People & Money

Lagos in Nigeria: A Week in the World’s Most Chaotic City

By Heiner Hoffman, Akintunde Akinleye and Bernhard Riedmann

Lagos is poised to become the world’s biggest city. The Nigerian megacity is a massive experiment – unregulated and wild, with endless traffic jams, waterfront slums and an impressively resilient population.

Akintunde Akinleye / DER SPIEGEL

The Makoko district of Lagos is largely built on stilts that have been erected in the lagoon that surrounds the city. The outhouse, which is covered with a gray tarp, is nothing more than a hole through the planks with a screen that blocks the view.

The entire lives of inhabitants unfold on these makeshift wooden platforms. Every now and then, a child falls into the water, only to be pulled back up again.

The children aren’t deterred by the feces or the filth in the water. Indeed, they enjoy swimming in the lagoon.

All travel in Makoko is done by boat, and the homemade vessels are ubiquitous. Long punting poles are used to get around in shallow water. Some boats also have outboard motors.

Vendors also come by boat and travel from platform to platform peddling their wares, household goods in this case.

There’s a certain bitter irony in the fact that Makoko is surrounded by water, but residents have to go to considerable effort to get clean water. They fill their buckets at water points, where they have to pay for it.

Most inhabitants live from fishing, heading out to sea early in the morning or late in the evening. They don’t get rich from it, but for many, it’s at least enough to keep the family fed.

To many, Lagos is the embodiment of chaos. But that same chaos fosters a lot of creativity.

To many, Lagos is the embodiment of chaos. But that same chaos fosters a lot of creativity.

Foto: Akintunde Akinleye / DER SPIEGEL

The megacity is located on the shores of a vast lagoon. The Victoria Island business district can be seen behind it.

The megacity is located on the shores of a vast lagoon. The Victoria Island business district can be seen behind it.

Foto: Akintunde Aklnleye / DER SPIEGEL

Aliate Ajagun’s (left) greatest fear is having to leave Makoko.

Aliate Ajagun’s (left) greatest fear is having to leave Makoko.

Foto: Akintunde Akinleye / DER SPIEGEL

Parts of Lagos are already located below sea level. Forecasts predict that more and more urban areas will be inundated by water in the coming decades.

Even the government admits that Lagos is one of Nigeria’s “sinking cities.”

In the worst-case scenario, large parts of the city could become uninhabitable by 2100.

But low-lying areas of the city are already frequently inundated by floods caused by increasingly heavy rainfall. Parts of the city – which hugs the shores of the lagoon and the coastline – are in danger of simply sinking.

Parts of Lagos flood regularly after heavy rainfall.

Also Read: The Lunch Hour – Femi Akintunde, GMD, Alpha Mead Group

A swimming pool for the city’s wealthy. If you want to live on Eko Island, you’ll have to shell out a monthly rent as high as 6,000 U.S. dollars.

A swimming pool for the city’s wealthy. If you want to live on Eko Island, you’ll have to shell out a monthly rent as high as 6,000 U.S. dollars.

Foto: Akintunde Akinleye / DER SPIEGEL

The officials behind Eko Island say it is one of the largest infrastructure projects currently taking shape on the African continent.

The officials behind Eko Island say it is one of the largest infrastructure projects currently taking shape on the African continent.

Foto: Akintunde Akinleye / DER SPIEGEL

The "Great Wall of Lagos” is comprised of 100,000 concrete blocks, each of which weighs five tons.

The “Great Wall of Lagos” is comprised of 100,000 concrete blocks, each of which weighs five tons.

At Alpha Beach, homes are sinking and the water is slowly consuming everything.

At Alpha Beach, homes are sinking and the water is slowly consuming everything.

Bar owner Afolabi Animashaun says he has had to move three times in the past few years.

Bar owner Afolabi Animashaun says he has had to move three times in the past few years.

Oluwadamilola Emmanuel manages Lagos’ extensive network of ferries.

Oluwadamilola Emmanuel manages Lagos’ extensive network of ferries.

Some studies estimate that the average commuter spends up to 30 hours a week in traffic jams, the better part of a work week. On any given day, as many as 5 million cars are plying the roads of Lagos, carrying 8 million passengers. It’s a continuous concert of horns, fist fights on the side of the road, and every inch of road is a battle. An Armageddon of cars.

Congestion for as far as the eye can see: Commuters in Lagos need a lot of time.

Everything in Lagos seems to be some kind of business transaction.

Everything in Lagos seems to be some kind of business transaction.

Foto: Akintunde Akinleye / DER SPIEGEL

Precious Oyem spends 45 minutes each day just fetching water. And that’s after sitting in a traffic jam for two hours.

Precious Oyem spends 45 minutes each day just fetching water. And that’s after sitting in a traffic jam for two hours.

Foto: Akintunde Akinleye / DER SPIEGEL

This was culled from SPIEGEL INTERNATIONAL

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