A Lawyer’s Survival Guide to Lagos

Vol. 41 No. 4


Olufunmi Oluyede (olufunmi@trlplaw.com) is a senior, co-founding partner of the Nigerian law firm TRKP Law; cochair of the ABA SIL International Human Rights Committee; and cochair of the SIL Women’s Interest Network.


The city of Lagos . . .  hustling and bustling, yet delightfully exotic . . . is the largest, most industrialized metropolis in Nigeria and foremost on the list of the fastest-growing municipalities in the world! It is the most prosperous of the country’s conurbation, with much of the nation’s wealth and economic activity concentrated here. Lagos is reputed to comprise the very best of Nigeria’s skilled workforce and is accordingly dubbed the “Center of Excellence.” It was, until December 1991, the capital city of Nigeria, but it has since been replaced by the northern city of Abuja.

The Lagos commercial harbor, which is comprised of the Lagos Island, Apapa, and Tin Can ports, is Nigeria’s leading seaport and one of the largest and busiest in Africa. It is common knowledge that oil and petroleum products provide over 14 percent of the country’s GDP and 90 percent of its foreign exchange earnings. It is from these very ports that Nigeria’s crude oil is exported.

The city has an estimated population of about 15 million and a foreign community of expatriates and Lebanese, Chinese, Indian, and Arab immigrants who live mostly in suburban Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Apapa, and Ikeja.

As occurs throughout Nigeria, there is an enormous spectrum of wealth distribution among Lagos inhabitants that ranges from the very wealthy to the very poor. This gap is typically reflected in the makeup of the city’s neighborhoods. The commercial and administrative heart of metropolitan Lagos is comprised of two main islands, Victoria Island and Lagos Island, which are separated from the mainland by the Carter, Eko, and Third Mainland bridges. The principal slums, on the other hand, include Isale-Eko, literally meaning “downtown”; Ajegunle; Mushin; and Oshodi.

Neighborhoods on the Mainland

The Lagos mainland accommodates more than 80 percent of the city’s populace. Notable sections of this part of the city include the following.



Nigeria’s main seaport, Apapa is located to the west of Lagos Island and is blessed with numerous creeks, islands, and waterfront areas that make it a veritable tourist’s delight. There is a high concentration of Westerners in this area.


Anthony/Palm Grove Estates

This neighborhood is a private residential area occupied by middle-income Nigerian professionals. Located on both sides of Ikorodu Road, the area boasts night clubs, hotels and other leisure centers, a thriving day-night market, a few shopping malls, and several neighborhood stores.



Ikeja is the mainland city center, and it lies about 20 kilometers north of Lagos Island. It was originally planned as an industrial estate but has gradually grown to become both industrial and residential as people moved in to support the mostly manufacturing industries located there. The area houses the city’s domestic and international airports and has relatively good road infrastructure and amenities. The focal residential area is the Government Reserved Area (GRA), a low-density area with cozy bungalows and duplexes.


Opebi/Allen Avenue

This part of the city is a well-organized, low-density residential area two kilometers west of Ikeja. It is known for its exquisite accommodations for the wealthy. Allen Avenue has gradually become the hub of business and social activities, with its numerous department stores, shopping malls, hotels, clubs, and leisure centers.



Ipaja is densely populated with various state-owned, low-income housing and private residential properties. There is no special recreation in the area except for a few moderate hotels, eateries, local nightclubs, and bars.



About 20 kilometers from Ikeja, Surulere is a sprawling, medium-density settlement with most residential properties now converted for commercial use. Located here is the National Stadium complex and the National Arts Theatre designed by Bulgarian architects and specializing in globally acclaimed cultural performances and Nigerian plays and films.



Ikorodu is an expanding industrial and residential area about 26 kilometers from Ikeja. Its lovely lagoon shoreline, dotted with beckoning palm groves, makes it a choice destination for tourists.



Badagry is situated off the Gulf of Guinea between metropolitan Lagos and the Benin Seme border. It was a key port during the time of the export of slaves to the Americas, and it subsequently became a major site for Christian missions. The town maintains a renowned museum of slavery, the first multistory building in Nigeria (built in 1842 by missionaries and overlooking the marina waterfront), and legendary beach resorts.


Island Neighborhoods

Lagos Island Central Business District

This area offers visitors urbane highrise buildings, wholesale street markets (e.g., Balogun and Idumota), the National Museum of Nigeria, the Central Mosque, the Glover Memorial Hall, Lagos City Hall, Christ’s Cathedral (Church Missionary Society), the Lagos division of the Lagos High Court and Court of Appeal, and the sprawling, traditional Palace of the Oba of Lagos.


Lagos Island: Ikoyi

Ikoyi is a tasteful residential enclave that is the site of  the old federal government secretariat and military and police barracks; a top-security prison; the Lagos division of the Federal High Court of Nigeria; a number of world-renowned hotels, banks, offices, shopping complexes, night clubs, and recreational parks; and one of Africa’s largest golf courses.


Victoria Island

Yet another affluent, upper-class haven, this island houses various luxurious real estate properties alongside the fashionable Palms Shopping Mall. Located here are such five-star waterfront hotels as the Eko Hotel & Suites and Four Points by Sheraton, the Civic Center, the famous Bar Beach, the commercial headquarters of various banks, offices, and so on.


Lekki Peninsula

Described as a tourism goldmine, this is a rapidly growing area located east of Victoria Island. It boasts sandy beaches and magnificent contemporary architecture.


Eko Atlantic City

According to Nigerian Literature Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, this development is a city “rising like Aphrodite from the foam of the Atlantic.” A planned twenty-first-century expansion, Eko Atlantic is to be built on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean that will return the coast to its original state and transform Lagos into a successful mega-city-state that will provide adequate space for the 25 million people expected to live and work in the region by the year 2015.

Exotically designed with tree-lined boulevards, waterways, manicured gardens, elegant plazas, three marinas, and a stunning oceanfront promenade, the new city, which is designed to ease the current pressure on the exhausted infrastructure and overpopulation of Lagos, is rapidly becoming a source of great national pride in Nigeria.


Lagos Beach Resorts

This article would be incomplete without a mention of Lagos’s celebrated tourist beach resorts. These offer acres of tranquil paradise in diverse locations with hundreds of kilometers of soft, sandy beaches located in a unique blend of well-preserved natural environments (freshwater lakes, accessible mangrove forest, savannahs, etc.) alongside the warm Atlantic Ocean. Notable among these beaches are Badagry’s Coconut Beach, Eko Akodo Beach, Victoria Island Bar Beach, La Campaigne Tropicana, Apapa’s Takwa Bay, Kuramo Waters, Halemson Beach Resort, Eko Tourist Resort, Whispering Palms, The Peninsula Resort, and Hermitage Garden Resorts.


Eko o ni baje o!*

*“Lagos shall never decline!”, a widely acclaimed political slogan coined by current Lagos State Governor H.E. Babatunde Raji Fashola, senior advocate of Nigeria.


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