Every Friday, at the close of work, Idris Oladipo makes his daunting commute home from the city of Lagos.
Oladipo is an account manager with Pulse Nigeria, one of West Africa’s biggest media companies. His commute takes him 100 miles from Pulse’s office in Lekki to his home in Ibadan, the capital city of Oyo State. The drive should take about two hours, but traffic often stretches it to four.
“Up until September of 2017, I used to have an apartment in Lekki, but the rent was increased after my [lease] expired.” Oladipo said. “Since September, I’ve sometimes slept in the office and now, I’m currently squatting with a friend that’s also my co-worker.”
Oladipo is one of an estimated 21 million people who live and work in Lagos, making it Africa’s largest city. It’s also one of the fastest growing cities in the world. In recent years, even as Nigeria experienced a recession, the commercial status of Lagos has led to a steady influx of people into the city from neighboring states. By some estimates, Lagos could double in size by 2050.
Lagos has actively pursued its megacity status. City officials and developers have undertaken a massive urban renewal project that has seen slum and waterfront communities demolished to make way for new high-rise building projects. These demolitions have led to an increase in the cost of housing and amenities in Lagos, especially on and near Lagos Island, the city’s commercial center. Critics say the megacity project is a form of gentrification, and not the type of urban planning needed to handle a budding population crisis. A recent update to the Lagos land use tax has threatened to make conditions even more challenging for people already struggling to live and work in the city.
Moses Fiarama, a real estate agent and Lagos resident, believes that everything in the city is overvalued. “The cost of housing in Lagos is too high compared to that of houses in Ogun and Oyo state,” she said. “But this is because everything exists in Lagos; [the] industries, jobs, means of production.”
For years, the steady increase in the cost of land and houses in the major metropolitan areas of Lagos has led to a population increase in fringe towns like Ikorodu and Iju, especially as the Nigerian minimum wage of 18,000 naira (about $50) often isn’t enough to go by. But in a country some say is becoming the poverty capital of the world, people will do what they need to work and eat.
When you can’t afford to live near your job, the commutes, like Oladipo’s, can be rough. Aisha Salaudeen, a journalist in Lagos, says the city hasn’t built the infrastructure to meet the demand for housing and transit.