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Lagos at 50: Who owns the land?


Lagos is a metropolitan-city bounded in the North and East by Ogun State. In the West it shares boundaries with the Republic of Benin. Behind its southern borders lies the Atlantic Ocean. PHOTO: Hope for Nigeria

Our feeling about territorial ownership has very deep roots. Like most animals, man has a sense of territory – a place to be at home and to defend. It is closely associated with our sense of security which gives a powerful emotional dimension to our experience of ownership. Yet this biological basis does not determine the form that territoriality takes in different cultures. Humans, engage in group/individual territoriality. Tribal groups saw themselves connected to particular territories. They frequently spoke of the land as their parent or as a sacred being, on whom they were dependent and to whom they owed loyalty and service. Throughout the whole history of civilisation, land has been seen as primarily a source of power. Historical school-of-thoughts believe Oduduwa (from Arabia) the patriarch of Yoruba’s and his group conquered the people met and set up a new administration with Headquarters at the present Ile-Ife.

Australia has served as home to the world’s oldest existing culture of ancient-indigenous-aboriginal-people for nearly 50,000 years. Native-Australian has been victims to oppression in many ways and for various reasons for nearly 200 years; their land had been taken over by European settlers. Similarly, American-Indians are Indigenous American people sparsely scattered over what is now America. The Natives had their land taken off from them in Conflict and outright warfare with Western European. These European colonists had significant military advantages with their use of, armor and firearms, along with ships, over the Native-American people who were wielding bows/ arrows and spears. Currently, apart from their fine art works and canoes for fishing, Natives (both Australia and America) have contributed little development in their respective continents; the white-settlers are justifying their colonialism-genocidal actions with great innovation, Scientific and technological advancement which today has led to transformative socioeconomic system and a great-economic-improvement. Who then should lay claims to America/Australia…? Natives or White settlers!


Lagos is a metropolitan-city bounded in the North and East by Ogun State. In the West it shares boundaries with the Republic of Benin. Behind its southern borders lies the Atlantic Ocean. The city has a total area of 3,577 square kilometers of which 22 per cent of the area is made up of lagoons and creeks. The mega-city would have been the fifth largest economy in Africa, if it were a country. The state has the highest GDP, and also houses one of the largest and busiest ports on the continent. The state is arguably one of the fastest growing cities in the world and also one of the most populous urban agglomerations in the world. Indigenous inhabitants include the Aworis, a peaceful people, who are the first settlers in the Island. Then the Eguns settled in Ikeja and Badagry divisions respectively, with the Eguns being found mainly in Badagry. The indigenes of Ikorodu and Epe divisions are mainly the Ijebus with pockets of Eko-Awori settlers along the coastland and riverine areas. The Ibinis (from Benin) conquered the Awori’s and started a dynasty rule, paying tribute to Benin-City around 16th century.

The Ibinis influenced the Lagos in a lot of ways. The Ibinis named the Island ‘‘Eko’’ meaning ‘‘war-camp.’’ The Portuguese christened the mega-city with the name Lagos meaning ‘’Lakes’’ during their exploration in the 15th century. From the 1830’s many emancipated Africans who had been through forced-labour regained freedom, and traced their roots back home. These returnees not only increasing the population of Lagos, they also added value to the quality of life of the people because many of them had acquired one skill or the other during their sojourn. While some were artisans and craft men, others had taste for western education. Indeed, their contributions to the Lagos Island landscape, in terms of physical developments and struggles against obnoxious ordinances of the British after the imposition of colonial rule on the Island were tremendous. Between 1859 and 1896 missionary schools were established in Lagos.

In 1862, the administrative and legislative arms of government were established for the colony. Apart from development in the sphere of education, there was expansion in commercial activities because the administration encouraged the flow of European firms, to start business in Lagos. The commercial activities in Lagos also attracted large movement of people from all over Nigeria into Lagos, in a way expanding the geographical extent of the town. Lagos as British colony in 1914 became capital city of Nigeria from 1914 until 1991 when it was replaced by the Federal Capital Territory Abuja, built specifically for such purpose. Since the 60’s, the state had remained the entertainment hub, not just for music artistes who have fought their way to stardom, but also for the Nigerian motion film industry (Nollywood).

While the State is essentially a Yoruba-speaking environment, it is a socio-cultural melting-pot attracting both Nigerians and foreigners alike. The infusion of some other tribes in Nigeria followed with the rapid development in the mega-city. The Igbos, enterprising set of people, believed to be the highest investors in Lagos, are said to have contributed immensely to the economic growth of the state.


A non-indigenes (from Northern Nigeria) who contributed immensely to the greatness of the state is the 11th post-independent Governor, Colonel Buba Marwa, who initiated; “Operation Sweep,” a joint police and military venture that helped reduce Lagos’ notorious crime rate (armed robbers were killed in gun-duels during operations), also he revamped public health institutions, and ensure that free malaria treatment was available to all, and many more. The Marwa-turned-MKO Abiola Gardens etc are legacies he left behind. In recognition of his achievements, as a ‘community builder’ he was given a chieftaincy title in the state.

Most/all our ancestors migrated to other habitat which suits their needs. However, one can only lay claim to a land/community that he/she find himself by; adding value and abiding by the laws of the land (e.g. pay tax etc.), also working towards the development of the state with skills acquired through field of study/processional skills (including technocrats), legitimate business people and others. A child born in the state, who also schooled in the state can lay claim to the land and should be allowed to run for any political office in the state. It is only logical that you reap where you sow. However, traditional institutions (paramount-ruler and chieftaincy titles) must not be toyed with as it is exclusively for the early settlers and those from other tribes they so wish to honor as a result of their contributions towards growth in the mega-city.

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