Is Lagos the most dangerous city in the world?

Adeola Aderounmu.

Lagos is the former capital of Nigeria. Many uninformed foreigners still considered Lagos to be the capital of Nigeria. To this category of people, Abuja is relatively unknown. I have encountered many people and young students in Europe who expressed surprise that Lagos was no longer the capital of Nigeria.

It came to my mind recently to send an open letter to the governor of Lagos State and the Oba of Lagos. Among the rest of us, I am very convinced that these two important men are true Lagosians. In the letter which I’d not written, I would have asked them more than 21 questions. The most significant question would have been: Is this the Lagos of your dreams? An adept mind can quickly add, is this the Nigeria of our dreams?

In the letter, I would have pointed out to them many of the things that are wrong with Lagos and give them a few tips of how to work out the solutions. Have our politicians and leaders started listening to great ideas yet? In the content of the letter, I would have told them that the reason why Europeans preferred East African countries or even Gambia for their holidays is because they read and also think that Lagos is among the most dangerous cities in the world. This much is written in many Travel Guides to Africa that I have read myself. Sometimes in the bookshops, I read so much about Nigeria that I feared the shopkeepers could ask me to pay for the reading or buy a copy of those travel books. 

Who comes to Lagos or not may not be important to the Oba or to the governor. But I am sure that the economic fortune of Gambia is enhanced by the number of visitors she receives annually from abroad. With important towns like Badagry, Ikorodu, Epe and Lagos Island itself, I can imagine what Lagos state stands to gain supposing it chooses to be a tourist attraction center. There are several tourist hotspots wasting away in Lagos. The problem of security of lives is important to visitors from outside.


Apart from foreign workers who have no choice but to adapt to our system, it is difficult to imagine why other foreigners may come to Lagos. I found the answer to that puzzle recently. One more reason why some foreigners actually come to Lagos is to verify what they have read or heard about Lagos. They are curious and are in search of the real situation-the truth. I actually felt Lagos in the air when the sounds of Lagos came on recently on a radio programme here in Stockholm. Instantly, I visualized market and traffic scenes at Oshodi, Mushin, Yaba, Palmgroove, Onipanu, CMS, Bariga, Okokomaiko, Mile 2, Iyana Iba and Ojuelegba among other busy places in Lagos.


Some reporters from Sweden came to Lagos to see things for themselves and to interview a number of people. I think this is called investigative journalism. One man who was interviewed thanked God for saving his life in the several okada accidents that he had been involved in the last 5 years. He talked about many who have died and others who are still lying in the hospitals as a result of okada and other types of road accidents. Is anyone taking records of the souls that are lost daily in Lagos due to reckless driving with rickety molues, danfo buses, kabukabus and okadas as our undignified means of transportation?


In the radio report which as mentioned earlier is a corroboration of what I have read in travel books about Africa, Lagos was confirmed as the most dangerous city in the world. Visiting Lagos was part of the experiments that the reporters had to do. They must have been to other places before in their life time. Now, I may not be in a position to give a non-bias response to this assertion. I lived in Lagos all of my life time in Nigeria. I refused to study outside Lagos and I almost succeeded in serving in Lagos but I landed in nearby Ibadan for my youth service in 1995/96.


Trying not to be bias, in my own view, Lagos is indeed a dangerous city but I don’t know if it is the most dangerous in the world. People who have travelled round the world to seek the truth, like these reporters from Sweden, may probably have a fair opinion.  Afterall, what will reporters from Sweden benefit if they described Lagos as the most dangerous city even though we don’t have gun shops like New York? We have cult activities but they are yet to be described as massacres.


Indeed we don’t have gun shops, but has anyone read the descriptions of the guns and weapons that are used daily by armed robbers across Lagos? Some of the guns can be used under water! To what end will a common armed robber acquire such a sophisticated weapon? Are there treasuries or gold to be carted away from under the Lagos lagoon or bar beach?


In a recent article published in the Guardian Luke Onyekakeyah had written that “Lagos is the most disorderly city in the world” (LASG: Ban one way traffic in Lagos, The Guardian June 19 2007). That statement may be correct because in that article Luke who has visited more than 30 cities worldwide wrote extensively on the comparisons between Lagos and other cities in Africa and elsewhere.


I have not visited 30 cities yet but I have never in my life seen where people run to catch a danfo kind of bus and run to get off it. Once, a Ghanaian friend told me he landed in Lagos and was terrified to find out that there was a war going on in Nigeria. He was wrong, there was no war for real but he didn’t wait too long before he returned to his home country. Apparently, those were the days that Ghanaians have to visit some Nordic embassies in Lagos to get visas. This guy should not come to Lagos again; he could die of shock this time. Things have gone from bad to worse since that time.


In how many ways do we want to qualify dangerous before we can determine if truly Lagos is the most dangerous city in the world or not. Indeed, apart from deadly armed robberies which is present all over the country, Lagos transport is an accident on its own.


My dear Swedish reporters were dazed that Lagos has more than 11 million people when the entire Sweden, as big as it is, has only about 9 million people. The population of Lagos has outstripped the available dilapidating facilities even at the time that Lagos was still the capital of Nigeria. Urban town planners were definitely out of the picture as most parts of Lagos degenerated into absolute jungles.

In the name and spirit of patriotism, some of us will try to defend Lagos but we must not forget that we need to tell the truth so that policy makers can begin to see the need to do things the right way and take steps that will improve not just our international image, but the quality of the type of lives that we lead.  

Lagos is a nice place to live. I love Lagos and it is a city that I am proud of. But it would not be asking too much if we can make it a more organised and safer place.When I finally write my letter, it will be nice to see what the new governor of Lagos and the Oba can do about the embarrassing status of their common domain, our dearest Lagos.  

May the Glory of Nigeria come, soon! 

13 thoughts on “Is Lagos the most dangerous city in the world?

  1. When you write, remember to ask them what they are doing about the few million young men (and women) born between 15 and 35 years ago in the slums of Lagos who grew up deprived, hungry; living 16 – 30 in a room and having to fight with knives at age 4 over a piece of mouldy bread; and who are now grown up. These are coming out, totally without education, scruples or morality; seeing a few of us in posh cars and mansions with kennels bigger than the homes they lived in. They are soon going to over-run Lagos with terror; taking what they will from anyone with force and having no compunctions about using any extremes of violence since that is the only way they have known. Lagos is a series of bombs waiting to explode. What we are seeing now is the first and smallest of maybe a hundred thousand bombs. or maybe its not even the first bomb. Maybe its just the sound of worn engines back-firing. The bombs are just about to start


  2. i want to visit lagos but i am afraid cause of all of the horror stories i have heard about lagos, nigeria i feel that it is a beautiful place and the people there are wonderful, but for me to visit i am afraid of being robbed or whatever they do their can someone from the us tell me how was it there when they visited our mother land


  3. I must commend your effort and sincerity that you know well that Lagos is a beautiful place.the truth is that we that we live in Lagos are really enjoying it and all we need to do to better the situation of thuggery and all other form of vices is to be alert on our own .We should not be afraid of standing up to face our right and also be very vigilant in what ever ,where ever and how ever ways.Thank God the Nigerian police force are combat ready and you will agree with me that crime rate is getting lesser day by day because the police have been given all sort of crime fighting equipments.
    I will say you can come down to Lagos to see things for yourself because we all have our different opinion to how we see and understand things.So tamilyn come to Lagos and i bet you will have a great time.Feel free to contact me for more informations as i born and grew up in Lagos.


    • hey sonny, how r u. i met a young lady online and she is in lagos. my concern is that she not be a scammer. she tells me everything is delt with cash within the city and credit cards are not really used there. i was willing to send her a ticket, but she said she would have to buy the ticket at the counter with cash, and to send her money for the ticket. not knowing anything about lagos or africa. it seems a little out of the ordinary to have someone carrying a large amout of cash in a dangerous setting, especially being a female. she inturn invited me to come and visit her. naturally, i want to believe her, but somethings just dont make any sense. being that i havent met her, its hard to put all that trust into someone, and i would be going in blind, if i were to come alone. was wondering what ur thoughts may be. thank you. i await ur response. cheech


  4. As at today, 28/ 01/ 2009, the present Governor of Lagos state is still busy, building a new Lagos. Even a blind man knows that Lagos will be changing into a new state in some few years. The present Governor is trying but we hope his dreams will be followed up by the next Governor of Lagos state. If not, then Some parts of Lagos will continue to be a Slum.


  5. lagos is a nice place since i was born in it, is incompearable among other states. lagos problem is de diff tribes of people live dere, if lagos should be left 4 de lagosan along. is 1 of de best states in de all world. rember den wen lagos was still lagos de live time of bode thomus, de den saka tinubu, harbert maculay, cokers. etc. i think lagos was a whitemens base den. but thing hv change. becos we hv diff. people wt diff. blood, tribe, and characters. i belive san is tryg to fluch dem out by inconfincg them to move bck to dere states and country. we lagosan are doing fine.


  6. I have I friend who traveled to oshidi city lagos, he was robbed and all his belongings was taken from him ,now he sais to me he is staying at samaritan house and not do anything for him.This happen just last night 28 of may


  7. As a visitor Lagos is as dangerous as you allow it to be. Yes, it can be a very, very dangerous place and you must ALWAYS keep that in mind. It is also a city full of smart, friendly and inspiring people who despite being totally betrayed by their government will take you into their homes and hearts and share what little things they have.

    You cannot fly in there without a serious commitment to being vigilant and secure. You can, despite all the hubub you read on the web, stay on the mainland. You can go out after dark and you won’t be kidnapped on the road from the airport.

    If you want to know the truth go there. Talk to the people, learn the truth and forget about what you read on wikipedia. It’s not for the easily rattled types… but it is a very misrepresented place in the west.


    • i wanna go to nigeria now in january, my ticket is booked.i will stay with my boyfriend at his place, that he shares with a friend.he will pick me up from the u think it will be safe?everybody tells me the worst storys but i really wanna go.


      • Katrin,

        You should go. There is hardly any place in the world that doesn’t have its own problems. Being careful is the key. Avoid night life especially when there is no electricity. It may be too dark. You already have contacts and I’m sure they will guide you. Enjoy every moment of your stay. You’ll want to go back again. Take care


  8. I am sorry to hear about (Lagos’s) misfortune. Im surfing the internet from Sacramento, California, USA and just happened apon the name Lagos and the fact that it is the most populated city in all of Africa. I would have thought that Mozambique would have taken that spot. Good luck with the future, and if it helps you any (mentally,) its hard all over (the world right now) and is only going to get worse, so dont feel to sorry for yourself. Good luck people’s.


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