracted attention. Also discussed were problems of housing, transportation, and service provision. Certain conclusions were derived from these discussions. Chief among these is the fact that, with the continued downward trend in the national economy and the more than threefold increase in the price of petroleum fuel in the mid-1990s, pauperization of the city population is expanding across the class hierarchy. It has become impossible for a salary-earner to live in the metropolis without an additional source of income.

At the same time, it seems that the responsibilities of the state to tax-paying citizens with respect to the provision of basic infrastructure are not being fulfilled. In effect, citizens are being double-taxed, as they have to provide self-reliant strategies for meeting their needs for a regular supply of drinkable water, a supply of electricity, and security services. On the other hand, it seems that governance at the local council level holds some promise for focusing attention on the needs of citizens. For instance, the brief experience of civilian administration at the local government level between 1991 and 1993 did see the emergence of certain dynamic individuals as chairmen of local government councils. These people were able, through dynamic leadership and innovative ideas, to mobilize citizens at the local level for development efforts in a manner that outshone the state administrative efforts. It seems that there is a need in the future to strengthen the local government system in terms of resources, personnel, and capacity building, to stimulate efficient and effective governance for the benefit of citizens.


1. The 1963 census before independence is usually considered to be the most reliable census in Nigeria. Because of the unreliability of all subsequent censuses, due inter alia to the allocation of federal resources on a per capita basis to states, special efforts were made to ensure that the 1991 census was sound. However, the results are still controversial and the population of the city is still uncertain.


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